Last week we cornered BlueSky’s Jeff duo—Jeff Stout and Jeff Lombardo—to get their take on how the job market will shape up for 2016. The conversation produced some interesting insights for both employers and candidates.

Earlier in 2015, you told us about how it’s a candidate’s market. Does that still hold true, and how will that affect the market in 2016?

Yes, based on our observations and interactions with employers and job seekers, it’s still very much a candidate’s market. In fact we’d go so far as to say there is currently a “war for talent” going on because we’ve never seen the competition for top talent this fierce. This intense competition for the best qualified candidates means that hiring managers will need to take a more proactive approach.

So how should hiring managers prepare to compete for the best talent in the coming year?

As we said earlier this year, companies need to acknowledge this war for talent and adapt their hiring process. A couple key pointers for hiring managers: 1. Streamline your interview process to make it as quick and efficient as possible—top candidates will be getting multiple offers so you need to be ready to move fast. 2. Identify and leverage a consistent, core hiring team that represents the company well; create a team that can get candidates excited and help those candidates see themselves as part of something that offers a bright future. 3. Take a much broader, more strategic view of recruiting; don’t assume that HR will carry the day on this front, make recruiting a company-wide priority, assign ownership and track results. To win the war for talent you need a recruiting and hiring process that’s ruthlessly efficient and consistently delivers a high-quality experience for candidates. Our advice—make it happen. Now.

How about candidates, how can they stand out?

For candidates, don’t let the demand for talent lull you into a false sense of security. Job seekers still need to make sure they cover the fundamentals by understanding both the employer and the specific role they’re interviewing for. If possible, enlist the help of a firm like BlueSky. We can help candidates understand what it takes to be successful at a particular organization. As we always say, success goes beyond understanding a job description. It also means understanding the core values and culture of a potential employer. This insight allows us to help a candidate fine tune his or her resume and overall approach to better align with the success criteria and growth path offered by a potential employer. The last, and possibly most important piece of advice for candidates—always seek to use every interaction you have with a potential employer to sell your qualifications and move another step closer to an offer.

What economic factors will affect the job market in 2016? How will the coming election affect the job market, if at all?

Historically, presidential election years tend to have a positive impact on the job market because election periods represent opportunities for change. Additionally, the economy continues to improve while unemployment rates continue to decline. Those two economic factors generally indicate that the positive momentum we’ve seen in 2015 on the hiring front will continue into the next year. And that means the war for talent will continue as well. Acquiring top talent will require organizations to put their best and brightest on the front line. The logic is simple—winners attract winners. 

How are hiring managers filling their talent pipelines?

Our advice for candidates was centered on covering the fundamentals. The same holds true for hiring managers. Our most successful clients are the ones who are open to talking to great people even when there isn’t an open role for them. When you find a highly qualified candidate who represents a great fit culturally and organizationally, the smart decision is to find a place for them. If an opening doesn’t exist, the savvy hiring manager will look for ways to create one.

What sectors are growing?

There are many sectors that are experiencing continued growth. One of the stand-outs involves organizations who are focused on business transformations, specifically taking industries or operations that have traditionally been what we would call analog (i.e. largely paper-based or human capital intensive) and using digital technology to make those industries or operations more effective and efficient. Real estate is another sector that continues to see a lot of growth and potential. On the residential front, local conditions (like inventory and demographics) make the opportunities a little more of a mixed bag but on the commercial real estate front the market is still experiencing strong growth. Financial services and health care are two more sectors that will continue to see significant growth over the next year. Coincidentally, these are also two verticals who are reaping far-reaching operational benefits from the digital business transformations we mentioned above.

The Bottom Line

So what’s the bottom line for the job market in 2016? For candidates, keep the fundamentals front and center—build your network, research every opportunity and make every interaction with a potential employer count. For hiring managers and organizations seeking to triumph in the war for talent, fight the good fight. Put your best and brightest on the recruiting and interviewing front lines, deliver a consistent and high quality experience to candidates and when you find top talent don’t wait for an opening—create one.

From all of us at BlueSky, we wish you a happy holiday season and a successful start to 2016. Good luck out there!