A Strange New World—Navigating the Recruiting Renaissance

COVID-19 has quickly upended the way we work—while some have simply shifted work settings, others have been forced to find entirely new employment. Even 6 months into the pandemic, unemployment levels remain high and industries that rely on in-person interaction continue to struggle to stay afloat. In turn, numerous employers have had to adapt business operations, communications, and how they approach recruiting and hiring.

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ThinkWhy, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that creates recruiting software, conducted a survey of 317 recruiters employed by staffing agencies to better understand the challenges hiring managers and talent acquisition professionals are facing. Survey participants were asked questions about multiple job functions and industries and how the pandemic has impacted talent acquisition processes.

The common theme? Recruiters now have to weed through a surplus of candidates to find the right fit—only 12% of respondents reported spending less time researching qualification criteria for each position.

Biggest Obstacles to Placing Talent

The top five challenges recruiters identified in placing candidates, listed in order below, are all interdependent:

  1. 60%—Finding qualified candidate(s)
  2. 31%—Knowing how long it will take to fill positions across markets
  3. 29%—Understanding how salary expectations compare with the market
  4. 26%—Helping clients understand differences in talent pool, supply, and salaries across markets
  5. 21%—Understanding the economic landscape across markets and industries

This ripple effect means that even with thousands of candidate possibilities, 60% of recruiters cite finding qualified candidates as their most pressing challenge. The issue stems from too many applicants who don’t meet the minimum qualifications, causing recruiters to boil the ocean just to find a candidate who might be a fit. 

There are roughly 6.6 million jobs open, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With tens of millions of people unemployed or only working part time, newly opened positions draw a flood of résumés.

The challenge coming in second is not knowing how long it will take to fill positions (31%). The more time recruiters and hiring managers must spend filtering through unqualified applicants, the longer it takes to identify quality candidates and fill the role.

The placement process can also be delayed for roles with highly specialized skills, especially if the desired skills are not common for the job title provided; this is where competition can be fierce for jobseekers. Of course, finding qualified candidates quicker can shrink the window of filling positions. That success can lead to greater fill rates for open roles, free up bandwidth for more recruiting volume, and ultimately lead to adding more clients, all of which signals higher revenues for recruiting firms.

Additional challenges highlighted in the survey speak to the time recruiters find themselves dedicated to researching how salary demands vary across markets and industries, as well as managing the expectations of job candidates.

As recruiters expand on location strategies, they struggle with understanding competitive salary ranges in different cities (29%), selecting appropriate locations for the role (26%), and understanding how industry performance differs across markets (21%).

The economic impact from the pandemic and knowing when to hire and how are especially difficult in specific industries, given recovery timing will vary across sectors. Recruiters who place candidates in event planning, travel, higher education, and hospitality will experience more restraint on head count budgets.

With a full economic recovery not slated until 2023, according to LaborIQ® by ThinkWhy, and certain sectors, such as leisure and hospitality, not projected to recapture all jobs until after 2025, some of these issues could linger for years. The ability to identify and focus on the right industries and locations for recruitment will be critical, as a massive divide in the recovery tracks, based on those two variables, already exists.  

Time and Resource Constraints Prove Challenging

Not surprisingly, the largest drain identified among survey respondents is time and resources. In order, the tasks recruiters would like to do less often include:

  • 21%—Sourcing candidates
  • 22%—Writing job descriptions
  • 18%—Coordinating interviews between clients and candidates
  • 16%—Filling positions for dissatisfied clients who didn’t make it past warranty
  • 15%—Tracking and monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • 12%—Researching qualification criteria for each position (skills, job responsibilities, market-competitive salary)

Recruiters can streamline sourcing candidates with a deeper knowledge of talent supply for specific roles. Talent pools can be limited by location, experience, education, and salary expectations. By expanding sourcing into markets with a more abundant talent supply, recruiters can broaden their talent reach.

To do so, start by assessing the tools already available to help aid in this search. For example, talent technology is available to save recruiters time while also deepening their knowledge of labor supply markets they may not be familiar with.

When recruiters compare the labor market and economic performance of different locations, having a solid grasp of how their basic requirements differ from within other industries and locations is key to making informed decisions.

Lasting Changes to Recruitment

Another crucial finding stemming from the survey notes recruiters are open to sourcing candidates from other locations and, in some instances, from other industries when transferrable skills are applicable.

With the new distributed workforce, many white-collar positions no longer require employees to always be in the same physical space to be productive. This is especially true of specific job functions such as sales, marketing, and computer and technical roles. Though initially unforeseen, a huge benefit of the now distributed workforce is that talent searches can be broadened into other markets when the local labor market doesn’t yield enough qualified candidates.

For businesses in metros and industries slated to recover quickly, recruiting talent from slower-recovering metros for relocation or remote work can result in access to higher levels of qualified talent than usual.

One last major shift seen amid the new workforce is the need to ensure accurate pay ranges while accounting for different costs of living. Recruiters must quickly compare similar job titles and their requirements across markets to assess and convey competitiveness—a task that can be both daunting and tedious.

With the right tools, determining which locations have the talent supply needed and deciding whether relocation or remote work is a possibility are expedited. Take talent software for example—by leveraging recruiting technologies to meet new workforce needs, recruiters gain insight into actionable answers for how skills and pay change with varying education and experience to meet their clients’ expectations.

While sourcing candidates has always required strong interpersonal skills and resourcefulness, today’s recruiting necessitates speed, research, and data-driven decisions.

Jay Denton is Senior Vice President of Business Intelligence and Chief Innovation Officer at SaaS company ThinkWhy. ThinkWhy is helping companies navigate a new era of work by creating modern, human-centered software that supports better career lives. Learn more at, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @ThinkWhy_, on Facebook at @ThinkWhyLLC, and on LinkedIn at @ThinkWhy-LLC.

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