Recruitment Industry Trends

2020 has been an unusual year, hasn’t it? That’s probably the nicest way we could put it. We have a few other ways to describe it, but they probably aren’t appropriate for an executive search blog.

The big noise is the pandemic. And while we’d rather talk about literally anything else, it’s pretty interesting to see how it’s affected the recruitment industry. Because it hasn’t. At least not in the way you would think.

At the start of the crisis, businesses everywhere paused their marketing activities. They cut their R&D budgets. Did they stop recruiting? Not the clients that we work with. Having the right people on board suddenly became the biggest competitive advantage an organisation could possibly get. It’s the businesses that have been using the outbreak as an opportunity to invest in growth that are winning in the pandemic.

Recruitment – particularly executive and commercial leadership level recruitment – is still happening. But it doesn’t look quite the same as it did before. The crisis hasn’t stopped savvy entrepreneurs looking for excellence, but it has changed the type of excellence they’re looking for. It’s also had a big impact on how executive search partners are delivering this excellence.

So we’re going to use the rest of this post to look a bit more closely at the latest insights and emerging trends from 2020. We’ll cover both the roles that are hired for, and the hiring processes.

New trends in hiring

Divisional hiring

Every business has its own little flaws. But the pandemic has taken all those tiny issues that businesses would deal with ‘one day’, and shone a light on them for everyone to see. That division that’s been coasting along… it’s now easy to see that it’s not been growing at anywhere near the rate that was expected. And everyone knows it. At Innovex, we’re starting to see a big trend for a lot more divisional hiring, in line with new large-scale restructuring programmes and transformation initiatives.

Growth hiring

M&A activity is through the roof. The outbreak definitely hasn’t been kind to a lot of businesses. Of course, mergers are a way for small firms to keep on swimming, even if it’s not in their own waters. But, from where we’re sitting, it looks like a lot of the acquirers weren’t particularly prepared for such rapid levels of growth. That’s had an effect in the IT sector especially, where we’re seeing a big trend for growth hiring. Businesses are bringing on new CFOs and other C-Suite executives to handle investor relations through pre- and post-M&A activities.

Lateral hiring

Small businesses often try to expand their executive and leadership teams from the inside. Great! Honestly, having someone that already knows the ins and outs of what you do can generally be a huge advantage. But does this work today? Not usually. Businesses have had to adapt. There’s no time to upskill the workforce for a C-Suite position. And so, lateral hiring is in. We’ve been bombarded with requests for someone that can come in and make instant changes. As a result, we’ve been searching direct competitors to find lateral movers who have ‘been there and done that’ with activities such as M&A – pre- and post-integration, seed funding and driving two cultures into one.

Resilience hiring

Hands up – how many of us can say we were 100% prepared for the pandemic? If you’ve put your hand up, then you can either see into the future, or you’re lying. It’s as simple as that. No one saw it happening, and no one was prepared. But we are now that we know what’s possible, and a huge number of businesses are working to build more resilient foundations to future-proof their organisations. Consequently, we’re seeing resilience hiring; diversity in experience and skills are becoming the keys to success.

New trends in hiring processes


We’ve been in the industry for years. The fact that businesses need to hire yesterday is definitely nothing new. But right now, the need to close ever-widening skills gaps is more urgent than ever. One widespread change that needs to happen is that executive search partners need to become more efficient. They need to get stuff done, in less time, without compromising on quality. Impossible? Not really. At Innovex, we’re already using an in-depth search process that delivers top candidates, in less time.


‘Modernisation’ is a word that makes most executive search firms break out in a cold sweat. And we can kind of see why. In our line of work, it’s important to meet people. To see cultural fit, and to go above and beyond the arduous application forms and CVs of the past. Meeting candidates online, when half their face is obscured by their dog, isn’t what we normally do. And yet, some of us are doing it – and we’re making it work. We embrace digitalisation, creating an easier journey for clients and candidates.


No smoke. No mirrors. This is the future of executive search. Why? Because 2020 has been stressful. Businesses have had enough. They’re not going to sit and smile and nod as search partners try and tell them that a shortlist will take between 7 and 12 weeks. And we can guarantee they’re not going to be happy with having hidden fees tacked onto the end of their bill, so that they’re paying extortionate fees regardless of the outcome. A big change that needs to happen is just a basic shift to being more open, and more flexible. It’s not that hard!

Changing the future?

Will these insights have any impact on the future of the recruitment industry? Probably not. In fact, most of the changes that are taking place across the sector right now are likely to be short-lived. Once the crisis is over, many recruiters will go back to doing things how they’ve always done them. That’s crazy, considering these are all things it’s pretty obvious we should be doing anyway, crisis or not.

The recruitment sector has been flawed for years. And if you want to delve into this further, you can check out an insightful post by our Founder, Jake Parish, which talks about this in more detail. In a nutshell, the executive search industry is clouded in a lack of transparency, a reluctance to embrace digital, and the use of long-winded processes that won’t always equate to finding the best talent in the most efficient way.

At Innovex, our mission is to use these insights and trends to redefine the industry. And we’re starting to win.

For further insights, subscribe to our newsletter:

Lets work together