Looking Ahead: What 2011 Holds for the Recruiting Industry

Gaby Mergenthal
December 27, 2010 — 2,335 views  
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Though attitudes were cautiously optimistic at this time last year, a look back at the past 12 months shows that 2010 simply did not hold the economic recovery so many of us had hoped for. Unemployment continued to stay at record-high levels; many companies enacted lengthy hiring freezes, while others had to enforce additional layoffs. In all, it was another bleak year for employment, and consequently for recruitment and staffing.

While the economy continues to indicate sluggish growth rates, however, the latest employment research suggests new reasons to renew our optimism heading into 2011. According to RiseSmart, "the good news about 2011 is that the media chatter has turned from layoffs to hiring." That's good news, indeed - especially for recruiters and job seekers.

Recent findings released by Regus reveal that 32 percent of businesses surveyed expect to expand their workforces next year. The findings suggest "companies are witnessing signs of recovery and sustainable upward growth," and that the "intention to increase headcount is a clear indicator that businesses want to be prepared to grasp the opportunities that recovering markets may throw their way."

In order to capitalize on this purported growth, recruiters and staffing firms must pay careful attention to industry hiring trends, and then plan their focus accordingly. Below are a few indicators of where and how 2011's job growth is expected to occur:

Industries and Skill Sets to Watch

Recruiters who are looking for the steadiest stream of new placement opportunities in the year ahead should maintain a close watch on the technology sector. According to results from the NACE 2011 Job Outlook Survey, several areas within the technology industry are particularly poised for job growth and new hires in the year ahead. Among those to watch are engineering, computer science, and information technology (IT). The IT market has already begun to see a rise in hiring, a trend that many anticipate will continue in the coming year. According to Monster.com, "as the economy improves in 2011, IT hiring will pick up as companies implement projects they put off during the recession. Companies will need to hire network engineers, developers, and support-desk personnel."

Job growth cannot necessarily be classified or limited according to industry, however. According to a recent report from US News University Directory, a select group of in-demand skill sets will play a big role in who gets hired next year. Research indicates that the most sought-after skills in 2011 will include expertise in project management, contract management, and human resource management. According to the report, as businesses look for new ways to innovate and overcome market challenges, "organizations increasingly recognize the role of project managers in business performance." Likewise, contract management is expected to witness record growth. "As businesses continue to outsource," the report explains, "companies will need highly skilled managers to prepare, analyze, negotiate and review contracts for all purchases and sales." And finally, HR is expected to take on a more strategic role within many companies during the months and years ahead. According to the RiseSmart, "Human Resource Management is expected to see 22% growth over the next decade - much faster than the average for all occupations. With HR professionals taking on more strategic roles, those holding a valuable HR credential will be particularly apt to advance."

For those who don't posess these in-demand skill sets, or lack job experience and specialized expertise, all is not lost: forecasts indicate that entry-level opportunities, particularly for recent college graduates, will increase in 2011. Some good news is in store for recruiters aiming to work with a younger, greener pool of talent: according to the NACE Job Outlook survey, "employers plan to hire 13.5 percent more graduates from the Class of 2011 than were previously hired from the Class of 2010," with much of the purported hiring taking place in the West and Midwest regions of the US.

Contract Employment: a Practical Alternative

Though the job market has been and may continue to be sluggish, one area that offers promise for both job seekers and recruiters is contract employment. Businesses wary of a still-slow economy may be reluctant to hire new employees due to fear of increased headcount and higher overhead costs. However, these same companies are often receptive to opening opportunities for contract employment, seeing it as a viable, flexible option for gaining some much-needed manpower. According to Monster, "while economists keep referring to the economic recovery as being jobless,' it's really more full-time jobless.' Contingent, flexible, project- and contract-based employment is picking up." In fact, Monster urges employees looking for full-time work to consider making themselves available for a contract arrangement instead. The contract employment area "is going to be booming," the company says, and urges job seekers to "think of it as being a free agent who can play the field and try on companies for size." Forward-thinking recruiters would be wise to think along those same lines: if permanent placement opportunities remain slow, consider working with clients and candidates to explore contract employment arrangements. They may provide a lucrative, flexible arrangement that best meets the needs of all parties involved.

Gaby Mergenthal is the Executive Vice President of Innovative Employee Solutions , a San Diego-based company specializing in payroll and HR administrative services for the contingent workforce. Ms. Mergenthal has more than a decade of experience in the recruiting and staffing industries.

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Gaby Mergenthal