What is the meaning of a hiring surge? It is defined as a rapid increase in demand for workers. Hiring surges can occur for a multitude of reasons:

  1. Rapid change in labor markets
  2. Consolidation of companies
  3. Spike in product demand
  4. Increase competition
  5. A global pandemic that shifts workers from one market segment to another

In general hiring surges are infrequent. As a result of the current global pandemic, there has been a surge in hiring remote workers who work from home. They happen on a firm by firm or market basis. They rarely occur at a federal level across all fields.

Covid-19 caused a hiring surge in certain industries and steep declines in others. For example, jobs in travel and entertainment curtailed as a result of stay at home health orders. On the other hand, companies that specialize in shipping and logistics (Amazon) and food (Albertsons) needed significantly more workers, and rapidly.

After recessionary environments (or mass layoffs caused by epidemics) labor markets can experience hiring surges across nearly all firms and all industries. These federal surges in hiring do not change labor market efficiencies but help fulfill pent-up demand for products and services.

There are four buyers of products and services in an economy: individual consumers, households, companies, and governments. Hiring surges occur when demand from one or more of these groups greatly outpaces supply or there are underlying changes in behavior that shift production.

Preparing for a hiring surge

To best prepare for a hiring surge make sure that you:

  1. Know which industries are rapidly growing;
  2. Have an updated CV and clarity on your career direction;
  3. Are ready and willing to enter that company or market;
  4. Have a network that can help guide you to the best and newest roles available.
  5. Get a coach: a professional coach can help you navigate your career with regards to hiring surges and understand how hiring trends will impact your ability to find work and excel.

Many job boards, such as Indeed.com or LinkedIn, help companies and job seekers during hiring surges. For example, during Covid-19 Indeed.com enabled job seekers to mark themselves as “ready for work.” This signaled to hiring managers that the person was able and willing to start work instantly.

On the employer side, hiring surges are usually done to anticipate or fulfill demand. For example, Amazon saw a large increase in orders from people working from home during Covid. One of the most common searches people entered was for “best chairs” and flexible and transportable “foldable desks.”

To fulfill demand, the firm hired over 100,000 people in just a few months. This is an extreme example of a surge. Most hiring surges are neither this large nor as rapid.

During a normal economic cycle, unemployment is somewhere between 3-6% (in the US). This rate of unemployment is considered natural. Some people drop out of labor markets to go back to school, retire, change industries, travel, and care for others (parental responsibilities). 

When a surge does occur you can prepare yourself to take advantage of it by leveraging the guidance in this article.

What a hiring surge means for you and your network

There is one more place you will want to turn to understand a hiring surge and how to ride that wave. And that is your network. 

When trying to understand changes in market conditions, a great place to turn is your friends, families, past colleagues, and network to understand who is hiring, where, and the rate of hiring projected.

Here is one example. When joining a large software vendor with plans to add thousands of jobs, each new hire was asked to post open roles into his or her LinkedIn network. This indicates that the firm wanted to rapidly tap into network effects to find talent to bring onboard.

If your network ties are not strong – and you don’t have people to speak with about hiring surges – we advise you check social media to see what people are talking about. 

Are people posting jobs on their first day at work? Are people talking about their new roles? These might be clues that can help you understand growth or changes in hiring trends.

Hiring Surges on specific economic segments

As a specific rule, hiring surges occur in growth industries. This means that if you want to anticipate a surge, start with segments of the economy that are robustly expanding. In the U.S. here are some ideas:

  1. Online Grocery Sales
  2. Cloud computing and IT
  3. Cough & Cold Medicine Manufacturing
  4. 3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping Services
  5. Online Pet Food & Pet Supply Sales.
  6. Hydraulic Fracturing Services.
  7. Software development for companies that are rapidly scaling, like pave.dev.

The reason you will want to know about these markets is that they are each growing in excess of 50% annually. The means that each segment will double in less than two years. And this growth will cause the firms that partake in these markets to hire and rapidly expand their headcount.

To prepare for these surges, you can start preparing today. As a first step, update your resume, network and learn about job specific roles, and figure out where the hiring will happen (by geography or remote, for example). 

Updating your skills will also be valuable to prepare for hiring surges. Are you well equipped today to do work in tomorrow’s new economy? If not, what skills do you need to learn to get there? Perhaps you need to learn IT basics or understand how Cloud Computing works. If you are less technical you can think through customer support or business analysis in Microsoft Office (Word and Excel).

Be prepared

Surges in hiring need not catch you – or your friends and family – by surprise. By understanding what changes are coming you can start preparing today.

Surges are not common but when they do arise you can see increased compensation, wages, or other incentives as the firm (or market) greatly needs workers.

In addition to becoming a more versatile worker, think about other ways to differentiate yourself when hiring rates increase. Maybe you can add value by introducing firms to new employees or helping these firms accelerate their adoption of new technology.

However you frame it, hiring surges are opportunities. They are like powerful waves that grow and grow as they approach the shore. If you know which industries are growing, what skills are needed, and who to contact to get a job, you will be prepared for the next surge. And that preparation will lead you to better ride the wave.

Ultimately, that should be your goal.