by Paul Heltzel

8 ways job hunting has changed since last you looked

Apr 08, 202012 mins

The recruiting and hiring process for in-demand IT roles has evolved considerably, thanks to emerging technical advances and new approaches to filling the talent gap.

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Credit: hidesy / Getty Images

If you landed your current position more than five years ago, you may be surprised at how much the hiring process has changed.

For example, five years ago it was unlikely you’d be interviewed via video. Even before a pandemic sent everyone scrambling to Zoom, it was an established interview technique. And understanding how to approach a streaming interview could mean the difference between landing or losing the job.

Advancements in AI and natural language processing help mine for talent, and in combination with video, they’re being used to measure seemingly intangible traits such as emotional intelligence.

Beyond those advancements, demand for top talent has also led organizations to seek a better, more engaging hiring process, both to express why you should join them and to meet the expectations of candidates who are used to sleek consumer technology design, making the process of applying less onerous than in the past.

Here are some of the more notable hiring shifts you should know about since you last searched.

Video interviews

When you sit down for a video interview, Marc Gasperino from executive search firm On Partners offers this advice: If you’re concerned you’re talking too much, you probably are. And he says it’s the biggest reason people don’t land the position they want.

“Know how much time you have and attempt to provide specific examples of results in your career that will mirror what the opportunity might call for,” Gasperino says. “Don’t use this time to review your entire career from the start — unless asked — as this takes up precious time during the interview and you might be covering information that the interviewer might not prioritize at that time.”

He says you should treat these interviews just as you would if you were meeting for the first time in person. And test your setup before the actual interview. “Make sure you have proper lighting and audio for the interview, and align your camera at eye level so your interviewer isn’t looking up or down at you. Do not use your phone to conduct video interviews,” he says.

Gasperino’s colleague at On Partners, John Morrow, says the coronavirus outbreak is going to be a stress test for all sorts of virtual work, including interviews. “Companies that are resisting the push towards virtual work environments are going to get a much clearer picture due to the outbreak of its strengths and weaknesses — ultimately proving that it actually can work if you have the right rules and expectations in place,” he says.

Peter Baskin, chief product officer at recruiter Modern Hire, says his company has seen a sharp uptick in the number of video interviews, as well as online assessments.

“Overall, the change has seemed to accelerate over the last five years,” Baskin says. “These innovations alone connect candidates and recruiters anywhere and at any time through quality experiences.”

Wider net

Whereas previously you might deal directly with a company or a recruiter working on behalf of a company when applying for a job, these days there are a wider array of “doorways” candidates come through, Baskin says.

In addition to a company’s employment portal and LinkedIn postings, applicants have a wide range of resources for hooking into the hiring process, as companies are seeking every advantage to find talent wherever that talent might be seeking new job opportunities.

“WeChat, Indeed and other technology tools capture the candidate’s applications outside of the employer’s branded experience and pass the candidate into the employer’s applicant tracking system,” Baskin says, citing some examples of this trend. “In the case of WeChat, it’s the only way you can apply to some companies in Asia.”

An overhauled candidate experience

The hiring process is more candidate-focused than ever before, because a competitive salary will no longer cut it for companies facing stiff competition for top tech talent, according to tech pros and executive recruiters.

“The recruiting process for IT roles has shifted away from a simple talent search, to one that’s driven by deep, meaningful engagement with the candidate,” says Justin Donato, vice president of IT at Nintex. “Instead of passively waiting for candidates to apply, recruitment teams are actively finding candidates aligned with the company’s values and culture, in addition to checking the boxes on the required skills.”

Donato says this is especially true in traditional tech hubs, such as San Francisco, New York, and Seattle, where competition is fierce for proven leaders.


“Recruiters for these jobs need to share what their work will look like early on in the hiring process,” he says. “IT candidates are in demand and they are looking for opportunities to work on meaningful projects that impact the overall business.”

And the talent gap is rewarding candidates with problem solving skills, rather than wide ranging tech chops. “There’s been a shift toward finding a candidate that can learn quickly, apply that to a problem, fail fast, and then build a solution from those learnings rather than selecting the person in the room with the most technical background,” Donato says.

Modern Hire’s Baskin says one of the more surprising changes to the hiring process came via the European Union’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“The law required recruiters to harden their systems and processes to provide heightened control and disposition of personally identifiable information, requiring millions of dollars of systems development and rework,” Baskin says. “This rework was not a bad thing because it forced companies and system providers to better focus and control the candidate experience. And in some ways, it set the stage for the recruiting industry’s focus on a personal experience today. Within the past two years in particular, the job market has shifted significantly in the candidates’ favor.”

The social revolution

LinkedIn and Twitter enable tech pros to build a personal brand that expresses more than a resume, says Ben Wood, senior vice president of advisory and consulting at Ensono.

“Candidates have an opportunity to showcase their hard and soft skills through multiple platforms,” Wood says. “These channels provide an opportunity for tech leaders to share their expertise on certain subject matters by writing thought leadership articles about relevant trends and industry news.”

Claudia Johnson, director of internal recruiting at the national staffing firm Addison Group, says LinkedIn InMail has become the go-to method of making first contact with job candidates.

“Similar to other social networking sites, recruiters can use the site to more easily identify candidates who may be seeking new opportunities and are open to learning about companies,” Johnson says.

However, the usual social media suspects may not always be the best choice, says Jose Martinez, managing partner with DHR International, a technology and digital executive search firm. 

“There are sites like Spiceworks and Meetup where some might say purists prefer to virtually hangout with like-minded folks,” Martinez says. “These sites are great venues for exchanging ideas and sharing innovation. The key for participating in these platforms is contributing thought leadership. Some sites are closed groups that require some vetting process by answering a series of questions before you’re accepted into the group. And for recruiters, it’s valuable to explore these alternative sources of talent versus the same ones that everyone else is using.”

Tech and leadership role transformations

Ensono’s Wood says the profile of a tech executive today looks very different than five years ago, with a focus on building rather than administering technology.

“Most companies are looking to reimagine how they operate and interact with customers, so they need executives who have experience leading transformations,” Wood says. “We’re seeing the lines between IT and business start to blur, and they will only get blurrier as more organizations digitally transform. While a technical background is valuable for today’s tech leaders, it’s even more important for them to understand the revenue-generating customer experience side of business, as well as the business implications of technology decisions.”

He’s also seeing that tech leaders who have experience with cloud technology are the ones that stand out to those making hiring decisions. “Regardless of the tech vertical you’re pursuing, every tech leader needs to understand we’re living in a cloud-first world that’s disrupting nearly every industry,” he says. “Candidates who have hands-on experience with cloud platforms, like Azure, AWS and Google Cloud Platform, or who come from cloud-native companies have an edge over the competition. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert, but it helps if you have some expertise on the subject matter.”  

AI and applicant tracking

In the past half decade, according to Baskin, applicant tracking systems (ATS) have become integrated with other hiring tools such as video platforms designed for interviewing, along with talent assessment and scheduling tools. “As more employers look for single hiring solutions, ensuring greater connectivity in ATS tools has become critical in recent years,” he says.

And AI has greatly evolved for hiring and recruiting in a short time, helping to locate candidates and vet them using pre-hire assessments and job simulations, he says.

“These are objective, standardized ways of gathering data on candidates during the hiring process,” he says. “Five years ago, true AI didn’t exist. Employers relied mostly on workflow automation solutions to speed up the process. Today, AI is being used to effectively take some of the administrative load off recruiters’ plates and support a digital, enhanced candidate experience at the same time. The net result is faster hiring, and better candidate engagement.”

Ryan Sutton, a district president for Robert Half Technology, is also seeing a rise in the use of AI-powered tools in the hiring process. “These programs can be a fast, efficient and cost-effective way to screen applicants,” he says. “In most scenarios, AI-powered hiring tools review candidates’ qualifications without any element of human bias, which can result in a more diverse applicant pool.”

Joseph Puglise, senior director of executive search and recruiting at JMJ Phillip, says companies are pouring more of their budget into emerging technology that helps them find great talent as the gap widens. 

“Applicant tracking systems are more sophisticated than ever before,” he says. “They leverage SEO, geofencing, and other big data applications to bring highly qualified candidates to the top of the pile for hiring managers. This rapid access is speeding up the interview and hiring process.”

Modernized application process

The biggest change in application apps has been to meet the candidates where they are, using technology they’re already familiar with in their business and personal lives, Baskin says.

“Because so much of that technology is quick and easy to use — and usually mobile-friendly — we expect all the other technology we use to be the same,” he says. “So when the technology behind job applications doesn’t match this experience, candidates are less likely to go through the entire process and more likely to opt out before finishing the application, especially if they’re already employed or another process was easier and more efficient.”

Because of this, more organizations are adopting application platforms that provide a more seamless technology experience. Doing so enables organizations to “put their best foot –– and employer brand –– forward to land top talent in today’s tight labor market,” he says.

Internal hires

It used to be that the only way to advance your career was to look elsewhere. These days, however, the tight talent market has many companies looking inward to fill roles, showing an increased willingness to upskill current employees where talent demands greatly outpace supply.

“Recruiters have their work cut out for them to attract and hire top talent – especially since most of them already have a job,” Baskin says. “Recruiters in turn have broadened the definition of a talent pool to include not only external candidates, but also to include internal candidates.”