Market Pulse: Alumni Career Services Executive Director Jen Coleman speaks this month with Elizabeth Parija (MBA’07) about the hiring trends she sees emerging in the United States as workplaces look to establish a new normal. Elizabeth is an experienced recruiter and executive search professional who is currently a managing director with 20/20 Foresight in the New York metropolitan area.

Jen: Tell us about the current hiring trends you are seeing. What is happening right now in the job market?

Elizabeth: COVID has continued to play a large factor in many of the current, major hiring trends.

  • The vast majority of interviews are still being conducted virtually, even for very senior jobs. Often people are accepting jobs for which they have never visited the office location or met any of their team in anything but a virtual setting. We anticipate this trend slowing down in the second half of 2021 as more companies return to the office, at least in a part time capacity.
  • The interview process has been streamlined due to its virtual nature, and the hiring process itself has moved faster. It is much easier to schedule time for an interview over Zoom than it has been to schedule a day or two of multiple in-person interviews when schedules have to align. Virtually, it is no big deal to have one interview in the morning, and your next one not until the afternoon or even on a different day of the week.
  • One trend I am closely following is whether companies will mandate that their employees show proof of a vaccine before being allowed to return to the office. I think this has the potential to greatly affect hiring and attrition. I also wonder how this trend will play out geographically and by industry as I think we will see huge variances in both.
  • Diversity and inclusion in recruiting has become even more important in 2021. Many companies have thoughtfully considered how to attract and retain the best diversity talent so that multiple perspectives are brought to the table from the C-suite and on down. Companies expect to see a diverse roster of candidates presented for every position, and shareholders demand it. People don’t just want to see diversity candidates and women in lower level positions, they want to see them at the very top of organizations, as they should. Presenting truly balanced and representative candidate slates is a true passion of mine in serving my clients.

Jen: Are you seeing the typical summer slowdown despite a hot market? Do you anticipate a pick up or slow down into the end of 2021?

Elizabeth: We have not seen the typical hiring slow down this summer. It has been extremely busy, and we anticipate that trend continuing into the fall and Q4. Hiring needs that people might have put off in 2020 due to uncertainty have resurfaced, and hiring is red hot right now.

Jen: Are there industries that are particularly hot? Cold? What are you seeing in the harder hit industries like travel and hospitality?

Elizabeth: In the areas I work in (predominantly commercial real estate, finance and professional services), hiring has been robust. Everyone thought that, with people fleeing to move from cities to the suburbs, with less people working in offices, and with physical retail stores performing poorly overall in 2020, that we might see a big downturn in commercial real estate hiring, and we have not. As for travel and hospitality, I expect the sector to have a strong second half of the year. I am currently retained to find a major North American airline their next director of investor relations — a very exciting search — and I know this company has been performing very well. Their flights are full.  Many people want to get out to travel, to eat at restaurants, and to physically shop at retail stores now that the vaccine is here. With this increased activity will come higher corporate earnings and with that hopefully more recruiting. Recruiting is very cyclical and truly a domino effect. I believe it is trending upward. People are ready for a renaissance.

Jen: In the past year, we’ve seen lots of companies hire remote employees, even at senior levels. Do you expect this trend to continue or revert back? Are candidates negotiating for remote work?

Elizabeth: Personally, I do believe that the trend for remote work is here to stay, particularly in a hybrid model. I think that has some really strong positive ramifications on hiring and recruiting, in general. From a diversity perspective, I think this additional flexibility will really benefit women who tend to seek/need more healthy balance in their lives.

I also think the trend for remote work will vary by position level and industry. Entry level workers need to be in the office more to learn and for collaboration, and in my experience they are most excited about getting back to work in an office because they are tired of being cooped up in an apartment alone or with roommates. Many of the mid- and senior-level managers I talk to are in no rush to go back to an office. They are enjoying the flexibility and being home with their families if they have them. They do not miss their commutes. The desire to return to an office five days a week is based on very personal circumstances.

As far as industry, there are certainly many types of jobs that physically need to be in person, but I think there are also many jobs that people thought needed to be in person that really don’t. Whoever would have thought in 2019 that trading on a Wall Street desk could be done remotely? But guess what? It can, and we will see workers across all industries negotiate for that flexibility, and if they don’t get it, I predict many will leave for greener pastures. I was telling a friend the other day, I think the effects of COVID on attrition in 2021 and 2022 is a case study waiting to be written by a Darden professor. People are very focused on mental health these days, and those companies that can offer a balanced lifestyle will be the winners long term in attracting and, more importantly, retaining the best talent.

Jen: What’s your best advice for a current job seeker?

Elizabeth: Network, network, network and make sure your business social media presence is thorough and up-to-date. Jobs are rarely won by online applications. If you see a job posted online that you are interested in, try to find a personal connection at that company to introduce you to the hiring manager. I do the same thing with my own business development. And know when to ask for help. Looking for a new job can be exhausting both physically and emotionally, and sometimes getting advice on how to present your resume or coaching on how to interview can make all the difference. Please feel free to reach out to me personally at any time at if I can ever be of assistance.