2018: The Year in Review

Ah, 2018…Not just the year romaine lettuce brought terror to even the most fearless among us. For us, for our candidates, and for our clients, 2018 was a significant year of transformation. Over the course of each year we survey the candidates we work with to keep pulse on trends and challenges of the moment. Here’s what we heard from hundreds of candidates in 2018. Read on for a rundown from your favorite recruiters!


This year, organizations made a bigger push to recruit diverse talent and intentionally worked to develop a professional culture that both welcomes and enables diverse talent to flourish.


  • Companies and organizations across industries placed even greater emphasis on diversity, citing what we’ve ardently believed since our founding: diverse teams drive better results across the board in every way. You joined us in the Spring for “What does it really mean to hire the best candidate,” a discussion on how we both hire and retain diverse talent. We #changedtheconversation together when it comes to the way we consider candidates, from the qualifications we list on our job descriptions, to framing vetting conversations in terms of “culture add,” circumventing the homogeneity that results from the “culture fit” framework.

  • The break of the #metoo movement in 2017 and the traction it gained in 2018 provided the impetus for companies to reflect on hypermasculine workplace culture and how to cultivate an environment of respect and equality that would propel women and minorities to the top (or at least make them feel safe in the office!). In October, nearly two hundred of us, again, #changedtheconversation together in our discussion on male* allyship in the workplace post-#metoo. Together, we explored how to encourage men to use their power to benefit women in the workplace  and color within the lines when it comes to appropriately navigating cross-gender professional relationships.


Job opportunities were at an all-time high… but candidates were still getting ghosted!


  • With the number of job openings in the US reaching a record high this year, we saw the job market become even more of a candidate’s market, highlighting the importance of a standout employer brand and an effective, engaging interview process. As consultants on employer branding and interview processes, we were pleased to serve as a resource for our clients in establishing strong employer brand, particularly in relation to shaping structured interview processes.

  • With the fierce competition for qualified candidates, even superstar candidates reported that, apart from finding the right “fit,” a primary frustration in their independent search process was…drumroll please…ghosting… a shot to the foot given information available to prospects on sites like Glassdoor. Hiring managers take note!

  • 82% of our candidates were actively seeking new roles (up from just about 50% last year), with the majority of our candidates entrusting us to be their sole career resource.



The razzle-dazzle of free beer fizzled out of candidates’ top listed perks.


The effectiveness of this perk had been fizzling out since last year, but this year, it went completely flat. Candidates were more drawn to perks like flexible work hours and unlimited PTO (or even just additional PTO for volunteering).


  • Remote flexibility/flexible hours are a perk that truly pays, helping employers to attract and retain, not just, employees who need the flexibility (see: parents and caretakers), but also those who identify as “integrators” when it comes to their work-life divide.

  • Education stipends, gym memberships, and 100% paid benefits for dependents also topped the list of desirable perks

  • Another highlight? team retreats in destinations like Morocco and Aruba to reward top performance… Our invite must have gotten lost in the mail.


Our Interview consulting research surfaced some fan-favorite questions from candidates.


  • The most popular question was the very direct, “why should we hire you?”(a good start, though we do advocate for greater structure when it comes to shaping effective interview questions).

  • Although they may need a bit of tweaking, some of our favorite outliers included: “If you were an item in a refrigerator, what would you be?” (an interesting icebreaker!), “If we didn’t exist in three years, what would be the reason?” (dark… however, critical thinking is key!), “Teach me how to do something in 3-5 minutes” (after all, salespeople must be good teachers—just make sure you allow extra time to identify what the interviewee will be teaching you), and  “What can we do to make you most successful in this role?” (A question demonstrating the candidate-first interview approach, which helps to keep candidates engaged in the process).


Don’t just wing it!: New hires have some thoughts on how you can best onboard them this January.


We noticed that, particularly at smaller companies, unstructured, sink-or-swim onboarding was favored, but, to put it in the words of one of our candidates, “This worked for me, and was disastrous for some of my colleagues.”


The majority of new hires will need some form of onboarding, so, when in doubt, remember that some structure is better than none at all. Although the returns won’t be as immediate, you’ll thank yourself in a couple of months when your new hires are fully ramped and making key contributions left and right thanks to the running start you gave them. (Call us to help! We have a turn-key onboarding program that we customize for stretched-thin managers to implement easily)


  • What else were candidates seeking in an onboarding process?: The ideal onboarding experience for candidates included a 30-60-90 onboarding plan to be reviewed in the first week to ensure expectations are clear, plus a 1-week intensive (at least) with other new hires following a scheduled curriculum.

  • The ideal onboarding curriculum covered organizational layout (who does what? where can I find this? Who do I go to with questions?), team and culture (one candidate said his organization had them watch an internal company “sizzle reel,” but coffee-dates work too!), an interactive introduction to product and sales strategy integrating presentations, shadowing, mock exercises, and trainings from peers and leadership.

  • Lastly, in their initial months, candidates appreciated having the space to try, fail and course correct, particularly through the support of periodic 1:1 check-ins.


Candidates also have some thoughts on who should be managing them this January.


Throughout our 45 years of conversations with candidates, we’ve learned that one of the primary reasons candidates leave a role is the person managing them. Here are some key manager traits that candidates say will set them up for success in 2019:


1. As good of a listener as (s)he is a teacher, leader, and mentor: Candidates are seeking a manager who is not only an expert and skilled at explaining why things should be done a certain way, but who is also accessible and receptive to the thoughts and ideas their direct-reports bring to the table.


2. Supportive and invested in the growth of their employees: One of our candidates put it best in stating: “I’d hope my manager would be my biggest advocate and my biggest critic.” An ideal manager sets expectations for their direct-reports and is transparent with them on their progress towards those goals, championing their successes and challenging them to strive for excellence where they fall short.


3. Trusting: An ideal manager sets their direct-reports up for success by providing the tools and support that they need to succeed, knowing when to let go, and trusting them to take the wheel.


4. Accountable: a good manager leads by example and takes credit where credit is due, be it positive or negative. This is especially true when a manager is in a player-coach position; it’s important for their direct-reports to feel like their manager shares in both the successes and setbacks, and leads by example in how they handle both.


5. Reliable: Candidates are seeking a manager who is consistent, trustworthy and dependable.


Coming up for CFW: We’re getting a new ‘do.


This year, we embarked on a total brand refresh. Stay tuned for a refreshed CFW look coming early this 2019! While it was time for an upgrade, we know it’s what’s on the inside that counts; we’d love to hear your thoughts: How’d we do this year? What would you like to see from us this 2019? Email us at careersteam@cfwcareers.com; we learn from your feedback!

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