Same procedure as every year?

2021 is for many people a year of hope for health, stability and economic recurrence effects. With a possible economic recovery starting from the second quarter of 2021, there are corresponding challenges for the recruiting of top performers and top talent in Europe.

We have summarized these challenges into 5 theses, including the specific industry features that need to be taken.

  1. SMEs will win more top talents in the EU market as their organizations are dynamic and trustful
  2. Recruiters and hiring managers face new questions in the recruiting process
  3. Diversity, sustainability & purpose – „trends“ will become concrete recruitment campaigns
  4. Digitalization combined with corporate values create desirable corporate cultures
  5. There is no doubt about it: digital transformation will change recruitment in 2021

2020 – a brief review: Corona has turned the entire world of work and recruiting upside down. At first, improvisation was necessary: Home office, short-time work and permanently changing Corona regulations, differently throughout Europe. The situation demanded and still demands a maximum of flexibility and resilience from employers and employees. For recruiting in 2020, the corona crisis meant above all the abandonment of physical interviews in favor of digital interviews, if recruiting activities were maintained at all. Some companies had put their recruitment processes on hold completely. Others adapted their recruitment processes sometimes even before Corona and digitized them and could react more quickly to the new market situation.

In 2021, speed will be one of the key factors for successfully recruiting of talents. In the post-Corona period, a number of key positions will need to be filled in order to keep companies competitive, restructure them and quickly make them fit for the „new future“. Filling these key positions can be crucial for companies‘ survival and can determine their economic future in Europe.

The competitiveness of companies in the „war of talents“ will continue to play a major role in 2021 in order to generate stability and growth. And this is where opportunities lie in speed. Companies that get their recruiting-horsepower on the road faster than others have the chance to pull talents on board that they are competing for with larger, better-known market players, but which are less agile and dynamic. 2021 will be the year of dynamic, agile companies. Lean and decisive medium-sized companies are conquering the European talent markets.

The image of private equity-led portfolio companies will continue to rise in 2021 and a career in the PE environment will become even more desirable than it already was for many high potentials in the recent past, because the Corona crisis has redefined the risk-reward trade-off between financially strong investor-led versus stock-listed corporations. In addition, the PE world is repositioning itself. Sustainable investments, investments in sustainability and long-term investment strategies will determine the PE market from 2021.

The buzzwords „diversity“, „sustainability“ or even „purpose“ will not disappear in all sectors. Lip service paid so far is moving into implementation. Recruiting initiatives for more diversity, more sustainability, etc. are already underway and will show their first successes in 2021. Recruiting projects labeled by „Only the top stars – only the elite“ are old-fashioned in 2021 and will be overtaken by initiatives for more diversity, for mixed teams that complement each other better and have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, productivity and motivation.

This also means that recruiters should be prepared to answer new questions from potential talent to be recruited:

  1. Workplace models – Remote work and hybrid working models?
  2. Mental health – What is the employer’s sense of responsibility for its employees?
  3. Candidate / employee experience – Experiences from other candidates / employees
  4. Personal development and up-skilling – What opportunities offered to keep talent „digitally fit“?
  5. Distance leadership – What digital leadership culture does the company have?
  6. Crisis management – How does the company react to events such as Corona?
  7. Sustainability – How committed is the company to environmental protection?
  8. Purpose – Material incentives are no longer enough. What’s the real value of the company?

The digitalization of recruiting processes has a lot of potential for acceleration, but of course acceleration also brings with it risks of misjudgment and wrong decisions. On the one hand, the risks need to be countered with more diligence, as well as more tolerance for mistakes in the corporate culture itself. In 2021, candidates expect above all transparency and authenticity from potential employers and their managers. It is time to allow mistakes. In leadership behavior as well as in the execution of projects and work. In 2021, the age of „non-perfectionism“ begins.

Companies that manage to live efficiency through digitalization at the same time as a value-based corporate culture will make 2021 a year of growth. Ultimately, it is not about digitalizing all processes in recruiting, because when it comes to attracting people, humanity could never be missing. But this is not necessarily in opposition to digital recruiting tools, such as applicant management platforms, online assessments and many more, which recruiters will turn to in order to make their daily routine more exciting and efficient.

So let’s look forward to 2021! To the changes outlined above and many more changes that await us in recruiting.


Author: Susanne Hecker, Contact details:, +49-160 92928474

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