A Time For Reflection

For us and like most of you, the fast-approaching end of 2020, and the beginning of 2021 brings hope, but also a reminder challenges we have all faced and will continue to confront moving forward.  We are still months, if not closer to a year away, from the end of the pandemic and a return to “normalcy”, but the effects and changes we have experienced will be lasting for years, if not permanently. We want to take the time to address and highlight some of those changes, in hopes that they may better prepare you for the future.  With more of our existing and new clients reaching out for requests of assistance, we have seen massive disruptions and tightening in the labor market, ones that truly have never been seen before.   Total applications on jobs are up by over 78% but actionable and desirable profiles are still extremely hard to come by.   Companies are struggling to hire at all levels, with jobs staying open at longer and longer rates.

Despite COVID and a new stay at home order throughout California, certain segments of the labor market have not only recovered but are up year over year.  Corporate Services (+6.9), Healthcare (+7.6), Transportation & Logistics (+9.9), Wellness/ Fitness (+4.8) and Real Estate (+1.4) are all leading the charge in the recovery.  Energy (-23.5), Entertainment (-16.9), Recreation & travel (-42.3) and Consumer Goods (-11.8) are all significantly behind still.

As statistics and surveys have repeatedly shown, candidates are not ready to go back to an office. They are already framing their recruitment decisions around which companies will allow either fulltime work from home, or some form of partial permanent remote work once a vaccine is safely distributed. However, this desire from candidates does not seem to be hitting home with most companies – as most we speak with have a strong expectation that employees must return to the office in 2021. With some of the large-scale job population movement across the US that we are witnessing, this will only exacerbate attempts at hiring top level talent for in office roles.

Don’t believe us? Cities likes College Station (Tx), College Station (PA), Urbana-Champaign (IL), San Francisco (CA) are seeing the biggest lost in population, while Austin (Tx), Charlotte (NC), Tampa (FL) and Denver (CO) are seeing the biggest gains. Companies like Oracle, Tesla, Dropbox, Hewlett-Packard, are some of the major longstanding corporations who are leaving California in favor of Texas. “Of more than 653,000 people who left California last year, 82,000 went to Texas, more than any other state, according to census figures.”*


We encourage clients to think long term, to be flexible, and even though it creates more work and can be more tedious, take recruitment on a case by case basis.  The days of a one size fits all company policy are not in line with candidate expectations.  Remember that despite large numbers of unemployed people looking for work, high skill, technical and niche corporate positions are still vastly unaffected. In the long-run, it may be cheaper and more productive to stretch your budget on 1 amazing candidate vs hiring a few at cheaper rates.

This unique labor market is creating an even bigger and real challenge when it comes to knowing how to validate true top performers throughout a sea of potential applicants.  Almost all high-level searches (Sr Manager and above) that have been completed this year, were filled with truly passive candidates. These people take much more effort to not only find, but to engage with and sign. They are demanding not only other higher compensation, but more flexibility in their home life schedules. They are looking for significant upward moves in their careers, the ability to lead functional teams, build out processes, and truly be able to make an impact.  How do you tell which of these professionals has the actual and practical experience to be given the keys to the department?  How much flexibility do you have in your offering to attract and sign people who are needing to be wowed? In the Senior Associate to Manager level, there are more openings piling up – and more and more eager candidates to prove they are ready for their first stint as a manager.  How do you and your team assess people that have not yet been given the chance to prove they can functionally lead a team?  Do you know what metrics and questions to ask?  How do you judge paper v real potential?  The talent is there, people are ready for a career and life change, for a fresh start and better opportunity – but the stars aligning is now a requirement, not a preference.

For Clients – the term is Flexibility.  Hold yourself, your internal teams and external partners to the same level playing field.  Does this professional have to have every single item on your check list?  Can you afford a different industry background?  Do you have the ability to actually train and mentor someone into the role? Also, evaluate and shorten your hiring AND onboarding processes -the fewer people and steps involved, the more coherent, thoughtful, and quick the process – the easier it is to hire. We know people are busy, business needs change on the fly – but if you have opened a role, and see someone you like, don’t arbitrarily lengthen the process (especially if you have already engaged or started on the search).  You may only get one chance to impress the candidate that you will need in your company.


These all can be the make-or-break difference factors between getting a top tier player who will be enthusiastic, engaged and who will STAY longer, vs someone who you may feel misses the mark.  Candidates are more educated and sensitive to their careers and how it impacts their families than arguably ever before.  They are unwilling to budge on what’s most important to them and have shown an increasing willingness to “ghost” a company if their expectations are not met.  There is now more nuance to the chess game that is the war for talent and working with skilled and professional firms can give you a path to check mate.

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