Reality of Today’s Hiring Climate

Vikas Dua


Just as we were hoping to see a hiring rebound in India with business indicators pointing towards a quick recovery, the spike in COVID cases across the country, is dampening spirts. As we speak, Maharashtra is seriously considering a full lockdown for about two weeks, starting very soon. Given that the state contributes to over 13% of India’s GDP, it will unnerve the strongest amongst us. Other states like Punjab and Delhi are not far behind, with the situation being monitored closely. And, therefore, it is obvious that there is an impact on the way is hiring is being managed in today’s climate. Let’s see what the emerging trends are -

  1. Tentative Hiring Steps – HR folks are currently focused on keeping current operations stable and secure. In the light of frequently changing Government guidelines with regards to the curfews, lockdowns, etc. in different parts of the country, this is like changing the direction of a massive ship while in motion. It is quite understandable that they are hence, focusing on recruitment only to a limited extent – directing their efforts only towards critical positions. Also, given that it is not clear how wide or deep the impact of the current COVID will be, the hiring numbers are being reviewed very critically. No organisation would want to incur staff costs that are not leading almost immediately to a corresponding uptick in their revenues.
  2. Watching the Costs – When the balance sheet has been strained all through 2020 and the current fiscal also looking challenging, hiring leaders have to manage their hiring costs very carefully. For any hiring team, the preferred approach is to hire directly and to avoid any ‘placement fee’ that is charged by recruitment firms. In the cases where organisations take the services of such firms, attempts are being made to renegotiate the rates at which these services are provided.
  3. War for Hot Skills – The current climate has also accentuated a trend that has been emerging over the last 5-6 years, viz. the premium that is attached to ‘technical profiles’. Candidates that possess high-end technical skills are in demand. The more niche the technology that they are skilled in, the more valuable they are. This is leading to cut-throat competition that is skewing the job market. It is not unheard of for such candidates securing 2-3 offers and hikes of 100% of their current compensation. In turn this is leading to offer drops (after all, the candidate can join only 1 of the 3 organisations, who have made her an offer)!
  4. Struggle for Some – On the flip side, in cases where Industries like hospitality that have been impacted adversely, there is a lot of displaced talent available. These candidates, while being exceptional, are still finding getting reemployed to be a struggle, purely because of the paucity of jobs. Also, in a similar boat are professionals who are in roles generally categorised as ‘support roles’.  These candidates will need to be resilient and hang in there till the right opportunity till it comes up. Hiring leaders, on the other hand, while evaluating such candidates for alternate roles, should keep and open mind and scan more for aptitude and attitude than previous exposure.
  5. Freelancing – Hiring leaders are also now looking more critically at roles from a tenure standpoint. If the nature of work is not permanent (like a fixed term project or a process set up), freelancers or consultants are being considered quite actively. This is irrespective of seniority level of the role. In some organisations, even CXOs have been onboarded for a defined tenure, unlike in the past, when they would take up only ‘permanent’ roles.

These are in my opinion, some of the biggest trends playing out in the hiring space in our country currently. Clearly, the volatility in the environment is shaping the same. As hiring leaders try and grapple with the same, they will need to be resilient and innovative. Being up to date with evolving practices and staying well connected in the HR community will also go a long way in helping them perform their role more effectively in these times.