Recruitment Trends in 2019

Published On: February 14, 2019By Categories: Business Management, People at Work, Workforce Development

Finding talent still remains a critical issue for small businesses.

By Alexandra Walsh

A talent shortage, health insurance, immigration, and a sense of “cautious optimism” were top of mind for small business owners last year. Some of those issues are still there this year.

But according to the Small Business Optimism Index issued by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, small businesses continue to expand and grow and optimism is still at record levels.

However, as businesses grow and companies create more jobs, a growing number of owners are reporting an inability to fill those jobs. Statistically, 47% of owners report open positions in construction and 38% report open positions in manufacturing. Likewise, 60% report hiring or trying to hire, but 87% of those hiring report few or no qualified applicants.

Here are some trends small businesses may want to focus on in 2019 to meet recruitment challenges.

Job Shadowing

Just as important as sourcing a broad selection of qualified candidates is weeding out those who would turn down the job if they really understood it.

After all, many growing businesses suffer high turnover among their workers. In September 2018 alone, 3,600,000 Americans quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ JOLTS report (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey).

So in 2019, the gold-standard solution will be job shadowing. Shadowing allows the candidate to interact with the team and get a good idea of what the job would entail. It provides the manager and the candidate alike with a good assessment of the candidate’s fit.

Shadowing can be done in many ways. It can mean working next to a potential peer, or observing them and what happens in the course of the peer’s workday. It gives the candidate an opportunity to react to how the job actually gets done. But the business must set the expectation in advance that shadowing will not lengthen the time frame of hiring.

Association Health Plans

In 2019, the health insurance plan a company offers is a paramount consideration for job candidates. When faced with health care cost increases in 2018, many small business owners moved to high-deductible, consumer-driven health plans. This approach helped drive costs down by an average of 13%, as the Society for Human Resource Management reports.

In 2019, small business owner trends around health care may continue to benefit employers due to a rule finalized by the U.S. Department of Labor in June 2018. The ruling makes it easier for small businesses to manage health care costs by joining association health plans, which allow employer groups to buy health insurance together at a generally lower rate.

Attitudes and Behaviors Over Qualifications

The competency-based interview became the norm in the 2000s and its domination has continued until today for most companies. Although several voices are speaking out, the competency approach remains pervasive.

The landscape is certainly changing with more companies seeing the value of hiring on soft skills, attitudes, and behaviors—while teaching the technical skills needed for the job later. This creates a real focus on making sure companies attract, hire, and retain people who “get” their business, their company culture, ethos, and their values.

With unemployment under 4% in the first quarter of 2019, companies may need to get creative about sourcing qualified candidates. They may not find that perfect candidate—but high-potential candidates make excellent hires, as long as they’re trainable.

Many growing businesses also make the mistake of only looking at people who are unemployed. If they expand their willingness to hire high-potential candidates as opposed to highly qualified candidates, they may have a much higher success rate.

In addition to a strategy designed to reach passive job seekers, to get high-potential talent to want to work for a company, the pitch should be the position would be tailored to the individual by giving them responsibilities that are a reasonable reach.

It may seem obvious, but many employers don’t do it. They should ask both incumbent employees and strong candidates what they’re looking for in the career opportunities the company can offer.

Additionally, any kind of training a company can offer will make the job more appealing, although it may seem like an investment of time and money to train an underqualified hire.

Lightning Round
Here is a lightning round of other trends that will impact job recruitment in 2019.

  • Harassment prevention: HR experts anticipate a number of states will pass anti-harassment legislation. Sexual misconduct in society and the workplace will continue to be front and center. Companies must make certain their track record is stellar when it comes to sexual harassment allegations.
  • Parental leave: States and cities are passing laws that give parents longer and often paid time to bond with their baby. Businesses are looking for guidance on parental leave policies, especially in areas where it already is or will become a requirement.
  • Create methods to attract/retain talent: Employers are having to turn to non-traditional benefits to attract top talent—perks that contribute to a work-life balance, such as flexible work schedules, are extremely important for employees.
  • Big data: Workforce analytics will increasingly become an important tool for businesses to harness to help them make the right strategic decisions in hiring and retaining talent.
  • Mobile and flexible: Continued development of mobile and cloud applications that allow for more flexibility to better balance employees’ personal needs and workplace responsibilities.

HR Technologies

More than ever in 2019, technology will be the great equalizer for small businesses, especially when it comes to sourcing and attracting talent. Small companies need candidates who can be nimble and trainable, and since they don’t have a vast HR team to vet every applicant, they should be taking advantage of the advances in HR technology to find tools that can do these things for them.

When a company doesn’t have a team of hundreds to convince candidates the company is the right fit, they can use video to amplify their message. Companies can create a video that shows worksites, the culture, and even a video job description featuring a hiring recruiter speaking directly into the camera and bringing the job to life.

In addition, companies should ensure their website and promotion of their job and career opportunities are mobileready. Today, 70% of candidates are looking for work on their mobile devices.


It’s 2019, and we’re quickly approaching already the third decade of the 21st century. It’s past time to realize our business recruiting practices must be modernized if we hope to attract and hire this present generation of job candidates.

Alexandra Walsh is the vice president of Association Vision, a Washington, D.C.–area communications company. She has extensive experience in management positions with a range of organizations.

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