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6 Recruiting Trends to Watch in 2021

2020 was a year of extraordinary changes in the world of work. Not only did unemployment rates soar throughout the year, but hundreds of thousands of people were forced to work from home. The shift to remote work—which may change business and the labor market forever—is driving the five recruiting trends we describe below*. 

*Trends gleaned from the talk “Recruiting Trends in a Remote-First World”, by Hung Lee of Recruiting Brainfood.

Recruiting trend #1: Global recruiting

The shift to remote work is breaking down the barriers to hiring overseas, making the competition for talent increasingly global. While that means companies have access to a wider pool of candidates, it also means that compensation will be set by the largest and the richest.

Talent flight—when top talent leaves the company in search of better opportunities—may become a central issue, with companies struggling to retain local talent and being forced to recruit internationally.

Talent acquisition professionals may be required to not only source internationally but to create global compensation plans and identify global payroll solutions.

Recruiting trend #2: New opportunities and challenges in DE&I

The global shift to remote work will likely make recruitment processes more accessible to people previously excluded, including:

  • Differently-abled individuals who can only work from home
  • Primary caregivers—most of whom are women—who need flexible schedules
  • Economically disadvantaged people who cannot afford transportation costs
  • Neuroatypical people who struggle with interviews and personality assessments 
  • Introverts who struggle with recruitment processes or opt out of on-premise work

While this opens up exciting opportunities for creating more diverse and innovative teams, it also poses brand-new challenges. The shift to remote work may create new forms of exclusion, leaving out:

Recruiters must understand the new DE&I challenges brought on by the shift to remote work in order to tackle them. For example, knowing that poor audio and video quality creates a bias in the recruitment process might lead to reassessing the value of the video interview in specific recruiting processes.

Recruiting trend #3: The end of the recruiting funnel 

The shift to remote work isn’t just impacting who we hire, but how we hire.

Before COVID-19, organizations took 60-90 days on average to make a new hire in the tech industry. Currently, the average time to hire is around 30 days, largely because it’s no longer possible to hold on-premise interviews and assessments.

This has drawn even more attention to functional assessments and work trials as the most effective methods for determining whether someone can or can’t do a job.

The rise of skill tests as the ultimate screening tool for remote jobs could mean the end of the recruitment funnel as we know it. In this scenario, generic assessments will not do, and recruiters may be required to take part in creating tests that are job-specific.

Recruiting trend #4: The rise of an alternative workforce 

Pre-COVID, recruiters were focused on hiring full-time and part-time employees. Alternative workers—contractors, freelancers, etc.—were hired informally by hiring managers.

The shift to remote work reduces the transactional costs associated with hiring employees, providing an incentive for companies to reduce the size of their workforce and rely more heavily on contractors, freelancers, and gig workers recruited for specific projects.

Recruiters will likely be required to expand their scope of work and manage an increasingly complex portfolio of candidates.

Recruiting trend #5: A focus on building talent communities

As project-based hiring increases, sourcers, recruiters, and hiring managers will likely devote more attention to building and maintaining relationships with company alumni, former candidates, potential employees, and evangelists.

Companies are likely to take inspiration from open source communities and increase communication and collaboration with people who are on the outside but are connected to the organization in some way.


2020 was the year of remote work, which is the driving force behind these five recruiting trends:

  1. Global recruiting 
  2. New opportunities and challenges in DE&I
  3. The end of the recruitment funnel
  4. The rise of an alternative workforce
  5. A focus on building talent communities

The changes set forth in 2020 will shape the upcoming year in exciting new ways. How do you feel about the recruiting trends on the horizon?

Dive in deeper to how remote work is changing the way we work and how your team can keep up: