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State of the Recruiting Industry Snapshot: Generating business in 2021

by | May 14, 2021 | Top Echelon Blog

Recently conducting a survey of more than 30,000 recruitment professionals in the United States and Canada, we designed a survey to gauge opinions on wide range of recruiting and hiring topics. If you haven’t checked out the full report, you can check it out here!

Through this survey process, it is easy to see that there are many different things that happened to recruiters in 2020. Being such a trivial and tough year for many, it is clear to see how many did their best to overcome the hurdles that came with COVID-19. As we recount and embraced the year, here is how business was generated in 2020 heading into 2021.

The elephant in the room

Well, if you hadn’t already guessed it – yes, it’s the novel coronavirus. For much of 2020 and into this year, COVID-19 has taken its toll on job markets, people’s livelihood and businesses worldwide. When asking our first question, we left it all open ended, in hopes that whatever the recruiter was willing to share, they could. For many this was a tough year both professionally and personally, and so with that we wanted to be respectful of the information shared.

The question posed in our survey was: “How specifically did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your recruiting desk and/or your agency in 2020?”.

As you can probably already imagine, the effects were mostly negative and pretty drastic in most cases as well. However, a finding was that about 5% of recruiters stated that the pandemic actually contributed to an influx of jobs due to their niche area of recruitment. This being a small minority, the vast majority of everyone else were affected adversely.

The timeframe of decline started in March and continued on throughout the year, with the bulk of the destruction coming in the months of March through June. That is when many companies started to halt job orders and freeze their hiring processes. With chunks of business lost to that time span ranging from 50K all the way up to 200k dollars, it was a pretty difficult time.

Some of the quotes that highlight this period are:

My business stopped on March 15 and didn’t start again until July. That four-month loss cost between $50-$100K”


I lost time in all phases of the process. It cost me 2-3 placements and [between] $60-90K


[COVID] destroyed my business. I am down $235,000 from last year.


Business Generation

Throughout the hard year, it is beneficial to also look at what went well. Which placements were made and how they were made in a difficult job market was crucial for many recruiters businesses. So how many placements did our surveyed recruiters make in 2020?

The majority of recruiters – 61% of them – made anywhere from 1-10 placements in 2020. The next highest number, 17.7% made between 11-15 placements during the year’s span. With about 15% making 20 placements or more, it is clear to see that some people weren’t lacking in the quantity of their placements.

It is easy to think of years past where there were placements coming like nobody’s business. The job market primed and many businesses hiring as they normally would. Even in 2020, many recruiters who made near 10 placements still probably made it out okay – but compared to other years, it definitely took a hit like no other.

As summarized in a quote,

Completely killed the business from March–June, so I feel fortunate to bill what we billed.”



It is clear to see that while there were some people who managed to get by in 2020, it was a devastating year for others in recruiting. As we move forward in 2021, we are seeing better trends and better growth in the economy after the tough year.

Hoping that those continue for recruiters everywhere, we here at Top Echelon are always looking out for the best interests of recruiters. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out our podcast on this topic to learn more!






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