Last March, recruiters were just trying to keep busy. This summer, they're so in demand they can hardly keep up.
The job market plummeted during the pandemic, which "decimated" the recruiting function for many clients of recruiting platform Jobvite, according to Peter Clare, the company's SVP of customers and operations. "In most cases, recruiters are a bunch of folks that are able to transition to other jobs, so they didn't necessarily lose their jobs," Clare said. "But the function was decimated."
Many recruiters shifted gears, administering paid leave or assisting other departments, an August 2020 Lever survey revealed. Others spent their time cleaning recruiting data, rethinking recruiting processes or engaging more with workers.
A change in the job market jerked recruiters' attention back to job seekers, however. "In Q1 and Q2 of 2021, hiring went through the roof," Clare said. "Almost without exception, recruiting departments are expected to hire not only back to pre-pandemic levels but now to more hires per month than they've ever done before."
Adam Karpiak, president of Karpiak Consulting, described a similar observation of the current demand for recruiters. "It's very encouraging for the hiring market," he said in an email. "And it isn't like in the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was busy just trying to keep busy. Now they can't keep up."
The ups and downs of the pandemic weren't new to Karpiak, whose work as a contingent recruiter yields pay for conducting a successful search. "Contingent recruiting is always ebbing and flowing," Karpiak said. "The pandemic has been high highs and low lows."
The down time gave him a moment to invest in relationship building and networking. He spent time asking companies and candidates how he could be of service and answering questions about the market. "No pushing," he said. "Just listening. It's been tough on everyone."
In that way, the pandemic has given Karpiak more chances to connect with people on both sides of the recruiting equation. "It's been a great opportunity to take a step back from the grind and actually listen to people and develop relationships before working with them," he said.
Karpiak said recruiters in his social circles are bringing this attitude with them as the hiring market heats up, amping up the personal approach in their search for candidates. "Being personal, empathetic, actually listening instead of waiting for your turn to talk -- that has been the great differentiator for recruiters," he said. "You can either sell a candidate on the job you have, or actually listen to what the candidate is looking for."
Even as tasks mount, the personal touch is effective. "I've found the recruiters actually taking the time, even in unprecedented communication volume … is actually very efficient because it means everyone is on the same page," Karpiak said.
Clare has observed a different phenomenon. Recruiters he knows are using tech and automation to navigate heightened demand. Even with the right tools, it's still "a very tumultuous time for recruiters," Clare said.
"We're seeing broadly that recruiters are unprepared -- the expectations of the workforce have completely changed," he said. In the last six weeks, as climbing vaccination rates have spurred reopenings across the country, Clare has taken note of headlines heralding "the great resignation."
"People have experienced tons of stress," Clare said. "They're thinking about safety, the impact of remote work, diversity and inclusion. That's all on the mind of job seekers."