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Continuing the tradition, I make my predictions for the key recruitment trends 2024.

But first, let's start with a quick 2023 recap.

2023 Predictions: What Happened?

Layoffs

We had predicted that it was initially unlikely to slow down and you should prepare for an influx of candidates. Eventually, we expected it to peter out but the start of 2024 has shown that this is not the case necessarily. 

According to layoffs.fyi, one of the largest trackers of redundancies, the trend of downsizing teams continues. 

This is contrasted by the strong economic results in places like the U.S. and some companies reporting record profits. Some companies have started hiring again with unofficial reports coming out of more busy recruitment teams, but it’s nowhere near the same.

Pay transparency

Adoption is widespread now in the UK with 75% of all jobs having some sort of salary information. There is still work to be done to make sure that there is more meaningful transparency, but the start is looking promising. 

More legislation was rolled out like the EU Pay Transparency Directive, which came into force on 7 June 2023. More and more US states are rolling out legislation at least on the state level as the federal level is being delayed.

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Artificial intelligence

It was the year of everything AI and experiments everywhere. Many exciting products came out and not a month had gone by when I didn’t see something new in the recruitment or the HR sphere pop up on places like Product Hunt. Check out my article on AI recruiting for a full rundown.

Longer interview processes

If anything, in the tighter market, they seem to be getting not only longer but more convoluted. And, until the market stabilises with the stemming of the layoffs, I don’t see this trend stopping. 

There is this unshakable pattern that people fall into to put candidates through the wringer so only the ones who “really want it” persevere. This will be a difficult transition for many as the market has been candidate-driven for so long.

The decline in DEI hiring 

Not only was there a reduction in hiring, but there seems to be a politisation and shift in the attitudes fundamentally in DEI. 

It became less about making companies inclusive and more about a political statement on whether to have DEI teams and even initiatives or not. 

Zoom and Snap already made their stance by cutting DEI jobs. DEI seems to have been lumped together with the vague notion of “wokeness” and the anti-DEI rhetoric became more mainstream rather than fringe. I’m sad to report that I, unfortunately, do not see yet a way back unless a marketing genius gives it a new name.

So, with 2023 recapped, let’s turn our attention to what’s shaping the recruitment world in 2024.

The trends below impact more than just hiring but I've chosen them because they're likely have the most impact on your hiring strategy.

1. Shift away from a candidate-led market

With the lengthening of interview processes and the influx of candidates, we can expect a bit of a shift in the hiring market being so candidate-centric.

Companies are likely to divest from extensive benefits (as many of the big tech companies already have) and have even tighter requirements for candidates.

However, it will still be important to maintain a candidate pipeline that’s not just full of applicants who are willing to put up with onerous application processes—those are not always guaranteed to be the right candidates.

Top talent will likely still know its true value. A lot of companies who have been waiting for the moment to stop “yielding to the candidate-led market” will likely miss out on that top talent.

This is where a lot of smaller companies can still win great talent if they can adapt their employer value proposition to offer things like:

  • Ownership and autonomy
  • Impactful roles
  • Learning and development
  • Certain benefits and flexibility.

Do not let yourself be led by the pack of organizations who have started unreasonably upping their expectations, thinking now is “our time” on the market.

2. Return-to-office (RTO) hiring

Fully remote roles have dropped pretty significantly all over the globe and massive companies are leading the charge on the return-to-office trend.

When it was only a few large companies rolling out RTO mandates it was a bit easier to move, but now the trend is significant.

It’s tough to predict what exactly will happen as there is still so much in the air but, ultimately, I think companies stand to lose a lot more if they go completely inflexible as that will mean a lot of historically marginalized people won’t find a way into work.

During the pandemic, disabled people had a historic high of employment and that progress could easily crumble away.

When companies decide to go fully back in-office they should know why and not just tell people “It’s time to come back to work”—especially to a team that has potentially been delivering in a hybrid or remote setting.

If you can fully justify why it’s important to you and your team people may follow if they’re able to, but be prepared that the right candidate in every other metric may not be able to or want to work fully in-office.

3. AI experimentation continues and solidifies as “AI Optimism”

As AI is a work in progress, the saying “This is the worst it will be” has become ubiquitous when discussing the rise of AI. The experimentation will continue.

AI Optimism seems to be the general zeitgeist, with a lot more people excited about their future prospects in the world of AI.

While it may be too early to entirely automate jobs away en masse, it’s something that recruitment teams will have to bear in mind.

Eventually, for some jobs, it may be a lot more efficient to invest in tech than continue to try to scale with people. The earlier you can identify which roles are appropriate for this, the more you can be seen as a leader in your industry.

4. The looming specter of recession in some locations

Economic uncertainty makes everything a lot more unpredictable. Likely there will be more layoffs coming soon and more hiring freezes—which will be quite sudden.

In the startup world, we can expect to see only the ones with the strongest value proposition survive (except for the AI products which will likely go through a peak of investment).

This, however, will likely not be a completely global recession as different countries enter and exit technical or real recessions—the UK and Germany only claim “technical recessions”.

Unpredictability in the market can yield unpredictability in hiring and many organizations keep opening and pausing the same roles.

You can win over some great candidates if you can be transparent with them throughout and provide a structured hiring process. This is something you should always aim to do anyway but, in an unpredictable market, it helps demonstrate you’re a stable ship that knows which direction it’s going in. 

It might seem a bit far-fetched, but I’ve been able to win over candidates from the jaws of other companies because they enjoyed the process with our company and we were a lot quicker.

Everything will be clearer and quicker if you think hard about whether you need to hire for a role before you post the advert and start talking to candidates.

Take the time to think about the assessment process before you put candidates through even the first stage. That way you will create the impression of a company that is serious about each hire it makes and is aiming to be a stable, long-term home for people’s careers.

5. Questions about work-life balance

Related to the rise of RTO, many people are asking about work-life balance. Often what they ask is if they will be expected to be in the office from dusk till dawn every single day. 

If something happens in their life can they get the time or resources to deal with it? If they need to leave 10 minutes earlier from work do they need to register it with the HR system as an absence (yes this has happened to me and many people I know)?

Work-life balance will continue to be something that workers will be seeking no matter if they are fully in-office or fully remote, so be transparent during your interview process about what working at your company looks like.

6. Divestment from L&D is a great opportunity

L&D redundancies have been reportedly increasing. This is potentially due to two reasons:

  1. Rebalancing from an unusual high of L&D hiring during the latter part of 2020, 2021 and 2022, to make up for the mostly remote nature of learning and development.
  2. The waves of redundancies give the sense of security to companies that if someone doesn’t work out - they can be replaced rather than upskilled.

Either way, there seems to be less focus on learning and development currently. When companies are looking to save money often three things are actioned first:

  • Hiring freezes
  • Slashing recruitment budgets and headcount
  • L&D and other HR initiatives freeze.

However, that's not to say that employees and candidates are not looking for development! If anything, top talent will always be ambitious and demanding for their development.

Many will self-drive their learning, but they will demand investment in the form of time and probably resources and internal opportunities. This is where you can win.

While other companies are looking to freeze their programs, you can continue doing some small-scale L&D initiatives that will help you hire the right candidates and you will be able to get a much bigger return on each hire.

L&D goes through cycles, so it will likely recover in a year or two. The last time we were talking about a big divestment from L&D was 7 years ago and then it started recovering around 5 years ago with a peak in 2021.

Stand Out In A Turbulent Market

The world of work has been rocked in general, but hiring continues as it always will. Like with any disruption, you can either look to patch up the cracks or use this as an opportunity to try something new from the ground up.

This year, the opportunity for organizations to stand out and adopt positive trends is heightened. The added caveat is to decide what you consider are positive trends for your own company or industry.

One great way to keep up with all the latest developments in recruiting is to attend conferences dedicated recruitment strategies and techniques. Check a full list of the best recruiting conferences of 2024 for more information.

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By Mariya Hristova

Mariya is a talent acquisition professional turned HR leader with experience in large corporates and start-ups. She has 10+ years of experience recruiting all over the world across many different industries, specialising in market entries, expansion, or scaling projects. She is of the firm belief that great candidate and empoyee experiences are not just a luxury, but a must. Currently she is the People Lead at Focaldata.