The Future of Talent Acquisition is Here: Top Trends for 2021

talent in 2021

The Future of Talent Acquisition is Here: Top Trends for 2021

5760 3840 Mita Mandawker

COVID-19 marked a radical change in the way we lived, worked and hired talent for companies. The pandemic accelerated digital transformation, ushering in what some are calling a ‘Fourth Industrial revolution.’

Globally, businesses hustled to quickly make their operations, people and process virtual and digital-friendly. After the initial slowdown, companies have now embraced the ‘new normal’ and on their way to scaling businesses again. However, they need the right workforce and talent to do that. As more roles become remote-friendly and following the shakeup we saw in 2020, the talent market has never been more competitive.

As the demand for talent picks up, it is essential to understand what trends will shape talent acquisition in 2021 so you can be ready to bring the best talent onto your team. We anticipate that trends like the digitization of hiring, a continuation of remote-friendly work environments, and a deepening commitment to diversity and inclusion will shape talent acquisition in 2021, fueled by the developments over the past year. Are you ready?

AI will pave the way for data-driven talent decisions

Hiring the right people in a timely and cost-effective manner is a challenge for every business. Companies will focus on a data-driven approach to hiring talent this year leveraging AI (artificial intelligence). AI is proven to be better at seeing patterns than people. This will be a game-changer as it will help companies make smarter hiring decisions and eliminate unconscious bias, which permeates the hiring processes.

Companies will start integrating AI-powered chatbots for the initial phases of applicant screening to better identify the top candidates before taking them to the next stages in the hiring cycle (scheduling multiple rounds of interviews, etc.).

The use of AI will also permeate the other phases of employee lifecycle like automation of employee verification, onboarding, etc. Since most companies do not have this technology built into their HR platforms already, it will be important to identify and work with a capable, trusted technology partner.

Diversity and inclusion will go beyond mere points on the checklist

2020 was a pivotal year for diversity, especially with conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement. A lot of organizations defined and put down policies on diversity and inclusion for the first time. They set diversity targets, to reflect their stance on diversity and inclusion, especially in their talent decisions.

For many companies, 2021 will be a year for accountability. Companies will move beyond checking off items on their diversity and inclusion checklist, to actually showing the outcomes of their efforts. Inclusion will become more than a word: for companies to retain amazing, diverse talent, it will be essential for those employees to feel heard and included at their workplace. It’s important to remember that when it comes to building diverse and inclusive teams, there’s no “perfect” playbook.

We expect to see many companies move beyond basic lip service to actually deepening their commitments to their diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Agile, cross-functional teams will rise, built and dismantled on a project basis

COVID-19 forced companies to evaluate and change the way we work – from siloed department based working to more agile, cross-functional, project-based teams. Companies will continue to re-work on their organizational structure to foster agility and collaboration. Agility and collaboration have proven crucial for ensuring business continuity and success, a lesson hard learnt from the pandemic.

A lot of companies have already started moving from permanent hires to staffing their teams with part-time resources, who work on predetermined projects for a set time-frame before moving on. We will continue to see a spike in the number of freelancers in the coming year.

This approach to leveraging talent will also change the way companies assess and hire talent. Candidates with potential and transferable skills, like adaptability and problem-solving will be prioritized over their pedigree and technical capacity to do specific tasks.

Remote hiring is here to stay

Over the last year, recruiters and HR managers learnt that it is possible to do end-to-end hiring and onboarding remotely. Especially with the cost and time savings possible when hiring goes virtual, remote hiring will pick up this year.

We expect the hiring process will be a combination of in-person and remote processes, depending on the positions being hired for. For instance, for entry-level positions, the complete hiring process may be remote, with the new hires making their first physical contact with the company on their day of joining (maybe not, in case of remote workers). For the senior, executive-level hires, the hiring process may constitute a mix of remote and in-person processes.

But, for companies to leverage remote hiring, they need to define, refine and keep improving their virtual hiring processes, finding the right technology that works for them and making sure there is enough human contact present in the remote hiring procedures.

Digital candidate experience will be prioritised

“Online video interviewing, digital assessment, and digital candidate experience strategies were ‘nice to have’ before the crisis. Now they’re business-critical.” Josh Bersin, world-renowned thought leader in HR, Leadership and HR technology space, could not have explained the importance of candidate experience better.
Candidate experience was always important, especially with a distinct shift towards remote working and hiring. It will become important for companies to provide an exceptional experience given that candidates will not be experiencing their offices and culture in person.

Every HR and hiring activity from attracting talent, to showcasing employer brand, to sourcing talent, to interviewing, will need to be built to provide a great digital experience for candidates in order to attract top talent.

The top employers will have a candidate communication plan, which will make all relevant information available to candidates about the company. Employers have to show — not tell — what their company is all about. Every small step matters – from sending email/text reminders to candidates a day before the interview to sharing employee pictures, videos and office pictures, so candidates can virtually experience or visit the workplace. This will help candidates get a taste of company culture and team without physically visiting offices.


At Shortlist, we are hopeful that 2021 will usher in growth and prosperity for you and your organizations. We hope these trends will give you some insight into what to expect this year and help you tailor your hiring strategy and processes. We are always here to help you as you think through your hiring, onboarding, and technology needs for 2021. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your plans with you and can offer advice on how to leverage these trends for a great year ahead!


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