6 recruiting strategies to win the talent war in 2021

How companies recruit and hire has fundamentally changed this year, as employers seek to rebuild after the challenges of COVID-19. From record unemployment to massive disruptions in the workplace, recruiters are now tasked with shifting how they source, interview and support the hiring of candidates.

Read more: How AI tools can help companies rehire during coronavirus

Despite promising vaccines on the horizon, returning to the pre-COVID office may be a thing of the past. Workplace experts shared how these 6 shifts will impact the workplace into 2021 and beyond.

Remote work is more than a nice-to-have
More companies are taking on remote work as a way of life. In a recent survey by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 64% of responding organizations said the increase in remote working is a permanent change. Additionally, 33% of organizations have permanently reduced their office footprint as a result of the shift.

With closed physical offices, employers can take advantage of remote work to expand their talent search to the national and global level, says Laura LaBine, chief talent officer at Labine & Associates, a talent recruitment firm. Prospective employees are proactively seeking remote work and flexible work arrangements beyond the pandemic.

“We used to coach candidates to not ask about working remotely,” says LaBine. “That’s a fundamental change. Companies are taking [remote work] as their new way of life. A couple of my clients have closed their offices.”

Remote work has also come to represent the value that companies’ place on the health of their employees, says Shavone Kennedy, people and culture partner for technology at Blink Health.

“It shows what kind of culture and organization [prospective employees] would be investing in if companies are willing to have non-remote work available or optional,” she says.
Sourcing in smaller online communities
Recruiters are turning to smaller online communities and using new tools to get the word out about opportunities. In the midst of high unemployment, posting on high-traffic jobs platforms can lead to an influx of applications that don’t meet qualifications.

Groups on LinkedIn and other social platforms, professional associations and new tools like levels.fyi, a salary comparison platform, can help recruiters narrow their focus when sourcing. Many of these communities have been created this year as professionals seek to network virtually.

“It's been a year of Slack professional communities popping up all over the place,” said David Gaspin, SVP of human resources at Delos.
A virtual hiring process means back to basics
Without the usual in-person touchpoints during the hiring process, successful recruiters will need to focus on improving the basics of the hiring process.

“Companies need to do what they should have been doing all along, which is to institute smart, repeatable hiring processes that rely on qualifications, rather than relying on gut feeling and having people come to the office and hang out,” says Gaspin.

This means instituting best practices in virtual hiring if they weren’t already in place, such as defining qualifications thoughtfully and designing online interview processes that include behavioral questions. Additionally, employers are looking more closely at cover letters and thank-you notes as a way to get a sense of an applicant’s personality, a survey by TopResume found.

“Everybody is forced to interview over the phone or video,” says Amanda Augustine, TopResume's career expert. “There are so few face-to-face interactions taking place these days that we think [these elements] are really great opportunities to get a better insight into a candidate's personality.”
Making the hire requires a different sales pitch
Without site visits and offices to show off, employers have to adapt their sales pitch to candidates.

“When everybody's working from home, that beautifully stocked fridge and snack room doesn't really hold any weight,” says Augustine. “The commuter stipend is now useless.”

Instead, recruiters have to make their pitches based on expanded benefits that employers may have introduced, such as home office setups, childcare stipends and other wellness benefits. And they have to convey the culture of the company more creatively.

“You have to create a mental picture of the environment, because you can't give them a physical picture of it,” says Gaspin. “It's becoming people's jobs to talk about the company, culture, people and vibe — all these things that someone might pick up when they walk into the office.”
Walk the walk when it comes to diversity and inclusion
The nationwide conversation around systemic racism and inequality has forced employers to consider their own diversity and inclusion efforts. Many employers are hiring specialists, allocating funding and making sure their public presence communicates their values on diversity.

“Prospective employees are now coming in asking questions,” says Kennedy. “Employers are hard-pressed to not only have a response, but to speak about the current inequities within their organization.”

Recruiters are encouraging employers to pay attention to their Glassdoor and LinkedIn reviews, where prospective employees often go to understand the realities of working at a company, especially as a member of an underrepresented group.

“You have to be walking that walk,” says LaBine. “You have to be anti-racist. You should actually have a board of directors that represents diversity. That's where the struggle is right now.”
Future-proofing means doing it well, right now
Though the market currently favors employers, recruiters need to continue to operate in the same way they did during a competitive job market, says Gaspin.

“For the people you're hiring now, if you're trying to take advantage of a bad situation and you're underpaying or doing whatever else you feel like you could get away with, when things are back to normal and it’s more of a candidate market, you’re going to be stuck,” he says.

The mistake that most companies make during recruiting is hiring the person who’s capable of doing the job now, rather than hiring the person who can help the company achieve its mission in the long run, says Dave Carvajal, CEO of Dave Partners, an executive search firm.

“For that reason, now more than ever, companies and candidates have to be significantly more thoughtful and make sure that people are truly connected with the mission of the organization.”