Whoa, recruitment is tough.
Once upon a time, recruiting job applicants was a more streamlined process: Post the job, wait for the flood of interest, cull resumes, and begin screening the most qualified few. This process was already rigorous and unpredictable. However, an ever-changing landscape of work and business, the increased influence of technology, and an astonishingly fluid economy at-large have made things more challenging. HR in 2020 is going to be very, very different.

A recent NFIB study shows that almost 90% of professionals responsible for recruitment reported “few qualified applicants” or “no qualified applicants” as the primary challenge to filling their open roles. 

As we barrel toward a new decade, there’s a lot of speculation as to how recruitment, hiring, People Ops, and business in general will transform. In this review, we’ll be unpacking some of the recruitment trends, tools, and solutions set to take shape in 2020. 

HR 2020: The role of the recruiter will evolve

Recruiters will be marketers, not salespeople

Recruitment is sometimes referred to as a form of sales. But while sourcing candidate leads holds parallels with sourcing customer leads, the energy and skills are different.

Recruitment will be compared more to marketing as we go forward. Here’s how:

  1. We’ll see a focus shift from cold outreach to warm relationship building.
  2. The tools recruiters use will shift away from phone systems and applicant tracking software, further into social media channels and leaner, cloud-based solutions for managing candidate data.
  3. Outbound strategies will be replaced by inbound and social strategies that offer a more qualitative peek into candidate potential.
  4. While data will still matter, it won’t dictate which candidates make it through.

More applicants will be network-sourced

As recruitment continues to get decentralized from the job boards and resumes of the past, more recruiters will turn toward building up their own networks of relevant industry talent, including passive candidates and interesting people who aren’t looking for work at all right now. 

Beyond that, recruiters will be relying on their networks of other recruiters in other cities to source relocating and remote talent. The crowdsourced approach to getting people where they need to be might feel new to recruiters who are used to “going it alone” but based on the resounding frustrations that recruiters face, this could be net-positive.

Social recruitment will become the norm 

Critics who saw Linkedin as a “glorified resume” in its early years will find an entirely new experience—one that relies on sociality and community-building, true networking, and more chances to find candidates in the comments and DMs than the Jobs tab—and it doesn’t stop there.

Recruiters will flock to Twitter, Instagram, Reddit threads, Discord, and Telegram to create, join, and engage with talent groups and industry pods. 

Google for Jobs will be one to watch

Google has quietly and gradually added job listings to the SERP over the last handful of years in an effort to build out what is now a fairly powerful engine for job posting and discovery. This offers another means for recruiters and candidates to connect and helps to even-out a recruitment economy where companies and seekers are both forced to “pay to play.”

Job sites like Flexjobs and UpWork that take discovery fees are becoming less of a norm as other sites saw an opportunity to offer the same thing for free. However, those costs aren’t always ported over to the employer, either. Promoting job posts is still a viable strategy in 2020 HR, but it’s more of a last resort than it needed to be, even five years ago. Some analysts are predicting that jobs will only be posted on Linkedin and Google by the end of the 2020s. 

Companies will be under candidate and consumer scrutiny

Employer branding is non-negotiable

Employer branding is set to soar to the forefront. Candidates looking to pursue full-time work with a company will expect to quickly know and understand the company’s values, their approach to collaboration and leadership, and their public reputation. Plus, an especially bright spotlight is going to be shown on the company’s culture. This could even the playing field during screenings and initial interviews, where candidates are looking to suss out just how “positive” or “growth-minded” an organization really is.

Today’s candidates are doing their research and demanding more transparency than ever.

Corporate boilerplates and platitudes won’t do as much as before to convince prospective employees that they’re in the right place.

They’ll ask more hard-hitting questions about diversity, parental leave, cause-backing, conflict management, and more. 

Big enterprise companies will no longer run the game 

The job seekers of the future won’t care as much about associating themselves with “big” or “impressive” enterprise corporations. The honeymoon phase is over in Silicon Valley and fewer people are flocking automatically to work for biggies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

This exodus is due in part to a toxic news cycle that centers Billionaire-owned super-corporations in governmental kerfuffles, harassment suits, diversity shortcomings, and more. The workforce of today wants accountability from the big guys and, as a result, will be more excited to work with mid-sized companies who offer a nice balance of compensation, culture, and opportunity. Another reason for the shift is that employees are detaching the Velcro between their personal brands and their employers’.

It no longer automatically means something great to have any particular company on your resume, and tomorrow’s job seekers will center integrity over whatever “prestige” means. 

Blind recruitment and bias management will emerge further

Team diversity is still a challenge for many companies, even as it has become a bit of a buzzword. Biases in hiring on the basis of gender, sexuality, race, religion, age, and disability are still unfortunately rampant. Even secondary characteristics like weight, hair color, body modifications, and manner of dress can play into a recruiter’s conscious and unconscious biases and unfairly eliminate or over-favor a given candidate.

To eliminate these biases, more companies have conducted blind recruitment rounds for the last few years. These allow managers to evaluate candidates by their skills and experiences—nothing else. However, we collectively know there’s more work to do. Many companies and hiring bodies are making a greater effort to end hiring discrimination through more deliberate means.

88% of job seekers under 40 are motivated by the idea of a more diverse workplace. 

Reputation is everything for 2020 HR

Prospective employees are looking to join up with an organization that feels aligned to their core values, career goals, and is somewhere they can feel proud to work. They want to work with people who challenge, accept, and support them while contributing dynamic ideas and output to the collective.

Your Glassdoor rating is one way that candidates might explore your reputation—but it barely scratches the surface. Pay attention to these reputation cues, too:]

  • Your media mentions. What are they saying about your company in the press?
  • Content from former employees. It doesn’t matter whether the account is true, it matters that it’s plausible and compelling. Glassdoor isn’t the only place your former employees are talking about you.
  • Your causes and partnerships. Who do you align with? What do you stand for? Candidates are taking note.
  • Your social reach. While follower count won’t matter to most candidates, social behaviors and impact will. Today’s candidates want to work for companies that are digitally present and popular.
  • Your customer service. You never know if your candidates are customers, too. If they are – or they know someone who is – their perception of how your people treat people, could be a draw or a drawback.
  • Your products and campaigns. The way you make, sell, and advertise could come under scrutiny. Do you feature enough diversity in your print campaigns? Do you source your products ethically or sustainably? 2020 candidates care about the ethics of their employer.
  • General brand perception. Even the ~vibe~ of your company could be stopping you from attracting the caliber of talent you need.

These conscious and ethical considerations, once only relevant for your customers, have become an employee issue. We’re all looking to feel proud of what we do for a living and this is part of that.  

Job seekers want different things 

Career paths are curvier than ever

For many, the “career path” is more of a winding drive or a roller coaster. Empty-nesters and stay-at-home parents are re-entering the workforce. High-paid and public executives are leaving their jobs to go solo and try new things. People are seeking more fluidity in their career vertical, moving more flexibly between industries or types of work. This presents an advantage for recruiters and employers who can now source their new VP of Operations out of a stack of marketing resumes. The upside for employees is the ability to transfer skills, make moves that feel right and avoid burnout. 

Learn how to approach your manager and your employees about burnout.

Candidates are taking back control

It’s a seeker’s market, meaning that talent is having an easier time looking for and finding the types of work they’d like to do, and recruiters are having a more difficult time sourcing for their roles. This, in tandem with an increase in general public apathy toward brands, companies, and executives who don’t care enough, means that candidates won’t jump through hoops for you.

Today’s job seekers expect mutuality.

If hiring managers ask questions to trip up their interviewees, they should prepare for the gauntlet in return. If recruiters are specific and expect candidates to read their entire 7-page job posting and memorize its particulars, they’ll need to do the work and browse the candidate’s profile or portfolio in full, too. Signs that a recruiter didn’t do their research or that a company is taking an “en masse” approach to recruitment will be 🚨instant red flags🚨 for today’s workers. 

Jobseekers will need even more convincing to commit

Today, more people than ever are side-hustling, freelancing, building brands, and quitting jobs. As technology continues to empower these alternate forms of work, they will start to make traditional, full-time employment seem like the alternative option. Even employees who enjoy their 9 to 5 are experimenting with content creation, brand partnerships, and projects elsewhere.

For jobseekers who get a positive taste of self-employment, it could be difficult to woo them with compensation and traditional benefits. This less committed workforce doesn’t have a “commitment problem.” We now know it’s about finding a truly compatible work situation so employees can commit. Recruiters will need to tap into a candidate’s career goals beyond just “get a job” to demonstrate value. 

Nuanced benefits and perks are the future

While access to affordable healthcare coverage remains a challenge, it isn’t the only perk that job seekers need. We’re not talking about ping pong tables and beer fridges. People want perks that improve their work-life blend and demonstrate true appreciation for what they’re giving every day.

Employees want to see alt-benefits like commuter stipends, childcare support, customizable wellness programs, and opportunities for growth become the norm. Investing in your employees will pay dividends in the 2020s.

Goodbye job titles, hello keywords! 

In the mid-2010s, we saw a large industries-wide critique of the “made-up” job titles. These titles didn’t really transfer between companies or mean anything out of context. Titles like “Ecommerce Ninja”, “Sales Jedi” or “Chief Air Guitar Officer” were not only used as a tongue-in-cheek exercise in personal branding online, but were actually the titles recruiters were forced to hire for. While many adopted a vanity title in good fun, they caused a big problem for recruiters. Recruiters use the job’s title as the first offensive maneuver to find the right people.

Now, in a world where vanity titles have annoyed almost everybody, recruiters will be listing jobs with a string of keywords that make sense. “Director of Sales,” evolved into “Sales Evangelist” which is now “Sales – Director or VP – CRM experience”. It’s less cute, but it works the algorithm and cuts the confusion. 

Gen Z will own ⅕ of the workforce share

It’s good to know who you’re talking to. Each generation has had a different exposure to the nature of work and they have some unique expectations. Gen Z candidates were born between 1997 and 2012. Most of them are still too young (for now) to join your talent pool. However, the 16- to 22-year-olds among them are voracious and ready to work, whether they’re still in school or full-time in the workforce.

Read about how Gen Z is reshaping the world of work.

By 2029, Gen Zers will be between 17 and 32, making way for a new freshman class: Generation Alpha. Gen Z has spent their entire lives online. They view the entire experience of college and work differently as a result. This generation tolerates even less of the insufficient diversity, unethical practices, outdated application systems & tech, and condescension. We’re looking at a workforce that self-advocates, co-advocates, and generally speaks up. 

Key change for HR in 2020: The hiring process is getting a facelift

Candidate experience management will be essential

What does your company’s recruitment workflow look like?

How long does it take to get from “interested prospective applicants” to “day one of onboarding” in your organization?

How many people will each candidate speak with while moving through the process?

Many companies are losing top-choice talent to the strain of the process. Meanwhile, candidates are flocking to companies that move them through more succinctly. Candidates will forfeit interview opportunities that feel laborious or unclear in favor of ones that don’t.

What candidates expect to see and do during a hiring round will evolve as technology and the economy do.

It’s important to choose 2020 as the time to forgo long and winding hiring timelines. Streamline those clunky interviews. Deliver us from burdensome qualifying rounds. Cut the HR clutter.

Hiring cycles are getting even leaner

👋 Gone are the days that you can expect candidates to endure six interviews, an unpaid assessment, personality questionnaires, an all-day site visit, and a 22-page application that repeats what’s already on their resumes.

Gainfully employed people won’t have the time for this kind of circus; especially not for what is sure to be one of many companies they’re considering in this seeker’s market. Unemployed seekers who are job searching more actively won’t have the time, either. They’ll be preoccupied with applying to dozens of roles per day while freelancing and building their personal brand.

A long, ambling hiring gauntlet is disrespectful of the candidate’s current commitments and the tentative nature of your relationship.

No job seeker is only looking at your company. Most won’t remember they applied to your role in a sea of others until your interview invitation comes through. Speed it up:

  1. Review their background and portfolio of work
  2. Provide a questionnaire with ten or fewer key questions as a pre-screen
  3. Conduct three interviews or less, and make a choice.

Unless your candidate is vying to be the CEO of the company, this is reasonable.

Applicants want salary transparency, like, yesterday

What has always been a point of silent contention for job seekers has reached its tipping point. Companies withhold salary information until they send an offer letter or at the final stages of the interview process. Compensation is one of the major deciding factors for candidates looking to join a new organization. It would make sense that this qualifier is addressed earlier in the process. This conserves time for hiring bodies and prospective employees who would otherwise conduct multiple interviews for nothing.

Beyond that, salary transparency helps to prevent unjust inequalities in compensation for women and people of color.

What’s more, many companies screen candidates by asking them to provide salary expectations, putting the onus on the applicant to pre-negotiate his or her candidacy on the basis of budget.

Companies should assume the risk of losing a talented person due to budget limitations rather than forcing candidates to assume the risk of losing out on work because they know their worth. 

The resume is retiring

As LinkedIn has solidified its position as “the place where we most organizedly display our professional stuff,” there has become less of a pressing need for resumes to exist. Many candidates have online portfolios using third-party services like Behance as well as setting up personal websites and landing pages to tell their career stories.

Social media fills in the gaps, too. The mid-decade wave of over-designing one’s resume also came and passed once we realized that bells and whistles don’t provide real value. 2020 HR teams and recruiters will look at live links instead of PDFs and candidates will shirk outdated, fluffy resume phrasing, even where a documented resume is still required. 

The takeaway

If you’re reviewing all of these recruitment trends and predictions for HR in 2020 wondering how to take action, you’re among friends.

If it seems like there’s an unspoken campaign to transform the entire culture of recruitment and HR, it’s because there is. Business leadership, HR professionals, and job seekers will need to work together to communicate the best way forward. While tactics and channels may vary, the most important takeaway for 2020 is to imbue more humanity, agility, and flexibility into every facet of hiring and, when in doubt, simplify.

Zestful: recognize and reward your employees—minus the admin work.
Author

Kayla Naab (she/her) is a branding & content consultant and business journalist. She is also a remote work advocate who cares about workplace inclusivity and culture. When she isn’t doing digital things, Kayla can be found road tripping the US, taking nature photos, and making art.

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