Year-End Recruiting Trends: Survey Follow-Up

Two weeks ago I published a short survey here, and the response has been terrific! Dozens of you sent in your answers and thoughts, which I am analyzing. In January I will have completed the analysis of the results and will write them up for you in detail. This column highlights some of the key responses, along with a few of my own comments. While the results of this survey are by no means a scientific portrayal of what has been happening in recruiting over the year, they do provide a picture of how you feel and about what your organizations have experienced over the past twelve months. Let’s recap this year, briefly. We all entered 2001 with the same frenzied approach that characterized 2000. Most recruiters I talked to in January and February of 2001 were still hiring madly and were concerned with finding enough recruiters to meet the demand. The U.S. Army scrapped its 20-year-old slogan, “Be All You Can Be,” for a new one, “An Army of One,” aimed at Gen Y. The ER Expo (sponsored by our own Electronic Recruiting Exchange) was one of the most heavily attended recruiting events of the year, and it was held in March. But the end of the boom was in sight even then. Early signs of a slowdown were apparent. Columnists for the ER Daily, as well as other recruiting and HR-related magazines, newsletters, and websites, were already talking about the economic slowdown. Dot-coms had begun imploding and many more were to follow. By March there was general agreement that things were slow and that hiring was falling. By the beginning of Q2 things were getting worse. Dot-coms were failing everywhere and layoffs were up dramatically. Traffic was up on all job boards, showing that more people were looking for work. And by May, reports were coming out that college hiring was way down from 2000?? an early indicator of a slowing job market as employers try to grab and keep experienced workers. Candidates had clearly been able to dictate terms and negotiate offers in a more aggressive way than ever before throughout 2000, but by early June 2001, there were reports that companies were back in control of hiring instead of the candidates. I attended an IT recruiting conference in June that was barely attended at all, with speakers almost outnumbering attendees. Monster laid off 42 people, being early to start the process. This was my sign that the bottom had fallen. As we entered third quarter, everyone was aware that we were in a recession, and that the level of hiring had declined to almost zero for the high-tech industry. reported that technical salaries were down 6% from January. Some sectors, including healthcare and services, were still doing well. Yet, FlipDog’s Job Opportunity Index fell 3.7 points in July. Most contract recruiters were laid off, and even the number of regular corporate recruiters was being scaled back. Daily headlines proclaimed the rising unemployment rate, the pink slip parties, and the quarterly losses of firm after firm. And then came September 11. Some Interesting Survey Results Your survey results reflect the pain of this past year. More than 53% of you said your recruiting staff had grown smaller, and 32% said staff levels had remained about the same. Only 15% of you said your staff had grown larger?? and that was largely in sectors like healthcare and the public sector where recruiting remains robust. Firms that have taken a strategic approach to automation and that have reduced or eliminated transaction-focused tasks have suffered fewer layoffs. In fact, those of you who are leveraging a smaller staff said that you were doing it through better use of automation, a focus on ROI and metrics, and the use of more flexible, less specialized recruiters who can wear many hats. The mix of skills that recruiters need is definitely changing. Many responders reported the need for recruiters with strong sales and marketing backgrounds, as well as experience in project management. These are skills that were rarely asked for prior to this recession. Other skills included a generalist background and a thorough understanding of the business environment and business strategy. These new skills correlated well with the courses and training you felt recruiters needed to have. Those courses which you felt would meet future needs best fell into three major areas: sales, technology and general business. There were several requests for courses on sales skills, including those on closing candidates. I will do an article in January on sales courses for recruiting, as this is an obvious area for improvement and one where many recruiters lack any training at all. The technology courses were, as might be expected, focused around the use of the Internet for searching and for finding passive candidates. There were one or two requests for courses that would teach a better understanding of how to leverage the website for recruiting and branding. The general business areas included strategic management, influencing and decision making, an understanding of legal issues in recruiting, and cross-cultural issues. What was somewhat surprising was that over 26% of you have no applicant tracking system at all, and another 15% use a homegrown system, some with apparently limited functionality. This is, though, consistent with other reports that show a very small penetration of ATS systems into the corporate environment. Whether this is because of lack of understanding of their usefulness, their seemingly high cost, or because of the poor relations recruiting often has with the IT department; it is an area for future research. The most heavily used systems were Restrac and Webhire, which 9% of you use, followed BrassRing with 6%. Other systems mentioned included PC Recruiter, Recruitsoft, Skillset, Peopleclick, Resumix and tools from Peoplesoft, Abra and Oracle. All the research consistently shows that there is no single product that dominates this space, which remains fragmented and misunderstood by most IT departments and many recruiters. Early in January I will provide a more detailed analysis of these results and I will use some of the information to write new columns in the first quarter of 2002. Meanwhile, thank you for reading my columns each week and for your comments and thoughts. While we don’t always agree with each other, our varied viewpoints help make us all better recruiters. I wish each of you a very happy holiday season, and I hope the coming year will be a peaceful and prosperous one. May you and your family enjoy a safe holiday and a Happy New Year!

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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