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How hiring has changed in the past decade

As 2019 comes to a close, HR expert Lars Schmidt looks at the six trends that have shaped the modern world of work

How hiring has changed in the past decade
[Photos: Dobrydnev/iStock; MIND_AND_I/iStock]
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As the first decade of the 2000s came to a close, the hiring landscape didn’t look all that different from the one that immediately followed Y2K. Sure, more companies moved their job applications from fax machines to the internet, but the fundamentals largely remained the same. 

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Looking back on the shifts we’ve seen over the past decade is a very different exercise. Not necessarily the actual mechanics of applying to a job (though in some cases very much so—see AI below) but everything that surrounds the actual application process. 

These are some of the biggest trends of the past decade:

The rise (and fall) of “culture fit”

As we entered 2010, we saw startup vernacular go mainstream. None was more widespread than “culture fit.” It was everywhere. “Culture fit” spawned a boutique industry of tools to help candidates identify how well they fit into an organization’s culture. 

The past several years have shown the term “culture fit” in a different light. The shine was gone. As our collective consciousness around diversity and inclusion continues to rise, companies began turning away from the term as a purveyor of unconscious bias.

“We’ve now come to understand that the ‘fit’ part of these assessments became a cloaked mechanism to hide bias, exclude whole cohorts of qualified candidates, and amplify, at times, the worst of who we were,” says Katelin Holloway, Reddit VP of people and culture. “With more intentional frameworks and a focus on values alignment over hobbies and habits, we can now assess candidates on aptitude, attitude, and how they can add to our culture—not fit into it.”

The emergence of AI

The hype around AI in recruiting is peaking as this decade comes to a close. We’ve seen a steep rise in AI interest and usage as the decade progressed. The amount of venture capital being invested in HR technology ($4B in 2018) ensures the next 10 years will see AI infused into most aspects of the hiring and recruiting process. 

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The real question over the next several years will be the ethical and legal risks of turning hiring decisions over to AI and algorithms. A recent complaint filed against HireVue may be a preview of some of the push back we’re likely to see in coming years. 

The Glassdoor factor

Love it or hate it, Glassdoor has fundamentally changed the job search process by providing a platform for employees, candidates, and companies to share their thoughts and views on a company. 

They’re far from the only player in this space today. Indeed, Fairygodboss, Kununu, Comparably, and others all allow employers to be rated. This transparency, and the scrutiny that comes with it, has forced many employers to be more mindful of their interview process and how they treat their candidates and employees. 

The employer brand goes mainstream

This decade added a new adjective rarely used when describing recruiting:  creative. As social media went mainstream, so did companies’ embrace of new marketing approaches to help them attract talent. 

The first half of the decade was almost entirely focused on talent attraction. Ping-pong tables? Check. Unlimited booze? Apply here. Small-batch kombucha? You bet. As the decade progressed, so did the thinking around the employer brand as a vehicle to create more informed candidates—not just more candidates. That shifted prevailing wisdom that effective employer brands attracted and repelled talent. 

Companies invested more of their recruiting budgets on telling stories about their workplace. Some are going as far as building internal agencies with videographers, animators, coders, and other resources to help their companies attract talent as attention spans shrunk and in-demand talent is bombarded with digital outreach. Internal agencies focused on employer brand.

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Marketing innovation has hit recruiting with a vengeance, giving every company more tools and approaches to work with but also deluging candidates with outreach,” says Jevan Soo, Stitch Fix chief people and culture officer. “This degradation of signal-to-noise makes the basics even more important. Have a company mission and values, leaders, and employee experience that makes you proud, and be able to back it up with real examples and ‘customer testimonials.'”

Work becoming “work”

As we entered the decade, the definition of work was fairly straightforward. As we close the decade, we’ve seen an entirely new “gig economy” rise up and a generation drawn to augmenting their work with a side hustle. Uber, DoorDash, Lyft, Upwork, and countless other platforms are creating new categories of workers. 

The premise of gig work is nothing new, but our embrace of the category is. According to a recent Freelancing in America report by Upwork, 51% of freelancers reported there is no amount of money that would lead them to take a full-time job. The current global economy supports that freedom. Whether that continues through the next decade remains to be seen, but the reality is companies need to be more fluid when thinking about talent resources. 

“The gig, access, and shared economy companies will continue to shape our generation,” says Operator Collective operating partner Ambrosia Vertesi. “As this evolves, so does our need to create innovative practices that both empower and protect employees. We’re late to the game on this already.”

While we’re on the topic of “work,” the conversation around side hustle continues to grow. While side hustles aren’t without risk, the reality is that more workers are opting for a sort of portfolio career—whether by choice or necessity.

Social and digital media

According to Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends report, the average American spends an average of 6.3 hours per day interacting with digital media. That’s over a quarter of our day consuming content. 

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Companies are competing for that attention and becoming more sophisticated with how they use social media and digital campaigns to attract and engage talent. At the beginning of the decade, sharing a job with #job on Twitter was novel and led to hires. Today, companies are investing in persona-based micro-targeting and programmatic recruitment marketing to cut through the noise and capture attention.

The usage of social media goes both ways. An entire boutique industry of “personal brand” consultants emerged over the past decade. “Thought leadership” became a verb as professionals tried to make enough noise to be seen, heard, and hired. A new genre of “influencer marketing” was created as brands tried to harness the social capital of influencers in the space. 

So, what’s next?

Assuming we’re not all fleshy pets for our robot overlords, I expect we’ll see AI going mainstream and embedded into most of our hiring systems. Automation, bots, and tools will handle most of the front-end of the recruiting process. 

As the nature of “work” becomes more fluid, we’ll see a rise in “workplace/people architect” roles designed to assemble all the different types of people resources—full-time, temp, contract, outsource—required to get projects done. Blockchain, or some derivative, will likely authenticate our skills and experience finally making the résumé obsolete. 

Also, hoverboards. We’ll finally have real hoverboards. Check me on that in 2030 . . . 

Want more?

Listen to this episode of the 21st Century HR podcast for a deeper dive into trends that shaped interviewing and hiring over the past decade.

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About the author

Lars Schmidt is the founder of Amplify, an HR executive search and consulting firm that helps companies like Hootsuite, NPR, and SpaceX navigate the future of work. He is also the cofounder of the HR Open Source initiative.

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