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2023 Job Market: What’s New (and What’s Not)

As we all too vividly remember, the pandemic changed the social landscape. In the past couple of years we’ve tested the limits of remote work, had a sometimes-great-sometimes-not-so-great reckoning with the concept of what is “essential,” and learned that supply chain fragility affects hiring and recruiting norms (and hey: toilet paper). So I was deeply jazzed to hear from two wonderful guest speakers at our first IACC Insights Forum earlier this month.

Negin Naraghi, VP of Global Client Delivery for Randstad Sourceright, noted that 2022 was an interesting year in the recruiting world: companies struggled to get their hands on top talent, even as many job-seekers struggled to make a love connection with the jobs they’re being offered. Layoffs and economic recession loomed large in the news cycle, but so did complaints of dire understaffing in many sectors. Wars, natural disasters and political upheaval have complicated economies around the world. It’s enough to make your head spin whether you’re a candidate or a recruiter.

With so many data points coming at us from different countries and different sectors, how can we make a confident decision about our careers going into 2023? Here's what we do know.

Candidates’ priorities are shifting from money to flexibility

Recruiting, Naraghi said, has not fundamentally changed in the past several years, even with many technological advances in the field. People are still people! But there are noticeable shifts in what job seekers, and companies, are valuing. In brief: if you want top talent to want the role you’re offering? Plan to approach them with flexibility, compassion and respect.

Recruiters report that in the post pandemic landscape, they’re less likely to be negotiating an extra ten grand a year, and more likely to be discussing flexibility and work-life balance. A recent study from Hays showed that 56% of employees are now willing to accept a lower wage in exchange for a better work/life balance For some job seekers, things like remote and hybrid work arrangements matter more than salary and stock options.

Mark Kelly, proprietor of Interest Professional Search, agrees that 2023 hiring will be all about total compensation packages, not just salary. A lower salary balanced with an amazing healthcare plan can be the more attractive option for a candidate with multiple dependents, for example. Same for student loan defrayment or tuition assistance. He also sees contract-to-hire roles increasing in some areas. This option can be helpful for some kinds of job-seekers, especially if they are targeting a completely new type of role and looking to build their skill set or their resume. Some job seekers prefer this model and are electing to be career consultants.

Companies struggling to recognize nontraditional applicants

Respect for “soft skills” is coming up a lot. Many people are interested in branching out from what they’ve always done. Recruiters and hiring managers would do well to look at what candidates are capable of versus what they’ve done in the past. Someone who’s worked as an attorney for years might actually be brilliant in sales. A career engineer might have an amazing second act in healthcare management.

Kelly is a great example of someone whose soft skills led to a career pivot—he came to recruitment from careers in the Navy and then the energy efficiency and LED lighting industry. After COVID eviscerated his sector, he “tripped and fell” into recruiting.

He, too, noted that company culture and personal connection are of paramount importance in the 2023 hiring landscape—even for technical positions where hard skills tend to be more front of mind. He finds that knowing the candidate’s unique human story is everything in delivering top talent to his client companies. Assessing a fit goes way past what’s in black and white on a resume. It’s about what motivates the candidate, what their aspirations are, what their pain points are. Knowing someone’s “why” is a key to understanding where they’ll shine, and being able to tell that story to the hiring manager.

Job seekers shifting careers and making slight (or major) pivots need to give recruiters a roadmap, connecting dots between past experience and future potential. Recognizing if you are a nontraditional job seeker is imperative so that you tackle your job search with the story your target company needs to hear. Hiring managers theoretically welcome nontraditional experience because they know you bring a broad perspective; they just need your résumé to spell it out in language they understand.

High Touch Recruiting Prevails

Employers and recruiters can no longer afford to disregard applicants who are approaching a role from an unexpected angle. This means investing a little energy in good ol’ human connection. People are tired of feeling disposable, and all signs point to that being a continuing trend in 2023.

According to Naraghi, most companies won’t be making headlines with massive layoffs in 2023. But this will be a year where quality counts more than quantity. Companies are waking up to the concept of mindful and methodical staffing—it’s unlikely that we’ll see huge, sector-wide layoffs or unsustainable “bubble” hiring. We should expect to see increasing interest in cross-training, upskilling, and optimization of human capital. All of which is good news for workers who long to feel valued for what they’re actually good at.

Which industries are on the upswing in 2023?

Kelly sees growth and opportunity for 2023 in places like electronics hardware, components companies, the automotive sector, and the energy sector. Super inflated salaries will become rarer—which can mean companies have more budget to support essential new hires. Tech, despite some high profile layoffs in the last 18 months, isn’t slowing down any time soon (data science and cybersecurity especially stand out), and neither is the healthcare sector (nursing and mental health in particular).

Evaluating the health of a given employment sector is often deeply tied to understanding its supply chain. We all need to consider not only the role, but the larger industrial, social and geopolitical ecosystem in which that role exists, when evaluating how much a recession might impact us. (Kelly says it won’t play out the same way in Ohio as Texas, or California.)

Kelly says it’s time to stop “looking at the world through a straw.” 2023 hiring and recruiting require a broad focus, and a willingness to help people refine their own thinking about where and how they want to work. Presentation of the candidate matters: good photos, well-crafted executive summaries and a deep knowledge of the job-seeker’s narrative framework are key.

Long story short? 2023 is looking like a year where quality is going to count more than quantity—for both job seekers and hiring managers. If you’re looking for a new role, or looking to place someone in a new role, the story’s the same: mindfulness and due diligence and big picture thinking might finally be getting their day in the sun. You can recession-proof your career with the right help, and get a job that works for you and vice versa.

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