Recruiting and Hiring Trends Expected for 2021

February 11, 2021 – Undoubtedly, companies will continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 and its effect on hiring strategies for the new year and beyond. Looking back on 2020 and forward to 2021, the International Executive Search Federation’s Victor Carulla outlines key forecasts in executive search and highlights top hiring trends to expect. “Because of COVID-19 projects were placed on hold or canceled,” said Mr. Carulla, 2020 was a year like no other. “A lot of what will happen from an executive search perspective will be based on how quickly a coronavirus vaccine is distributed. After vaccination, the executive search market will increase as companies recover. Candidates will have fewer reservations about the work environment, it will be safer, and they will be more willing to make the move to a new company.”

“The economy also influenced the candidate’s perspective,” Mr. Carulla said. “On the one hand, some managers and C-level executives lost their jobs and were more actively searching for new opportunities. While on the other hand executives currently holding a strong position were more hesitant to make a career switch when the opportunity occurred. This makes searching for the perfect match more challenging than before.”

Victor Carulla is founder and managing partner of Headway Executive Search. Over the past 10 years, her has been involved in the executive search business while based in Barcelona and working throughout Spain & Portugal, specializing in senior management.  Headway is part of IESF (International Executive Search Federation), which has more than 130 locations with 1,500 consultants/employees worldwide in more than 40 countries.

In August, IESF Peru (Virtus) and IESF Chile (HR Buró) carried out the Labor Market Study in their countries. They surveyed 36 companies from the mining, agribusiness, and energy sectors about how they are facing the COVID-19 crisis in their respective industries. Companies were asked about adaptation measures, the most valued skills during the pandemic, and their recruiting methods.

Digital Executive Search 

“COVID-19 did not only affect the actual amount of (international) placements, it also completely changed the way of work,” said Mr. Carulla. “Executive search is normally for 95 percent based on personal contact, assessments and interviews, and that changed radically to 95 percent working online. Zoom meetings and video conferencing became a primary means of communication in 2020. In-person job interviews came to a halt.” IESF member companies developed new ways to interview online without losing strength in selecting the right candidate. Companies were forced to put more emphasis on digital recruiting strategies to hire. IESF expects to see companies continue to use digital recruitment strategies more in 2021.

Flexibility – Remote Working as an Advantage

“Flexible work schedules and workplaces have become increasingly important for candidates over the past few years,” said Mr. Carulla. “Also, in executive roles, 2020 proved that flexibility and being able to work from home are both possible and effective. Leaders find new ways to motivate and monitor employees and prove they are very productive when working from home.”

IESF expects flexibility as remote work becoming more and more a normal occurrence in 2021. “Working from home will most definitely remain, but we expect things will also get back to normal and people to work from offices and travel for business again when everyone is vaccinated, and COVID-19 becomes part of our history,” Mr. Carulla said.


“With the rise of globalization, executives are increasingly willing to travel for work or relocate,” said Mr. Carulla. “That makes it interesting for our clients to also look for candidates beyond their country’s borders. Because of the increased digitization of almost everything in the workplace, companies are also hiring more people to work from home, which means they can come from anywhere in the world. IESF expects this trend will proceed in 2021.”

Related: 5 Workplace Trends to Watch in 2021

Artificial Intelligence and Data 

Artificial intelligence has penetrated the executive search market, and the initial outcomes are promising. IESF member companies agree that AI technology is never meant to replace the consultant. “It’s designed to support their roles,” Mr. Carulla said. “Executive recruitment will also become increasingly driven by data. Recruitment used to be a purely experience-based and people drive profession. Now hiring managers have been using increasing amounts of data to inform their decisions. These advances in technology and AI, allows leaders to predict outcomes.”

Social Recruiting 

“One of the most popular recruitment trends today is social recruiting. Executive search firms also use social networks for finding, attracting and hiring executives. And to enhance their network, do a direct search and seek new possibilities. It increases the opportunity for one-on-one engagement with new potential candidates and customers. Looking at today’s social media statistics, this trend is likely to continue in the years to come.”

Related: The COVID-19 Impact on Executive Search

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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