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The Recent Evolution of Hiring Priorities

Understanding the state of the market can help you position yourself as top candidate when navigating a competitive job search.


Pre-Pandemic


Before the pandemic, many hiring authorities were looking for disruption. In a time of rapid development, high demand, and consumers hungry for innovation, many organizations were following the mantra, “If it’s not broken, break it!” Every company was in a frantic race to launch and release FIRST.


First to market meant a great deal when it came to gaining recognition, market share, and revenue even if it meant compromising on quality or profit margins. As such, candidates who labeled themselves as iconoclasts and risk takers were afforded great attention and interest.



Pandemic Market Swings


When the pandemic hit, everything changed. Rather than pushing for positive disruption through innovation, the market suffered negative disruption from external forces like lockdowns, stymied supply chains, health concerns, and more. Job seekers found themselves navigating furloughs, layoffs, and early retirements in unpredictable markets. Professionals were faced with change — LOTS of change. The goalposts kept moving, sometimes completely off the field.


Resilient and adaptable candidates enjoyed more attention from hiring authorities in this market. They demonstrated this through tech savvy, training and development, and an ability to maintain operations through trials, possibly even record growth. Familiarity with remote work and digital work also became much more attractive.


Another hallmark of appealing candidates during the pandemic was empathetic leadership. Those who demonstrated understanding, patience, and appreciation of their team’s contributions enjoyed stronger retention rates and fewer interruptions. As many organizations cut learning and development functions as part of cost-savings initiatives, leaders who could develop, coach, and mentor their teams also became very appealing.


Recovery


During the commercial recovery period, businesses began adapting to the pandemic market conditions and hiring activity increased. Companies began hiring aggressively in response to upticks in technology, health and wellness, real estate, and home improvement markets.


Skills-based hiring gained momentum due to high demand for talent and we saw more hiring authorities willing to take a chance on career changers. Job seekers leveraged online credentialing programs to set themselves up for higher salaries and more opportunities. Even with talks of a looming recession, many organizations fought to retain talent to avoid expensive hiring costs, and labor hoarding was reported in a

number of sectors.


Attractive capabilities during this period often pertained to collaboration. For remote teams, hiring authorities appreciated self-motivated professionals and those capable of building rapport and camaraderie among distributed teams.


Many executives felt productivity, problem solving, and innovation declined during the Work-From-Home period. Those eager to entice workers back into the office sought out leaders who could bring people together through compelling team activities, special events, brainstorming sessions, and rewarding employee experiences. Creating a “gotta be there” environment and culture became a priority.


Recession


As markets began to restabilize, fears of a recession surfaced and companies that had previously been focused on growth at all costs began shifting their priorities to more conservative business practices. Due to tighter financials and a change in strategic direction away from aggressive growth and toward stability, many long-time leaders, executives, and board members found themselves being phased out. The rise in automation, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and the gig economy post-pandemic led to less need for middle management.


Layoffs began in many of the industries that benefitted from the pandemic conditions and rebalanced the aggressive hiring practices seen in the recovery phase. Other organizations instituted hiring freezes. Businesses began focusing on streamlining operations, simplifying business models, focusing on the highest revenue products and services, and introducing automation in preparation for an economic downturn.


In this landscape, candidates with strengths in decision making, prioritizing, and introducing efficiencies are seen as very appealing on the hiring side. Profit and bottom-line impact have become paramount to business health and as such, those with a track record of quantifiable results are more likely to stand out as the candidate of choice. In the midst of large scale tech layoffs, many other industries are also looking to benefit from an influx of technical expertise.


Among high-level leaders, multidisciplinary agility and a willingness to learn new things are seen as valued attributes. Experience with business and digital transformation, turnarounds, automation, and business simplification will set executive candidates apart from the competition, often regardless of prior industry experience.


With unprecedented movement among executives and the C-Suite, we can anticipate more leaders tapped for their functional expertise and ability to effect positive change, rather than relying primarily on an internal pipeline of like-minded individuals. Fresh insights into cost containment and operational excellence are valued with more candidates being placed from a wide range of industries.


In addition to broad market conditions, also pay attention to what is discussed early and often in the job description, as well as what your network is reporting about the priorities of stakeholders in the hiring process. Incorporating these topics into your career collateral — Resume, LinkedIn, Outreach — and career conversations — Networking and Interviewing — will help you stand out as highly attuned to business needs.

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