Matlen’s Silver Linings: Straight talk from Recruiters – It’s a Candidate’s and Recruiter’s Market

After a 2020 that was characterized by uncertainty in the workforce, 2021 is shaping up to be a historical hiring year and a return to the candidate’s market. It’s no secret that the competition is high amidst a talent shortage. With the explosive growth of remote work, we almost see a chicken-before-the-egg effect when it comes to talent availability: the availability of remote work opens up the talent pool to find and secure talent that may not have been available before because of work location proximity; On the other-hand, organizations are now losing the talent in their immediate area that may have historically staffed their business because of said geography. So, are people gaining or losing talent? It depends, and it’s also highly dependent on who is finding the talent for you. The good news is, there are jobs, and people to fill them. The challenge is securing talent before they get their next best offer. And Recruiters are working double-time to make those connections happen. We are increasingly seeing a Candidate’s and Recruiter’s market.

We had the opportunity to speak with some of Matlen Silver’s top recruiting experts located on the East Coast in very bustling markets. Below we break down what they are experiencing in this fast-paced, post-COVID workforce staffing environment.

Meet Britney and Anthony (New Jersey), Thurston (Atlanta) and Stephanie (Charlotte)

 

What’s recruiting been like in 2021?

Britney (NJ):
Hiring started slow, after the holidays it’s always slow. Summer is the time we see the most hiring and this summer is no different coming off of last year. The market is competitive and candidates are coming in and out of the market very quickly. So, in most instances, you have to work double-time to get them into interviews and placed before someone else offers them a position. High supply and demand – a lot of companies hiring.

Thurston (Atlanta)
I have seen an uptick in new Development and Security roles this summer.  Much more than I have seen before.

Are companies moving up their rates to attract candidates?

Britney (NJ)
In the NJ metro, I haven’t seen too many companies increasing their rates right now.

Thurston (Atlanta)
In the Atlanta market, I have actually seen a few clients lower their rates. Not significantly but enough where it’s starting below what candidates were making before. Recruiters then have to have the conversation with clients that their rates need to at least match previous rates to garner any interest.

Have client expectations for roles changed based on experience level and other factors?

Anthony (NJ)
I have seen companies more agreeable to lower their required experience level in terms of years from let’s say 10 years plus to now 8 years for example to get more candidates in the door. The other thing I’m noticing is the flexibility with remote work. Pre-Covid, companies wanted people on site to see if they would fit. Post-Covid, I have seen flexibility open up to being more amenable to remote work, experience level and even varied skillsets not being an exact match but ones that could be transferrable.

One example – my client originally, emphatically, said no less than 10 years of experience for a new hire, but I submitted a solid candidate with 8 years of experience and that person has an interview. The companies know the candidate market is hot and they have to be open to adjustment.

Stephanie (Charlotte)
I have been seeing clients hiring fully remote where they have never considered that before, but the candidate’s skill set and experience has to be spot-on to their requirements to make that consideration. In Charlotte, the financial industry has historically been more set on requiring on-site positions, but we are starting to see some give.

How has the onset of so much remote work opportunities changed the way you recruit?

Thurston (Atlanta)
Because we now have a geography from coast to coast to source from, it boils down to the relationship we have with our candidates and the transparent conversations we have to ensure the remote role will be right by identifying the different nuances that a remote role entails.  1) Are they truly interested in the role for longevity? 2) Will they be able to start on time? 3) Can the right person acclimate to the difference in lifestyle and hours, for instance, a West coast candidate interested in an East coast Role.

As their recruiter, I am open with them as to how taking on a remote role could be a significant schedule change in their lives, as opposed to traveling 30 mins down the interstate. We have to discuss the balance more than before.

Stephanie (Charlotte)
Since I work mostly in the financial sector, previously those clients with a strictly local- candidate-based mindset are being more flexible in searching a wider regional radius, creating more opportunities to find candidates.

Britney (NJ)
I have found that more of my West coast clients are comfortable with East coast timing so that has also helped increase my talent pool.

With more and more conversations about getting people back into the office – do the candidates want to work from home or on-site?

Thurston (Atlanta)
Most candidates are continually looking for remote work. They want to stay where they are. A lot of the reasons they give are because of uncertainty. COVID is still front and center in their minds. They have gotten used to the remote lifestyle and being able to do things they couldn’t have been able to do before when they worked in the office. But, there are people that do want to go back to the office because they miss the comradery.

Are organizations opening back up in your regions?

Britney (NJ)
I’m seeing a mix. Companies are saying they want to get people back in the office by September; others are more open to a hybrid model (working half the week in the office, half the week remote). Our own company has a hybrid model.

Stephanie (Charlotte)
We are very remote still and they are eyeing Labor Day as the time for transitioning back. However, people are loving remote work.

Thurston (Atlanta)
We are more hybrid than anything, but we are more open than closed over the course of the summer. Everyone has really kind of just been bracing for it to see how it will unfold.

Have the requirements changed in terms of cultural fit for a remote position? For example, are hiring managers saying “I really just need someone who can do the job. The employee is going to be remote and sit alone for the most part, so a past office culture dynamic is not a high priority.”

Thurston (Atlanta)
Managers still want someone who will fit well with the team. Video calls have replaced in-person but it’s still daily interaction so that requirement hasn’t really changed, we just use different vehicles now.

Anthony (NJ)
Culture fit has still been a high requirement priority, because candidates still need the soft skills to fit in and mesh. Remote actually is harder because there is a different team dynamic and it takes someone who will be active and engaged to fill the space. Hiring managers are still commenting on cultural fit. I have had several hiring managers make note of good personality fits, good presence on the online tools and high engagement, so it’s still something important to them.

Is remote onboarding a totally different animal?

Thurston (Atlanta)
Everything is through video conference, equipment is shipped, new hires don’t even get a personal badge anymore like in the past. It’s a shift in how things happen.

Stephanie (Charlotte)
Our onboarding actually already had an electronic component where contracts were completed, a hire creates their online accounts; we use tools like DocuSign already, so that part wasn’t much of a transition.

Is LinkedIn still the primary source for talent, and what other channels are you using?

Britney (NJ)
LinkedIn is still a good source, but I also tap into our internal database. Recently, referrals from our consultants and previously-placed candidates have been successful sources in finding talent for new placements.

Anthony (NJ)
I haven’t seen a great shift away from LinkedIn – it’s still my most active sourcing tool. I also use Indeed, our internal database, and Dice, specifically for IT staffing.

Stephanie (Charlotte)
It also helps that people are increasing their activity on LinkedIn because of the workforce concerns so it causes me to get more responses than I would have before.

Project duration – are people renewing more or less after an engagement is complete?

Britney (NJ)
Clients who have found a good candidate who have worked out well are hanging on to them. I have seen recently quite a few conversions to full time and contract-to-hire.

Stephanie (Charlotte)
A lot of my consultants’ engagement have been extended. Some clients are extending the overall length of contracts, in some instances from 18 to 24 months even, many as a result of COVID and to keep people working, but also to create a continuity. Organizations already went through the process of onboarding someone, especially remote workers who are working out, so they don’t want to go through the hiring and training process all over again.

With hiring volume having risen from the start of the year until now, where do see the hiring trend going the rest of the year through next year?

Britney (NJ)
2021 was naturally much busier than 2020, and clients now require a much quicker turnaround. This summer was one of the busiest I’ve experienced. Hiring is going to keep up this pace until the end of the fall. And then budget approval processes will begin. The holidays will slow things down starting in November and will pick up pace again in the new year.

Anthony (NJ)
The hiring volume for me depends on the clients’ fiscal year endings. That really determines the slowdowns at end of year because of budget unknowns. The start of the new year will pick up again. The clients that I have are consumer-facing and were considered essential so I actually managed frenzied hiring during the pandemic. It has since leveled off, but is not by any means slow.

Stephanie (Charlotte)
It will continue to be busy because people are incredibly more comfortable with remote hiring onboarding than last year, so the uptick is a lot.

Thurston (Atlanta)
2020 was slow and so uncertain, this year, hiring exploded.

Do the KPIs change because of the explosion? Do the clients have to adjust their requests to account for changes?

Thurston (Atlanta)
It’s our end of the business that required accommodation. We have had to adapt our in-house recruiting model to meet the demand, with hiring new recruiters who hit the ground running and using satellite remote recruiters who don’t normally have to work on different business lines who are now contributing.

Britney (NJ)
We are doing more internal hiring to meet their needs. We are also considering more junior level recruiters with the ability to train them because we need people in the door, whereas in the past, we focused on hiring more seasoned recruiters.

Anthony (NJ)
The industry is growing. We are booming. We need more recruiters to meet the demand.

 

 

 

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