This post is an excerpt from our upcoming 2021 research & insights salary report. Want to learn more about current salaries, market trends, and our observations on how this is impacting researchers and employers? Join us for our annual webinar on Dec 15th at 11am CT, you can register and learn more here.
While many of last year’s disruptive effects on our lives may still be felt in 2021, we’re happy to report a strong rebound of the marketing research & insights hiring market. Understanding potential shifts and current consumer mindset and behavior is more important than ever and we’ve seen robust hiring across both client- and supplier-side teams. Mirroring the broader market, there has also been a wave of job search activity and professionals taking on new opportunities, so this shakeup has led to a very competitive market for both researchers and their employers looking to hire.
In this introductory section to our 2021 salary report, we wanted to provide a glance at the trends we’ve observed this year, which have changed significantly from last year’s report.
1. Research Teams Across the Board are Hiring
While 2020 brought instability in the form of widespread hiring freezes and even furloughs or layoffs for some in response to the pandemic, we’ve seen an impressive bounce back this year with strong hiring across industries, geographies, and on the client- and supplier-side alike. Our research found that over 60% of teams planned to hire in both of our 2021 hiring surveys, which were fielded twice to measure plans for both Q1/2 and Q3/4.
Skilled researchers are in high demand. We’re seeing teams actively looking to grow to keep up with expanding workload, some employers that are still hiring to replace previous cutbacks, and increased attrition from researchers exploring their options. This has created an even greater need to focus on recruiting, and by all indications, we see no reason for this to abate in 2022.
2. The Research & Insights Job Market is Competitive
While many researchers put job search plans on hold last year, 2021 was a year of significant movement. Activity on both sides of the market – an increase of researchers open to new opportunities, coupled with the influx of hiring and open roles – has created an active, and extremely competitive landscape for both researchers as well as teams looking to hire them.
For job seekers: Since it’s easy to be overwhelmed by options these days, make sure you’re serious about a potential move before putting yourself out there. Keep track of applications and where you send your resume to stay organized along the way. And be prepared for numerous interviews throughout the process as well as a potential assessment/assignment stage.
For those hiring researchers: Hiring in this market can be tricky given the volatile climate. Ensure the interview process is efficient and streamlined. Be ready to move quickly for a great candidate. Make sure to sell the job, position, team/organization, growth potential, etc. since active candidates may be exploring many different options. And, understand that the process may take longer in this job market.
3. A Varied Approach to the ‘Return to Office’
The debate around working in-office vs. long-term remote continues to be a hot topic and organizations run the gamut in their approach. Some have fully embraced a remote workforce and have downsized or even given up their brick-and-mortar space, while others strive to return to an in-person environment. We’ve noticed that research suppliers and consultancies often tend to have the most flexibility and willingness to bring on remote staff. Supplier-side researchers often partner with a variety of clients across the country (or world), so their physical location may be less imperative to their day-to-day. We’ve seen many teams hire full-time remote teammates to supplement regional offices or even move to more of a permanent ‘remote first’ model.
On the client-side, we’ve seen research & insights teams adopt more flexible arrangements, but many employers seem to be most comfortable with a hybrid model, aiming to have staff in the office at least a few days each week. In-house researchers tend to work very cross-functionally (they could be meeting with the brand team in the morning, R&D midday, and with the CMO later in the afternoon), so having face-time to collaborate and build relationships with internal clients and key stakeholders remains a priority for many.
4. Opportunities to Make an Impact on the Supplier-Side
With business picking up across industries and research budgets rebounding after many were forced to cut back in 2020, this year has kept researchers on both the client- and supplier-side busy. Research and insights initiatives are especially critical for many organizations as they strive to stay in line (or ahead of) consumer behavior and sentiment in a continually shifting market. Supplier-side researchers are in particularly high demand as firms respond to an increase in business and an influx of projects. There’s a wealth of opportunity for strong supplier-side researchers to make an impact within their organizations as well as with clients, consulting closely and serving as an extension of in-house teams to increase their bandwidth.
Not only has this led to myriad opportunities for researchers on the supplier side, but as we’ve pointed out, many of these research firms are offering more remote options and WFH flexibility in order to move hiring along to keep up with demand and secure talented researchers.
5. Interviews Still Primarily Virtual – For Now
We’ve continued to see most research & insights interviews conducted virtually, which can offer nice flexibility for scheduling and the ability to move quickly in today’s competitive market. However, if you’re interviewing for new opportunities, be prepared for a number of conversations and steps throughout the process given this trend. We’ve also seen an increase in potential assessments, assignments or providing work samples, and presentations as part of the process (especially for supplier-side roles) to help further vet candidates’ skillsets and research capabilities.
On the employer side and for those looking to hire, be aware that it’s important to move quickly in this hot hiring market, and to stay mindful of how lengthy assessments and other requirements can drag out the process and may impact your ability to land the talent you want. While virtual interviews do offer advantageous scheduling flexibility, especially when most researchers were working primarily from home, there are also limitations to evaluating soft skills or how a researcher fits with the rest of the team. More recently, we’ve seen some exceptions to the 100% virtual interview approach as more teams start bringing their staff back on-site or into a hybrid model. Some companies have started to offer an option to meet in-person as a final step when interviewing local candidates, so it’ll be interesting to continue to monitor the virtual interview trend in the upcoming year.
Overall, the past few years have included some dramatic shifts, and it will be interesting to see how these trends play out in 2022. From our position as recruiters, we speak to many researchers and their employers across industries, so sharing our observations on changes in the market is a natural extension of our recruiting and staffing services. We’ll continue to keep a pulse on developing trends over the coming months, and you can always check out our blog for further updates.
Want to learn more about how these trends are developing as we head into 2022? We’ll be sharing salaries, trends, and other data from our latest salary report at our webinar on Dec 15th. Click here to learn more and register.