The job search in 2021: What are candidates looking for?

For years, we recognized that the job market favored the candidate: high demand, shortage in skill-set and a fight for top talent dictated our recruiting and hiring processes and goals. Then came COVID-19. Aside from the dramatic effects on our health and well-being, many industries suffered devastating business and employment losses, with many still working on rebuilding a full year later.
At the height of the economic downturn with staggering unemployment rates, we could assume that a working adult would be amenable to ANY job at one point, as compared to the previous selectiveness of years prior. However, the hallmarks of the job-seekers-market of the past echo through; as we continue to rebound, and job markets steady, recruiters and managers are still faced with securing top talent amidst a deficit in the skill-sets they seek. Top candidates, having lived through such a tumultuous time are also reminded of the value they bring, especially in industries poised for continued growth like tech, healthcare, finance, and customer service (and of course, tech-plus-healthcare, …plus-finance, …plus-customer service…).
As still-sought-after candidates seek new positions during the pandemic-aftermath, and as they showcase their skills and problem-solving abilities to potential employers, be aware that they are also actively researching and vetting the places they would like to work. And there are few things on their lists that they would like to check off as well.

  1. Flexibility

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that adaptability has no learning curve. Organizations must be able to pivot on a moment’s notice. Employers of choice will be letting go of traditional work environments; and future candidates will be expecting that employers have a flexible work strategy, such as full remote or even hybrid models, to offer. As employees juggle home-schooling scenarios, elderly health-care and subsequent waves of health uncertainty, employers must continue to accommodate schedules conducive to a healthy work-life-balanced environment, especially when they want to keep the right team members on board.

  1. Health Protection

Health is front and center; and health coverage became the most expected benefit by 64% of U.S. job seekers in 2020. Candidates expect that a health plan option is in-place as well as any safety protocols that can be implemented at a given moment. Many organizations quickly learned the value of disaster-readiness and emergency-preparedness and solicited counsel on how to be prepared for sudden future circumstances. Workers are becoming more educated on their workplace rights, knowing what organizations must do on their part to contribute to safety and are ready to hold employers accountable.

  1. Technology Availability and Upgrades

Going hand-in-hand with flexible work model, job seekers also look for a streamlined, seamless tech package to be able to work productively from anywhere. This is particularly important as younger generations emerge in the workforce, since their affinity and familiarity to technology is second-nature. Tools, platforms and connections that enable an efficient home office and real-time access to work products and systems are paramount to a stress-free workday. Bonus points for internet and cellular allowances to help off-set employee-operating costs as well.

  1. Diversity and CSR

With DEI a top priority for job-seekers even in pre-pandemic job market conditions, employers should be prepared to be able to present how they plan to address these concerns. As the population grows increasingly diverse, candidates are expecting that their work environments reflect that change and will look to employers to combat hiring bias and expand their talent search to meet DEI goals.
Corporate social responsibility falls closely within the same realm. Working for an organization that is aligned with their values is also an important factor when looking for a job, particularly for Gen Y and Gen Z workers. In fact, according to a recent Forbes article, Gen Z “…is the first generation to prioritize purpose over salary.”And they are poised to make up 30% of the U.S. workforce in 4 short years so they will have significant voice in the workplace.
With these expectations rising, it behooves today’s organizations to put actions in place to meet the DEI requirements of their future workforce members and to craft their mission and values around shared ideals.

  1. Growth Opportunities and an Open Mind

With the aforementioned industries expected to fully recover and further flourish, there are unfortunately some sectors that the pandemic negatively-effected indefinitely. However, with an increase in focus on soft and transferrable skills, job seekers have an opportunity to reinvent their career path and branch out into something new. Recruiters and hiring managers are up to the task of recognizing talent where they see it, and helping to create connections that in a traditional world, may not have been considered. Candidates are looking for those employers who are forward-thinking and are open to a new way of solving a performance need. By leveraging their skill-sets into a problem-solution model, candidates are in good position to demonstrate how their attributes will fill a role, even one they may not have been formerly trained for.
In the wake of the 2020 pandemic crisis, the way to search for a job, the length of the time to find a new job and the criteria that employers are looking for will all continue to fluctuate. But candidates should not underestimate their value or their appeal to future employers. They can and should still hold fast to their own set of work requirements that will put them in a sustainable role that fulfills their career needs.
At Matlen Silver, our recruiters will have honest, open conversations about the right roles for candidates based on the work environment they seek. Reach out to us to see what opportunities are on the horizon for you in 2021 and beyond.

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