2021 – The Northwest’s Top 3 Recruiting Challenges!

2021 – The Northwest’s Top 3 Recruiting Challenges!

by Sara Bennett | January 7, 2021

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2021’s Recruitment Challenges Are Not New. We just have to jump higher!

As we walk into 2021, we can’t help but notice how much has changed about the people-side of our businesses since we marched into the 21st century. And these changes are not just about the COVID lockdowns of 2020 — something we will all remember but in the grand scheme of things will end up being a short-term blip on the recruitment challenges radar.

For recruiters, the hiring process, who we hire, and how we put people to work has been re-architected, digitized, and re-digitized many times over the last ten years.

A marketing slogan our company created over 20 years ago was “the right people, in the right jobs, at the right time, and in the right way.” It’s not only amazing how relevant this still is, but it’s also shocking how different we are defining “right” now than we did in 2000.

As I get out my periscope to prepare our recruiting and hiring managers for the recruitment challenges of 2021 (trying not to get distracted by the anomalies of our last 9 months), I see that the recruiting challenges of 2021 aren’t going to look that different from the recruiting challenges of 2018 and 2019.

Surprisingly, the recruiting and staffing trends that impact recruiters day-to-day haven’t really changed that much. These are recruitment challenges that have been with us for a while, and stubbornly, just won’t go away.    

#1 The Challenge of Finding Quality Candidates Will Continue to Keep Northwest Recruiters Employed!

Don’t be fooled by our short-term and “candidate-rich” marketplace.  Bigger picture local, national, even global demographic data hasn’t changed, and it doesn’t lie. With a shortfall of 85 million job seekers projected to hit the global economy in 2030, the long-term prognosis for “talent availability” is not good.

Yes, there are opportunities right now to take advantage of a COVID driven spike in unemployed professionals – people who are on the market now who we wouldn’t have been there 12 months ago – but a blip is a blip and the talent pool will soon be reset to reflect the same acute levels of worker shortages we have been experiencing since early 2018.

So yes, unfortunately, the shortage of qualified candidates ready to work in today’s jobs, will continue to be a significant hurdle for Northwest businesses.

People don’t talk about it much, but the seriousness of global talent shortages will be as impactful to the trajectory of business as global warming is to the trajectory of our climate.

The future of talent acquisition in the PNW

While we know the competition for talent across the US and the globe will increase, the question is, what’s in store for Northwest employers?

Is the Northwest going to be the kind of place where people want to live and work so that we can attract our share of workers nationally? Globally?

From my perch of deep experience in the recruitment process, there are times when the variety and scope of opportunities our Northwest employer community offers to employees from all over the world, makes our region look unstoppable. There are other times when, like last summer, pockets of the Northwest don’t look like places where businesses can thrive, or where people will want to raise their families.

Clearly there are critical geopolitical decisions that will be made over the next several years that could impact the talent acquisition side of Northwest businesses for decades to follow…but that’s another story, for another time, another venue.

A SPECIAL NOTE TO NORTHWEST RECRUITERS WHO FOUND THEMSELVES OUT OF WORK IN 2020. While corporate recruiters are often the first to be downsized in an economic slowdown, rest assured that looming talent shortages = long term job security. CEO’s know that finding and retaining qualified candidates will be key to their personal and business success, and that a great recruitment marketing company can make a big difference to their ability to attract and retain qualified talent. From our perspective, we think recruitment companies will always have work, but do have questions as to whether or not that work will come packaged like a job. More on that topic later.    


#2 Hiring for “Fit” Will Continue to be “Uber Important”

In late 2019, I took interest in the findings of 2 global surveys conducted by Monster that took a close look at how companies were recruiting and how employees found jobs. Monster’s executive team was particularly interested in how the new technology-driven hiring processes were impacting hiring process results. They also tried to identify where there might be gaps for both the hiring manager and candidate sides of the recruitment process.

I first learned about these hiring process surveys in a speech given by Monster’s CEO at our annual Staffing Industry Forum where he cited the findings of the Monster surveys to challenge recruitment professionals, whether corporate or third party, to do better.

He made the point that while technologies had enabled the recruitment process to move faster, they had also commoditized both the employer’s and the employee’s experience of the hiring process, making it more about getting jobs filled, than actually trying to help the candidate meet their job satisfiers or help improve company performance.

He also noted that while hiring was now more efficient and the process more streamlined, the concept of “fit” had all but disappeared from the recruitment process.

This is a problem that Monster executives feel is significantly impacting companies and qualified candidates alike. Top talent is becoming increasingly unhappy and disengaged in jobs that were not the right fit for them and hiring teams aren’t able to improve their already severe turnover rates.

Supporting studies show that just under 50% of all hiring decisions turn into hiring mistakes.

Monster’s passion for this topic was revealed in a subsequent article entitled….

“The Mythical “Right Fit” Isn’t Just Possible – It’s a Hiring Must.”


Finding candidates that “fit” is one of the most crucial steps in the hiring process

To be honest, when it comes to the power of “fit” in the hiring process, I thought all recruiters were as dedicated as the PACE team. So to hear the recruiting industry being challenged for veering off that track was eye-opening.

For us, the recruiter’s job has never been about just putting candidates to work quickly, but about placing people into roles that “fit” – positions where candidates can be happy doing work in ways that play to their strengths and where their company enjoys the benefits of increased productivity.

In fact, our applicant tracking system has found that optimizing for “fit” makes a difference in as little as a 3-month temporary assignment.

In thinking about the Monster findings more, I realized that while PACE had always prided itself on being ahead of the curve in how we apply new technologies to the recruiting process, we had been adapting these technologies in the context of a very human overlay that was all about matching top talent with “fit”.

Apparently, in the rush to just get people hired, other recruitment marketing teams had not taken this data-driven step. They had leaned so heavily into the technologies that allowed them to move fast, they had gotten away from what really mattered about a hire – the “right fit.”

For PACE, building our business around the power of “fit” has always been an important service differentiator.

Hiring for “fit” is an involved and detailed process that requires communication between the hiring company, hr managers, candidates, and our recruitment team. While this may initially sound time consuming, we’ve been able to turn hiring for “fit” into a predictable and efficient process that helps us deliver hiring solutions and qualified talent to our clients.

Instead of playing into passive candidates stereotypes, candidates selected for roles on the basis of “fit” (even temporary roles) often become our clients’ strongest performers and most enthusiastic team members.

Candidates selected for “fit” are happier in their job, work the job for longer, and often become candidates for promotion.

It’s still a thrill for us to walk into a client’s office and see the candidate we placed 5 years earlier in an entry level administrative role running their own department, or leading up an important company initiative. How exciting is that?

For us, placing candidates in jobs based on “fit” is a highly personal matter — a source of job and career satisfaction for our hiring managers

Yes, it takes more time and a bit more communication, but investing a few more resources into finding qualified applicants is time well spent. Thank you Monster for shining a light on something we’ve always known — when it comes to putting qualified job seekers into the perfect job, “fit” will always be the secret sauce.

#3 The Disconnects Between “Appearance and Reality” Will Continue to Be Annoying!       

This last entry on this list of recruiting challenges deals with how candidates and hiring managers communicate and how both parties seem to be increasingly passive about bending the truth.

Honestly, what can you say about this “trend” that so impacts all of our lives, for sure how recruiters have to approach their work, differently than how we did things a short decade ago.

As John Lennon said (or sung) “even reality is subject to our imagination.”

The blurring of the lines between fact and opinion and between reality and our imaginations about that reality have become incredibly confusing for people who pursue “truths”.

They have also broken down trust at all levels of society, from the news on down to our daily interactions with others, and, unfortunately, the communication between recruiters and candidates.

For recruiters and hiring managers, this new universe delivers a daily dose of the unexpected.

For example, you’ve probably encountered the unpleasant experience of having the perfect candidate last-minute cancel their “final interview” with your CEO because they’ve decided to accept an offer from another employer — something they didn’t think to mention to you when you spent 20 minutes preparing them for their interview.

Another example — the employee who comes to work on Monday acting completely different than the candidate you behaviorally interviewed the week prior.

Or the professionally prepared resume that made a candidate appear to have the skills you needed, when in reality, they weren’t even close to being the right candidate for your work community.

And of course, one of the worst examples of breakdown in communication is having that long-term employee who you thought you “knew” call you Monday morning to let you know they’ve taken another job and won’t be back.

The list of ways people, candidates and employees can create an appearance different from a reality, is lengthy.

Unfortunately, the blame isn’t only on the candidate, as employers can also bend the truth and fail at accurate communication.

For example, recruiters will often give candidates copies of their mission or values statements that don’t come close to accurately describing the employer brand and work experience. This communication breakdown is often the result of managers acting like missionaries for their employer brand — talking up their company and not focusing on the fundamentals of hiring (e.g. making sure the candidate is a good “fit”).

Another mistake that hiring managers make is acting all collaborative and friendly during the interviews, but then transforming back into a control freak once they hire the candidate.

I’ve been in the business long enough to notice — and while it could be my age or a jaundiced view of life today as compared to better times — it sure seems like candidates operating in today’s world are very different from previous generations. Candidates will say what they think you want to hear, rather than give it to you straight. For example, management candidates will take credit for an achievement that happened under their watch, even though they weren’t really that involved.

Coming from that generation where even the slightest exaggeration might turn into a “wash your mouth with soap” level offense…I can’t help but notice the looseness with which people in today’s world are willing to describe their reality, different from how that reality might be described by “objective” others and how that trend has impacted how recruiters need to approach their work.   

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think candidates purposefully lie, but I do think there are a growing number of job candidates out there who are keenly aware of the need to say the right things, do the right things, to make the right impressions.

Heck by the time a candidate has graduated from college they’ve already taken a class and attended multiple seminars on how to get the right job, how to prepare the right resume, how to interview in the right way so that they come across as the right candidate. In short, candidates these days are really good at keeping up appearances.

The message to recruiters? Understand this trend and make a commitment to deal with it more openly. Make “trust but verify” a basic component of every hiring process. Don’t just take candidates at their word.   

If it were up to me, companies would have policies requiring their recruiters to get at least 2 or 3 references from people who have actually supervised a candidate’s work before they could be hired.


Because a society where candidates know that most recruiters are too busy to verify their college degree or check a work reference is a society ripe for an increased number of hiring mistakes. That’s what we’re getting now.

Honesty in the recruiting and hiring process is crucial to both candidates and companies. A candidate should be honest because it ensures they are placed in a career that is in line with their skills, talent, and aligned with their “fit,” and businesses need to be honest in how they communicate because portraying a false image of company culture can increase turnover and force you to spend more time and money on interviews, applicant tracking system, and hiring processes.

Recruiters Are The Firewall Needed To Prevent Mistakes


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers filter the talent pool and hire the right candidates based on the “right fit” for over 40 years.

A 4-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation, PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditionsdirect hire professional recruiting servicesEmployer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to your recruitment and how you hire candidates, contact our Partner Services and Solutions team at 425-637-3312, email us or visit our website.

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