Hiring Outlook for 2021

For most, 2020 was a year we have all been waiting to put behind us. Even though the calendar has flipped over to 2021 the reverberations from last year still ring through and are deeply affecting the outlook for hiring in 2021. 

Based on last year and what we have seen so far from clients, candidates, and the recruitment industry as a whole, these are our predictions for hiring in 2021. 

1) It’s all about outcomes 

This was true in 2020 and it continues to be true as we move forward into 2021. Employers don’t care about “fluff” they want to know candidate metrics, numbers, and stats. Whether a hire in product, marketing, sales or customer success there is little tolerance for "um... not sure" or “achieved goal” - employers want quantifiable outcomes and candidates better be prepared to deliver. 

Employers need to see outcomes and accomplishments on a resume, or they will assume that candidate doesn't have any or that they didn’t care enough about outcomes to share them - neither of which looks like the kind of candidate a company just can't live without. In interviews, candidates need to be able to express learnings from past mistakes (everyone makes them) and honestly share how they would do things differently if a hiring match is going to be made. 

In 2021, employers are going to have big expectations as they are often making big bets and commitments to their Board and VCs. This year is all about big outcomes, so be assured: big things will be expected of all their new hires as well.

2) Competition is now global 

For employers, this now means there’s access to a much larger pool of candidates but this also means the organization is competing with more employers for the same pool of highly sought after, niche candidates.

For candidates, this now means they have access to more opportunities because most employers are willing to consider candidates who live "anywhere." The trade off, they are competing with more people from all over the world. This can be a double-edged sword that until last year was not as common. 

It is important to keep this hiring shift in mind when both posting and applying for jobs. Whether you're a candidate or client, be ready to sell yourself or your company, and why you are well aligned for one another.

3) Be ready 

Given the increased pressures to achieve organizational outcomes and the stress of competing for talent at a global level, we can not emphasize enough the need to assume a position of readiness. In 2020, we shared the 3 things to do to be in a position of readiness when it came to making a product hire. The same still applies.

If you are looking to be hired know that no employer is going to wait for you to get your resume or your portfolio updated and ready. You need to be and stay ready for the call or email about the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Have your sound byte ready about how you add value to your current, or most recent, company.

4) The evening out of supply and demand

March, April, May …. Whoa! Suddenly everyone knew someone or entire teams who had been downsized. The famous Google doc turned Help List was created and launched; as awful as this all was, there were beautiful stories of people helping people and a real rallying of support. Jon Ackerman launched this beautiful testament of inspiring stories on why people love what they do and their craft. 

In the blink of an eye, the candidate market had flipped and 2020 became an employer's market. What about now? January 2021? The laws of supply and demand have evened out, however here are some ever-present realities:

  • Junior to intermediate individual contributor roles like Product Managers is an employer’s market 
  • Intermediate to senior individual contributor Product Manager roles from tier-one tech companies remain a candidate's market
  • Experienced UX or Hybrid Product Designers having shipped a product in market today,  remain in a candidate's market
  • Product leaders anywhere in Canada: employer’s market. There are simply not enough "quality roles" in Canada for the number of people open to an opportunity. By quality, we mean a role that is leading a product team and has a better than average salary.
  • US-based Product leaders, however, are still a candidate’s market - competition for talent is high. Search cycles move fast. There are bigger budgets than most Canadian startups can even stomach.
  • Subject matter expertise product talent is where availability of talent and salaries can get crazy. If the scope of skills and experiences a company needs to hire is narrow, pull up the money wagon and be prepared for a fast-moving, and most likely competitive, search and hire.

Questions about your specific role requirements? We would be happy to talk about it. 

5) Interview and hiring fatigue 

In 2018 and 2019 it seemed many employers engaged in searches for the sake of interviewing. It was all about the interview (checking who is out there) vs being all about the outcome (purpose of doing the interviews).    

During those two years, it was not uncommon for an employer to interview 10+ people and have as many candidates as possible do presentations, which many people would be invited to critique (even people who were not stakeholders.) What a crazy two years it was, but that all changed in 2020. We began to notice a fascinating trend, a feeling of low-grade fatigue about interviewing/hiring, and a new sense of urgency to just "get it done." Something that seems to be continuing into 2021. 

For example, these are common questions or points of view we have experienced with employers whose searches we are tackling going into 2021, that demonstrate to us their urgency and sense of fatigue:

  • "Let's just get it done"
  • "We don't have time to do this ourselves" or "we don't want to do this ourselves and delay hiring"
  • How long is this going to take?
  • What do you anticipate the roadblocks to be?
  • Is our comp inline/How much more flexible do we need to be?
  • How many people do you think we need to interview?
  • If I meet 4 people I'll be fine with that.

All of this means that fewer candidates are being contacted for interviews and even fewer to present case studies/presentations. But those who make it into the first round have a better chance of landing the job. From a recruiter perspective, this shift means we are even more acutely aware that as the Search Partner we need to get it right the first time; to execute a search that puts the most relevant people in front of the stakeholder so they can make decisions faster and with more confidence. 

At Martyn Bassett Associates, we have always operated this way, working as an extension of your hiring team providing bespoke searches and curated candidates. If our clients ever feel they are doing too many first-round interviews,  then we've missed our mark. We exist to create efficiencies and a simple path to a hire - something that everyone can use more of in 2021. 

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