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Top 10 Hiring Trends of 2021

Haley Crum
by Haley Crum on February 18, 2021

Animated masked individuals with text that reads Top 10 Hiring Trends for 2021The unprecedented nature of 2020 impacted every facet of life, including the economy. COVID-19 immediately upended the U.S. job market, skyrocketing the unemployment rate to 14.8% in April 2020.

The quick and drastic turn of the economy left employers and job seekers to face the residual effects. For employees, this includes the emotional stress related to health and job security. Employers faced financial uncertainty with government shutdowns and capacity restrictions.

As the economy is expected to rebound in 2021, there are changes in store for the job market that may impact your organization's recruitment strategy.  Let's take a look at what experts are keeping an eye on.

1. Employers Embrace Remote Work

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to make an abrupt transition to remote operations. Previously held qualms of a telecommuting workforce dissipated for employers after they began reaping the benefits such as reduced overhead costs, access to a wider candidate pool, and increased employee productivity and satisfaction.

The experiment with telecommuting debunked many long-standing myths like working away from the office would lead to a loss in productivity and poor communication. Although disadvantages exist, like decreased employee visibility and lack of relationships among coworkers, 83 percent of employers say that the shift to remote work has been successful.

The benefits of remote work go both ways. After experiencing the benefits of telecommuting, 42 percent of employees say they would take a salary cut in exchange for flexible work options.

By critically examining your business and employees' needs, you can determine the type of flexibility that will work best for everyone.

2. The Rise of Soft Skills

Businesses across the board braced for the financial impact of the coronavirus. The organizations that mitigated and overcame the pandemic's effects had to adjust quickly, making adaptability a vital skill for employees.

Although measurable hard skills are still important, soft skills like flexibility, problem-solving, and communication have become more important in this uncertain environment. Hiring managers should keep an eye on candidates that exhibit the most in-demand soft skills, such as:

  • Adaptability
  • Creativity
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Collaboration
  • Persuasion

3. Virtual Recruiting is Here to Stay

To keep the recruitment process moving forward while adhering to COVID-19 safety precautions, many organizations optimized their use of remote assessments and video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype. From now on, job seekers should prepare to be camera-ready because a beginning-to-end remote recruiting process may become the new normal. Take a look at a few key recruiting stats shaped by the pandemic:

  • 71% of businesses have integrated some degree of remote hiring methods
  • 81% of HR professionals agree virtual recruiting will continue post-pandemic
  • 70% of talent professionals say virtual recruiting will become the new standard

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is Applied to Hiring

We've been in the midst of the artificial intelligence revolution for some time, but the use of AI in the recruitment process is becoming increasingly popular. Recruiters use AI to supplement their talent acquisition process, assisting with heavy lifting at high speeds.

Automation tools can make the recruitment process up to 90 percent faster by providing hiring managers with better candidates based on machine learning of past hires. Popular AI tools commonly applied to the recruitment process include chatbots, sourcing AI and scheduling tools.

  • Recruitment chatbots can help interact and engage with candidates and provide them with job information
  • Sourcing AI can help find, screen, sort, and rank candidates to create a pool of highly qualified job seekers
  • Automated scheduling tools for interviews can reduce coordination time

5. Emphasizing Diversity and Inclusion

In 2020, many employers began looking critically at diversity within the workplace, taking steps to rectify inequality and emphasize inclusion. Hiring diverse candidates is foundational to a long-term strategy, but it may not happen without a plan. Here are a few tips for improving diversity in the hiring process.

  • Set a diversity goal to correct underrepresentation
  • Advertise on diverse job boards
  • Avoid biased or gendered language in job descriptions
  • Provide unconscious bias training for those involved in hiring

Employees are more vocal about their company's efforts too. Since the summer of 2020, Glassdoor has seen a 66 percent increase in users mentioning racial equality and diversity in their company reviews.

6. Boomers Are Leaving the Workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many to leave the workforce, including a high number of Baby Boomers. Since older individuals have a greater chance of developing severe illness, those that continued to work were more vulnerable. While some older workers self-selected retirement to avoid the challenges of working through a pandemic, some businesses offered them early retirement.

Earlier-than-planned retirements could mean premature loss of productive workers, plus skill and knowledge gaps. As Baby Boomers retire and younger workers enter the workplace, consider formulating a program to transfer institutional knowledge through cross-training, cross-generational teams, and mentorship programs.

7. Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

As people suffered through isolation, financial challenges, stress, and grief, 2020 turned a spotlight on the topic of mental health. As awareness grows, companies are working to destigmatize mental health by introducing and expanding benefits. In fact, 72 percent of employers say they plan to introduce more mental health support.


Mental health assistance is often offered through healthcare providers or an employee assistance program (EAP), a voluntary work-based wellness program designed to help employees resolve issues impacting their emotional and mental wellbeing. Be sure your employees know how to access the care available to them.


8. Going Beyond Salary

The disruption and uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis caused some workers to reevaluate their priorities. As a result, we're seeing a shift by employers to emphasize employee benefits and incentives.

In the past, candidates may have accepted a position based on salary alone, but now, benefits like healthcare, retirement plans, and flexible work schedules have become more important. Salary is only one component of the puzzle. Consider offering benefits most valued by job seekers, such as:

  • Health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Flexible hours / Remote work options
  • Additional vacation time
  • Student loan assistance

9. Career Transitions From Hard-Hit Sectors

Since the beginning of the pandemic, close to 10 million jobs have been completely eradicated, hitting the hospitality, gas, and travel sectors the hardest. Mass layoffs and troubled industries forced many unemployed workers to shift gears and change careers. Many of the hardest-hit sectors are not projected to recover until 2025.

10. New Roles Emerge

Although millions of jobs were lost, some companies adapted to the changing environment by creating new roles. An estimated 14 percent of businesses created new positions because of COVID-19. 

Organizations that shifted from in-person to online sales created roles such as "social media salesperson" to support their customers' needs. Delivery roles like "delivery driver" saw an uptick of 243 percent since March 2020 due to restaurant shutdowns or capacity restrictions. To keep customers and employees safe, organizations hired temperature screeners to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The hope of getting back to normal is high for many, but the job landscape will feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic long after the virus' threat recedes. Experts anticipate these trends will shape recruiting beyond 2021, becoming part of our new normal. 

Haley Crum
Haley Crum

Haley is the Co-President of FrankCrum and President of FrankCrum Staffing. Haley earned her law degree from Stetson University College of Law and serves as in-house counsel. She is a member of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) Board of Directors, as well as a member of the Florida Association of Professional Employer Organizations (FAPEO) and the American Staffing Association (ASA). In her free time, Haley enjoys parenting, cooking, golf, humor, and the active pursuit of her journey in Christ.