The Most In-Demand Skills for Recruiters in 2021

Article by, Jenna Pilja

The Most In-Demand Skills for Recruiters in 2021

By Jenna Pilja 

2020 was a historic year for the world and the world of work is no exception. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated issues that have been long overdue, such as embracing remote work and prioritizing diversity and inclusion as a business priority.  Now that both these initiatives are well into motion, business leaders are looking to talent and people operations professionals for guidance on how to attract talent in the new world of work. With new considerations such as return to work policies, creating an inclusive culture, many talent acquisition professionals are now finding themselves navigating how they approach hiring in a way that transcends their pre-pandemic responsibilities.

According to LinkedIn, these are the fastest growing skill sets for recruiters as of their last poll in 2020:  

  • Personal Development +44% 
  • Diversity and Inclusion +42%
  • Talent Pipelining +37%
  • Decision-making +34% 
  • HR Strategy +30% 

Let’s break each of these skills down to explore what these changes will require in a recruiters day to day moving forward. 

Personal Development

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that taking care of our mental and physical wellbeing lays the foundation for how we show up in life and at work with others. Personal development is a broad term and is also a trendy one this past year, but it is anything but new. To keep both your hard and soft skills sharp requires an ongoing commitment to self-reflection, education, and training in the areas that are most pressing to nurture and develop. A personal development practice fosters improved general communication, can help with diversifying your skill set, promoting greater learning agility and ability to work with others in a variety of situations and cultural dynamics. 

Since we talent professionals are in the business of supporting others, we may at times feel tempted to put our own needs on the blackburner. In general, we tend to have very high workloads and more often than not, our departments are understaffed. Innovation and burnout do not go hand in hand, so this creates greater urgency than ever for setting boundaries and achieving a sense of balance. I know that for many years earlier in my own career, I feared that asking for help or additional resources may be perceived as a sign of weakness. I’ve now come to see that this is essential for open team communication and productivity, so everyone can contribute, do their best work, and innovate. Taking time away from work to recharge, even if just going for a short walk outside to break up the afternoon, can go far for mental health and productivity. 

Diversity + Inclusion

Last year after the murder of George Floyd, many CEOs and corporations spoke out against racism, social justice, and white supremacy at a scale that society hasn’t experienced since the Civil Rights Movement. 

For any major cultural change to be effective, the reason behind the change must be communicated by an organization’s business leaders with authenticity and actionable plans for how the organization will hold itself accountable. One of the most important considerations talent leaders must take into consideration these days when choosing a brand to hire for is partnering with business leaders who view diversity and inclusion as a critical strategy for continued business success. The work that goes into these conversations is not for the faint of heart, however every organization must start somewhere.

As a first step, a foundation of inclusion and psychological safety must be established in any environment before the existing diversity within teams can be celebrated and further grown. Talent leaders are now being presented with the opportunity to become true culture advisors, broadening how we approach a talent search, carefully considering dynamics such as what kind of opinions, voices, and underrepresented groups may be missing from each team and what alternative backgrounds might be considered for the position. Only when all people are being included and celebrated can more formal, long term diversity hiring plans be implemented successfully. Skipping inclusion before diversity will in most cases only result in higher turnover from underrepresented groups.  

Talent Pipelining 

Recruiting metrics continue to be crucial for how talent teams allocate their recruiter resources to support the ever changing needs of the businesses who we partner with. At a minimum, being able to build pipelines that meet the needs of business leaders requires tracking all recruiting activity in an ATS and a commitment to data integrity. Running a weekly report by position and sharing with my hiring managers is a practice I have been implementing for years to assist me with efficiently prioritizing my time across multiple priorities and for transparency with business leaders so we can work as a team to address any bottlenecks in the hiring process that are revealed from tracking  key metrics over time. Most talent professionals are familiar with the high level concept of building a funnel or talent pipeline being a numbers game. 

Having enough candidates to make a hire is only part of the battle. While time to fill was once considered an industry standard talent metric that was considered reliable for the health of a hiring pipeline, today’s increasingly complex talent acquisition strategies require metrics that reflect long term talent acquisition needs. 

While Quality of hire is one of the more challenging metrics to track for most companies, in the long term it tells a much more compelling story about not just the health of your recruiting process, but the health of an organization’s culture. Some of the common metrics used to track quality of hire include employee engagement, job performance, turnover rates, and feedback from colleagues. This builds a case for focusing on understanding employee experience, as well as moving to a more agile performance review process where employees get feedback in real time, versus once or twice per year. 

A net hiring score is another alternative to tracking quality of hire, which tracks in a survey (asking to self report using a scale of 1-10, 1 being “very poor fit,”  10 being “great fit” ) the following:

-Hiring manager perspective on new hire ramp up time:  How well the new hire is a fit for the role they were hired for? 

-New Hire career fullfillment: How much they feel the role they accepted is a fit for them personally?

HR Skills

2020 was a year of self-reflection and reprioritization for people everywhere, as the pandemic has created space for solitude and goal-setting based on what is most valued for each individual. To truly be a talent advisor, today this requires a holistic understanding of the candidates needs at all stages of the employee lifecycle journey.

To effectively close offers with candidates today, you must be able to sell the opportunity beyond the job they are being hired for and be able to speak to their career journey 1,2, 3… even 5 years into the future. Doing so requires an understanding of total rewards, performance review processes, and various possible career paths based on their long term career priorities. 

Now that diversity and inclusion efforts are top of mind for the majority of businesses, conversations are shifting and are requiring talent acquisition professionals to approach their work with a new perspective. While coaching may have once been considered a skillset that more closely aligned with people operations managers, recruiters must be able to step into this role to effectively understand the values and goals of business leaders, as well as carefully navigate blindspots and personal biases that can hinder equitable hiring practices. 

On the flip side, talent advisors must also act as coaches to the candidates we work with, especially those who may come from an underrepresented group who have the right skills and experience, but just may need a little mentoring when it comes to updating their resume or preparing for an interview. Taking the time to invest in these activities can be the differnator that is needed to truly have an inclusive hiring process that actively supports bringing greater equity to the workplace in tactical ways, one candidate at a time.      

Decision Making 

The most impactful talent leaders are the individuals who act as true talent advisors to business leaders. While business leaders are experts in their own respective fields, they rely on their talent partners for guidance on all aspects of building and running an effective hiring process that produces results. Creating a standardized, scalable hiring process is only the beginning.  While the work we do is always a partnership by nature, it is important to truly lead the process as a talent professional. Sharing your industry knowledge using clear examples is best complemented by continuously asking business leaders questions to gain a deep understanding of their perspectives on how they view talent beyond just titles and desired skills. 

At a high level, the decisions we make within talent acquisition are best supported by having extensive industry knowledge and relationship building and communication skills. Together, these support the discovery process of uncovering how to align business priorities while creating a candidate and employee experience that you can be proud of. Remaining curious, asking lots of questions, and most importantly, never ending your personal development and learning as a talent professional are all excellent ways to establish yourself as a true partner to the businesses you serve. 

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