HR and Recruiting Year in Review: What’s Hot, What’s Next?

Although 2017 is winding down, much of what happened over the past year has just gotten started. Next year, expect to see technology settle into the mainstream more than before. HR and recruiting professionals have gained a better understanding of how it works with, not just alongside the people who drive the industries.

They also see how technology is more than just a way to lighten the workload; it delivers better results within the department and for the company’s bottom line.

As we look back on the past year, we see emerging trends becoming the norm. Here’s what’s hot, why it works, and where 2018 might take it.


In a full employment economy, some talent acquisition strategies don’t work. The old post-and-pray method of filling an open position leaves job ads to wilt on the vine. HR struggles, probably spending more time and resources than they should, to find top talent.

It’s no wonder since top talent is already working. Oftentimes, those who aren’t working aren’t qualified. That problem has increasingly defined and reshaped the working conditions for HR and talent acquisition since the recession started turning around.

January kicked off 2017 with an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, that number was down from 4.9 the previous year and dramatically better than 9.7 percent in January of 2010.

In October, unemployment dropped to another low of 4.1 percent.

To people working in the talent industry, those numbers indicate a full employment economy. Some people debate about the particulars of where full employment begins. Investopedia describes it as a situation where everyone available in the workforce is being used ”in the most efficient way possible.” Talent professionals say that it’s a climate where everyone who wants a job has a job.

With numbers this low, the effect is the same no matter where the percentage points hit. More people working mean fewer people actively looking for work and more demand for creativity in sourcing. In October, we talked about the talent pipeline and how it can help recruiters and HR source and hire better no matter where candidates are or how the market fluctuates.

Talent acquisition thrives now on that creativity. Technology helps.

Since candidates don’t peruse job sites as much in a full-employment economy, candidate sourcing happens almost anywhere now.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Text messaging
  • Email campaigns
  • Job fairs
  • Networking

Content marketing has practically taken on a life of its own throughout the past decade. Done well, it’s arguably the best way to capture and hold the attention of great candidates, transforming them into great leads. Done haphazardly or without a marketing strategy in mind, it’s a time waster that doesn’t produce results.

The better the unemployment rates, the more content marketing is necessary. It reaches the people who aren’t looking for work but are engaged in their industry and career. Engaged industry professionals are the very best kind.

At first blush, full employment looks like a blessing and a curse. It means the economy is getting better and that great hires require active participation on the part of talent acquisition and HR. On the downside, you shouldn’t get too comfortable with your current strategies. Nothing lasts forever.

CNN Money says a ”brief recession” hit on the heels of 2001’s low unemployment economy. They also point out that the economy was different than it is now, so it’s anyone guess as to when or how the tide will change again. But change, it always does.

Macrotrends shows that since America started tracking unemployment in the late 1940s, the trends look like a rollercoaster. What goes up always goes back down in varying degrees.

Five years ago, Marketing and HR were worlds apart. Five years from now, they'll learn from each other.
Five years ago, Marketing and HR were worlds apart. Five years from now, they’ll learn from each other.


Over the past year, the talent industry has really embraced the concept of marketing for qualified job leads and candidates. Using the framework of the traditional pipeline and marketing funnel, talent professionals can attract talent in and keep them engaged until candidates hit the bottom of the funnel as new hires.

According to Jibe, there are a few important factors in any effective marketing plan:

  • Chart current and future talent needs
  • Locate rising stars in the company
  • Watch local employment trends
  • Eliminate everything that hasn’t worked in the past
  • Develop a 12-month marketing schedule based on what you know about internal hiring needs and market predictions
  • Never stop brand building

Everyone has their own idea about which part of the funnel is most important. If you cast a wide enough net, you can bring lots of people to the top of the funnel. But then you have to entertain them to keep them engaged.

Middle-of-the-funnel strategies are where talent acquisition really gets creative. Any way that you can keep leads engaged is worth pursuing.

Content marketing stands out again as a great tool. That’s because content doesn’t have a fine, sleek definition. Anything you create could be considered content. Here’s how many talent industry professionals use it:

  • Videos
  • Blog posts
  • Career site landing pages
  • Social media posts
  • Images
  • Infographics
  • Employee reviews
  • Webinars
  • Downloadable materials, such as whitepapers and ebooks

Great content isn’t always created in-house, either. Some of the most successful 2017 content marketing campaigns have capitalized on great 3rd party content to give candidates a more well-rounded and career-nourishing resource. Whatever a candidate might appreciate as valuable, such as a great article on an industry blog, can be shareable content.

That’s how strong employer and recruiter brands are built. Thought leadership doesn’t mean you create it all and know it all. It means that you’re the best source for the relevant information that your target audience never even knew they needed.

Just as marketing strives to understand what their target market needs, which lets them fill it, talent acquisition and HR gets to know their target audience. They also have needs, many of which content marketing can fill. Just be careful not to cast a net that’s unmanageably wide.

The top of the marketing funnel sometimes gets neglected, but that’s a mistake. In January, we talked about HR and recruiting top-of-funnel strategies and how they set the stage for a strong funnel at every level.

What would you give to intervene in a positive way before employees look for the door?
What would you give to intervene in a positive way before employees look for the door?

JobVite says branding is a top concern at the top of the funnel. The better the brand, the better quality candidates you’ll find and hold.


Candidate and employee engagement have remained hot topics throughout 2017. Last month, we discussed how engagement relates to sourcing and hiring and how to use those numbers to help HR negotiate a better budget.

Going forward, both recruiting and HR will likely redouble their efforts to engage with candidates before they enter the funnel, at every stage of the funnel and through their tenure as employees later on. Here’s why engagement matters to you:

  • Candidates are more likely to bite when presented with a job offer
  • Employees are less likely to leave for a new job
  • Employee performance and attrition warning signs are spotted sooner, so HR can work proactively instead of reactively
  • Company morale, and likewise the company culture, improves
  • The company’s bottom line gets healthier through fewer job vacancies, better customer service and a host of related effects

While Big Data seemed intimidating in its infancy, it has evolved into a powerful tool for improving employee engagement. Technology that makes data approachable and usable has helped calm the turbulent seas. HR is floating along nicely now with more insights and more power to improve turnover rates and spot in-house talent in need of development.

Better use of Big Data and better employee engagement can improve these and many other KPIs:

  • Turnover rate
  • Recruitment costs
  • Hiring from within
  • Training costs and ROI
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee productivity

Big data and modeling go hand-in-hand. Modeling is how finance professionals examine how different actions would play out if implemented. And it’s how HR reduces turnover before it’s a critical situation. We recently discussed the connection between Big Data and modeling, as well.

The short version is that Big Data has the information needed for making better predictions. Data Analytics puts that information into meaningful, relevant, digestible portions.

Through data analytics, you can suss out obvious attrition factors and others that might surprise you. Imagine finding a trend where commute time was a strong predictor of attrition.

Data can show you who is likely to quit based on these and many other factors:

  • Length of time since their last raise
  • Willingness to take on new projects
  • Performance history
  • Tardiness and absenteeism
  • Participation in leadership development (or lack thereof)

The current full-employment economy makes engagement at every level, from candidate to seasoned employee, vitally important. You work hard to find and make great hires. Engagement helps you keep them. It shifts insights and, accordingly, the power to effect positive change into the hands of recruiters and HR, where they can make a real difference for everyone.


It might seem ironic, but technology can improve the most important human elements in recruiting and human resources. That’s because it saves time. Technology can find, compile and organize data faster than a person. It can save human steps by taking automatic action, too. Wherever smart technology lives, it performs as a helper, not a competitor.

Smart technology also learns as it goes. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning once seemed like potential threats. Now, they’re amazing assistants that help HR and recruiting work more efficiently.

We dove into the way artificial intelligence helps HR more deeply last month. The industry is just beginning to understand the many ways machines help people perform better.

What’s available now outperforms anything that was imaginable just a few years ago. Next year and in the years to come, technology will settle in as its trend status evolves into more of a partnership.

Now, targeted ads are a real possibility. They work. Matching technology automatically finds the location and format most likely to reach the target audience and it can place the ad without human involvement. Predictive analytics helps make even better decisions next time. Because of machine learning, it gets smarter and more efficient at its job every day.

Targeted ads improve candidate quality because they’re designed and optimized from the ground up for the right candidate and they target the right audience based on real-time data. It’s efficient and effective, and it’s only getting better.

Through technology, you can spend more time evaluating trends in recruiting benchmarks. You can see what’s working and what isn’t, so you can course-correct faster. It also frees up time for developing new strategies.

Automation in HR and recruiting let you put more effort into what matters most. Technology can send an automatic confirmation email when someone applies for a job. That makes you look better, as one of the top candidate complaints is poor communication.

Automation can handle content marketing post schedules, text messaging candidate screening surveys and much more. Watch for automation to take on a more prominent position in 2018 and in years to come.

The past year has taken unemployment to places it hasn’t been in over a decade. Technology has grown smarter and more efficient, and talent industry professionals have found their groove with it.

No one can predict with any precision what the economy will look like at the close of 2018, but the talent industry can be ready for it. Up or down, whether the odds are in favor of candidates or the house, the strategies you develop and technology that you employ now let you handle it with barely a ripple later.

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