Headhunting in Germany – during challenging Covid-Times

In fact – I feel privileged to be a CEO/owner of a well-established German recruitment company for many years. With covid appearing, tons of new challenges emerged on top of the typical day-to-day priorities – as was the case for any company leader in many other countries. Nothing felt as it was before – as was the case for most businesses – fundamental changes to the “supply and demand” of hiring clients completely changed the recruitment landscape and future expectations in Germany. Let me provide some key data.

As in most countries globally, Germany´s commercial situation is influenced by the covid-19 pandemic – in 2021 and in prospect for 2022:

  • GDP will develop to 2.6 % growth for year 2021; optimistic growth estimates for 2022 are at 4-5 %
  • major industrial output shrank in 2021 due to shortages of intermediate goods, commodities & raw materials – supply chain problems will continue in 2022
  • inflation rate anticipated at 4-5% in Q4/21 – expected to calm down to 2-3 % in 2022
  • astronomic covid-numbers these days – because we/Germans thought we had passed through the first waves too well.

We could be proud of where we are in Germany today, but we should not be confident about being well prepared for the next waves of covid, for sure. Probably – we were overestimating the power of vaccination effectiveness, underestimating the vaccination importance & criticality – and relying on Germany´s former commercial & covid-handling success.


Well – what are the key changes observed in Germany´s labour market in 2021, in comparison to pre-covid times:

  • Unemployment rate down to 5 % (3.1 Mio. unemployed), vs. peak of 7+ Mio. unemployed/short-time people in 04/20
  • Around 50-60% less vacancies in the 2021 job market, compared to 2020
  • Industry sector casualties – e.g. travel/tourism, airlines/airports, retail in cities, trade fair business, hospitality
  • 2021 recruiting focus on urgent & most vital vacancies > 80 % experts, 20 % medium to top management
  • Digitization push across industry sectors – every 2nd working process was/is to be realigned – or new!
  • Home-office working possible for every 2nd employee (BMWI) – H/O-working in Germany doubled within 2 years!
  • Leaders transform into “remote-leaders” requiring changed behaviours and habits for effective management.


This may all sound familiar to you, or to your country? Well, it is quite interesting to discover that it has taken covid-impacts to foster a couple of fundamental changes which became a reality in other countries in the early 2000s but of course, the need for change is always perceived differently according to culture and country.


Back to our topic – i.e. the key changes which did occur throughout covid-pandemic:

  • Strategic & visionary thinking for ~80% of clients became a subtopic behind finance/controlling/restructuring necessities
  • Vital expert & key leadership jobs are filled with massive impact; 70+% of other roles went “on hold”
  • Primary focus on virtual calls; for vital roles: face-to-face interviews remain “key” for decision making on both sides
  • Much faster, more decisive and cost-effective recruitment process – on first view.


What we also learnt is that decision makers & hiring managers may tend to forget that:

  • The validity of virtual and face-to-face interviews differs by 20-30%
  • Interviews are a 2-way process – main influencing factors for candidates are: Do I like the team, how do team-mates work together, company style & culture, 360-degree-reality of face-to-face interviews, “would I like to work there” may be missed or misinterpreted
  • Many well-matched candidates do expect face-to-face interviews – additional data sources and opportunities for reflection & additional discussion will always be the winning formula for the “personal employer”


First conclusions for Germany:

  • There are some companies, which still maintain their former and strategic business-growth plans – or find innovative or new business ideas. Most other companies try to cope with the weekly changing covid constraints or find ways of restructuring seriously broken, international supply-chains. Many new company start-ups were established (165.000 on top of the existing 3.3 Mio. existing companies). Looking ahead, there will be countless interesting and challenging work opportunities for us to help clients with, for some time to come.
  • The entire recruitment business in Germany has been significantly impacted – approx. 30-50% down may be the final figure. Around 50-60% of job-vacancies in 2021 in comparison to 2020 would be a representative comparison. Less costly E-Cruiting or sourcing activities are now more in evidence, as is the case for interim/management companies and temporary work agencies.
  • Regarding virtual recruitment processes: although virtual interviews are perceived as easier, faster and more cost-effective, they do include a significantly higher risk of flawed decision making and lower employee/r retention, leading to bad investments in the wrong candidate or a significantly higher risk of losing the appointed candidate during their probation period. Virtual interviews are adding higher risks to the entire recruitment process, often starting with the briefing of a search agency or “story-telling” to candidates. This means – superficial introductions to candidates and/or recruitment agencies will run as a common thread through the entire recruitment process.


This true assessment should provide a reliable picture of the German industry and key recruitment learnings of the last 2 covid years. However, based on this underlying market & process information – why should filling your critical vacancies in Germany be managed by a professional Headhunting Company during covid-times?

  • Professional headhunters manage a future-oriented search assignment – business scope & strategy first, then business challenges and required skillset
  • We have run pro-active search processes for decades – in our case 25 years – in whatever suitable combination to win appropriate talents for client projects.
  • Professional headhunters are used to operating effectively under challenging preconditions towards delivering on candidate results – with skill-sets matching team and company culture.
  • We can easily combine search experience and results from other industries into neighbouring sectors – e.g. Digitization, New Sales, R&D technology development, Smart Service etc. – away from the classic.
  • Professional headhunters have the best available process machinery, project leadership & personal experience. They are used to finding appropriate talents at an executive or expert level – either in Germany, wider Europe or overseas countries – even against a background of challenging circumstances for clients.
  • At CFR Consulting Group, we are used to working on cross-border assignments since our formation in 1997. We feel very well connected within the CFR Partnership and can effectively execute placements in the context of difficult-to-fill vacancies for new or existing clients.


Thanks for taking the time to read this. Your feedback or opinion would be very welcome.


Article written by Marc Steuer, CFR Consulting Group, Germany

Photo source: Pixabay

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