Trends & Benchmarks

Just Out from Gem: 2021 Recruiting Reflections, Initiatives, and Predictions

Lauren Shufran

Lauren Shufran

Content Strategist

Posted on

January 25, 2021

Find out what 2020 looked like for your peers; what goals and initiatives they’ve got in place for 2021; and what they anticipate this year will look like for their respective teams and for talent acquisition as a whole.

For many of us, 2020 will go down as the longest, toughest year in our own personal histories: one in which we were tested, forced to grow, surprised ourselves, and discovered what we were capable of—for better and for worse—in the midst of uncertainty, doubt, and difficulty. And as an industry, talent acquisition saw as much fluctuation, discovery, and growth in 2020 as most of us did in our personal lives. At Gem, we watched as customers paused reqs, as a few had to fold under the economic pressures brought on by the pandemic, and as others experienced considerable upsurges in headcount. We had our ears wide-open to customers, colleagues, and talent as we tracked the shifting landscape and changing trends, gathered candidates’ concerns, and observed the critical values that surfaced as the less-important stuff sifted out in the wake of pandemic and of Black Lives Matter. We, too, had to shift our hiring entirely to remote and to ask ourselves some serious questions about what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to us as Gems.

But self-reflection and challenge make for powerful shifts, for growth and transformation. And while of course January 1 didn’t mark an “end to pandemic” or usher in a brand-new world of inclusion and belonging, there’s a lot we can learn from reflecting upon 2020—and even more we can prepare ourselves for in 2021 based on our own experiences and observations, and the experiences observations of our peers. How did sourcers and recruiters spend their time upskilling in 2020 when reqs were on pause; and what does that mean for recruitment as a strategic business function in 2021? How many orgs decided to continue hiring remotely through 2021 (and beyond); and what does that democratization of geography mean for both candidate experience and diversity this year? What were the most common reasons candidates gave for rejecting offers in 2020; and so what can we expect our peers will be optimizing for in 2021? These are the kinds of questions we had at the end of last year.

Gem’s “2021 Recruiting Reflections, Initiatives, and Predictions” is based on a survey that ran from November 4 through November 30, 2020, which over 500 talent acquisition professionals—from Sourcers and Recruiters, to Directors of Talent, to Talent Ops, to VPs of People, to Founders and CEOs—responded to. Respondents came from small businesses, large enterprises, and everywhere in-between. And they were willing to do more than check boxes. They were also willing to tell us, in their own words, about everything from how democratizing geography has changed the makeup of their pipelines; to how they shifted their diversity goals and initiatives in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor; to why data is so important to telling talent acquisition’s post-COVID stories; to why soft skills became so much more important in our remote-first, DEI-aware world. Here are some of the things we learned:

  • 65% of respondents’ orgs put at least some reqs on pause last year, and 28% of those froze hiring entirely. But 90% of teams say they’re hiring again.

  • 72% of talent acquisition teams are now considering talent outside the geographic location of their office spaces. 10% said their companies decided to go fully remote last year.

  • DEI, new sourcing techniques, and leadership development were where sourcers and recruiters did most of their upskilling in 2020. 

  • The two biggest remote-tech-stack adds in 2021 will be video interviewing platforms and email automation.

  • Sourcers/recruiters and talent leaders anticipate the same top-5 hiring trends in 2021. Diversity hiring is #1 for both groups. (Check out the resource for the others!)

  • Sourcers/recruiters and talent leaders anticipate the same top-3 challenges in 2021. Difficulty finding qualified talent is #1 for both groups.

  • Talent leaders’ #1 investment this year will be in sourcing tools and tech.

  • Quality-of-hire and diversity will be the most important KPIs of 2021.

… and much more. We hope this resource gives you a sense of what 2020 looked like for your peers; what goals and initiatives they’ve put in place for 2021; and what they anticipate this year will look like for both their respective teams and for the talent acquisition industry on the whole. Read on for both a bird’s-eye view and detailed observations from your wise and thoughtful peers.


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