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2021 HALFWAY REPORT: 6 THINGS WE’VE LEARNED THIS YEAR AS A TECH RECRUITER

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by Dale Swords
2021 , Tech Recruitment , Hiring , Boston , Internal Recruitment , Clients , AI , Understanding Solutions , LifeAtUR , Candidate , Understanding Recruitment , Candidates
understanding recruitment 6 takeaways from 2021

The resilience of everyone at Understanding Recruitment over the last 18 months has shown really what we’re made of as a tech recruiter, and I couldn’t be prouder. It’s been more than the outstanding figures and records broken and an example of how we’ve come together as a team to help support each other, finding new, creative ways to communicate as a team and to our audience, and setting ourselves up for an exciting future.

Here are my 6 takeaways as Director of Understanding Recruitment:


I’m writing this in August 2021 – which still feels a little odd, the year has flown by and our third lockdown feels like a lifetime ago, let alone where we were in March last year. We, as a tech recruiter, whilst still having huge ambitions for the future, also had sensible expectations for the year ahead as we continue to tread uncharted territory of having team members at home and in the office, people that caught COVID and thankfully recovered well, and being in the great position to expand the UR team and look towards a bright future.

black and white collage of headshots of understanding recruitment's us and uk team

From a company perspective, it’s been an absolutely incredible year for Understanding Recruitment. To look back on what we have achieved against the backdrop of a really challenging time is astonishing. This is down to many things, but fundamentally, the whole team going above and beyond in several ways to support each other and become even better at what we do.

2020 was a big lesson in what we needed to do to come out stronger, as a recruitment consultancy and as human beings, and wow, has that hard work paid off so far in 2021.


1.Tech recruitment is booming: A record-breaking year

Coming into January 2021, obviously, we didn’t know exactly what to expect for the year ahead, however, I’m delighted to say that the markets picked up considerably and our performance has gone through the roof. This has resulted in seven consecutive months of record-breaking results and each month since January being better than the last, more records being broken, more individuals securing promotions and so on.  It really has been incredible.

infographic of achievements of understanding recruitment team in Q2 of 2021

Last month, we superseded our first million-pound month in our 13-year history of doing this, which was a huge milestone for the business (and I’m sure there’s plenty more to come!).

 There have been some incredible individual and team performances, and collectively we have come together to achieve fantastic results.


2. Internal hiring is propelling us forward

We have all seen how badly the job market has been hit by the pandemic, however, I’m delighted that we have been in the position to grow our brilliant team and warmly welcome back the few people who were on furlough.

When we went into the country’s first lockdown last year, we still wanted to look to the future knowing at some point, we would come out the other side. We wanted to take the opportunity to not just come out of it but come out stronger and we made this commitment clear to the entire business from the outset.  So, we hired fresh talent, both at entry-level and for experienced roles as well, knowing that that future investment would pay off and launched many new initiatives to take to market and help add even more value to our clients and candidates alike.


"We hired fresh talent, both at entry-level and for experienced roles as well, knowing that that future investment would pay off."​

Already this year, we’ve seen new talent coming through at graduate level and senior level. What’s even more encouraging is seeing the internal development of new management, allowing us to scale up and create even more opportunities for people to join us at Understanding Recruitment.

We’re now looking to double our headcount in the next couple of years across our UK and US operations, and we’re investing more in training and development than we ever have done to get us ready for the future.


3. Adapting and innovating is essential as a recruiter in 2021

One of the things we learned last year was how to be better in every department. One key area we’ve really developed in is how we use social media, have strong personal brands and wide company brands, as well as utilise our technology to explore new ways of working and identifying talent.

understanding recruitment's head of machine learning anna heneghan interviewing software engineer priscilla boyd for anna in AI video series

Whether it be through the UR team doing podcast interviews, our Head of Machine Learning & AI Anna’s Diversity in AI series, our salary surveys, and other market reports, we’ve got creative when it comes to how we provide a better client and candidate experience. It’s paid off as the client feedback has been fantastic, and it’s elevated our position from much more than being a transactional recruitment business to one of true partnership. And it’s only going to carry on in this direction as we move forward.

What this all comes down to is hiring individuals with a growth mindset – our team is forward-thinking and come to us with ideas. We always want to listen to and explore new ways of working, and not be doing the same thing as a couple of years ago.


4. Improving our client experience remains at our core

When we entered the remoted working world, which was an unusual situation for lots of us, we maintained that we still wanted to use the opportunity to broaden our solutions. We wanted to give our clients more options and solutions to their problems growing their employee base. That’s why we’ve created a whole series of talent solutions and launched our Understanding Solutions, specifically focusing on delivering project-driven support. The feedback to date has been fantastic and we’re thrilled to be partnering with clients in this way to help solve their challenges.

I’ll add that we’ve won some incredible clients this year, but whether it’s the likes of TikTok or a brand-new start-up every project is treated as its own project with specific requirements. Although there’s been a massive upsurge this year, we look less at the number of opportunities we’ve taken on board, but the fill rates. We ensure whatever project or assignment we take on from our clients, that we fulfil it and not just that, but go above and beyond – every opportunity matters to us.


5. The future is very bright for the US tech recruitment market

We’ve been active within the US market for nearly two years under the brilliant leadership of Mat Ferdenzi who has grown the Boston-based UR team to six with further expansion on the cards. The camaraderie they have epitomises our entire culture, and it’s been brilliant to see the difference they are making in their market in such a short time and a testament to how well they work as a team.

"...it’s been brilliant to see the difference they are making in their market in such a short time and a testament to how well they work as a team"

We’ve been able to engage with some fantastic clients, such as Google, on some hugely exciting opportunities. The team is leading the way in their specialist fields of machine learning and AI, hardware acceleration, quantum computing and silicon photonics, with lots of business coming through recommendation referral. Our presence in the US market is only going to get bigger, and it’s incredibly exciting for all of us as it only creates further opportunities for everyone.

6. Investment in staff wellbeing is more important than ever

Certainly, in the darkest moments of lockdown where there was complete isolation and we were all at home, it was so important for us to communicate with each other and check in through Teams and Zoom. We also have introduced a Wellbeing Committee, which is a hugely important aspect part of our business culturally, especially in these times. We’ve got to look out for each other and give everyone the support they need.

Our committee involves all team members of all levels and it’s seeing some very positive benefits, whether that be small activities during the week, monthly events, open conversations, and breakout conversations, just to make sure no one is feeling isolated. We also offer a subscription to the mindfulness app Calm to all the UR team.


One of our values is ‘together stronger’ and the last year and a half have shown how relevant it is, as we all look after each other. It’s not just about business, it’s about people, and really making sure they’re okay and checking in because you genuinely care about them.  We’ve always had an extremely collaborative team however the last year has brought us even closer together and in my opinion, will only set us up for even better years ahead. 

2021 and beyond!

Looking back on 2021 so far, it’s already been an outstanding year for our company’s growth. This has been the collective effort of everyone in the business over the last couple of years. Every single bit of activity, every bit of energy invested in Understanding Recruitment has counted and got us where we are today.

"The tech market is absolutely booming. We're evolving our services constantly. We're getting better at our job all the time. And we're going to do it together."

By focusing on the successes of the year, I, of course, do not want to take away from what a difficult time facing this pandemic – I have seen so much resilience from everyone and every day and supporting each other’s wellbeing amazingly.

Hopefully, we’ll never see the likes of this experience again, but knowing we’ve got through this so well and come out stronger fills me with immense pride and huge amounts of excitement about the future and where we’re going.

The tech market is absolutely booming. We're evolving our services constantly. We're getting better at our job all the time. And we're going to do it together.

The future is incredibly bright for Understanding Recruitment.


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understanding recruitment team photo with "we're hiring" text