(Editor’s note: Charley Polachi is a partner at Polachi, an executive recruiting firm. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

2010 is winding down rapidly with all indications that the worst is behind us – hopefully. At the very least, that’s the sentiment of many of the executives we deal with.

As we gave forward into 2011, we queried several of our executive search partners around the world to get their input on what they see happening in their back yards and what they anticipate for the year to come. Here’s what they had to say:

Sean Carroll, Polachi (NYC)
“If there is any meaningful uptick in the economy, good talent that may be on the sidelines will be gone and entrepreneurs will have a tough time hiring on their own.  Also, I suspect there will be a strong M&A market as we’ve seen with Netezza, Unica, Coremetrics, etc.  Corporations have lots of cash and will buy at the right price.”

“Lastly, as entrepreneurs pioneer innovative solutions, there will always be a shortage of skills as the experience or domain does not exist yet.  A good example is SEO products.  Automating SEO is an interesting problem to solve but there are only a few young product companies, so the only place to get SEO experience is the agencies…no SaaS or product experience there.  Entrepreneurs need to make bets that talent can step up in a new sector.”

Andy Price, Schweichler, Price, Mullarkey and Barry (Silicon Valley)
“My view is that the talent pool is getting snapped up pretty fast and once again we’re seeing a very competitive landscape for people.  We’re competing against two forces: Other companies recruiting, and inertia driven by either risk aversion or someone’s low priced options are suddenly in the money and they’re inclined to take risk off the table.  That said, people believe startups have a chance again so they’re willing to talk to you.  Closing people is the hard part right now.”

Steve Lavelle, Gillamor Stephens (London)
“In Europe, access to the talent pool is there, provided the company’s proposition is compelling enough. Closing candidates can be challenging though and having been through the low point of hiring activity, it’s only going to heat up as we move into next year.”

Sal Rocco, Stonewood Group (Toronto)
“We are seeing more product development, engineering-oriented searches than in the past 2-3 years.  The only thing we can attribute this to is that when the market tanked and companies were cash strapped, the focus was on revenue generation and selling what we had.  They gutted costly product development and engineering teams.  The thought was: Don’t worry about new product development because we may not be alive in 2-3 years if we don’t get cash today.

“To the extent they were doing searches in the past 2-3 years, the searches were on either outward looking sales & marketing types focused on making money or CFOs/Finance types focused on raising cash or slowing the bleed. Today, as the future looks brighter and companies realize that their products are dated, they need to hire engineering leads and product development types, which they were laying off over the past 2-3 years.”

So, for 2011 the future looks fairly bright. VCs are investing and companies are hiring.  A few things entrepreneurs can expect to see and look out for are the following:

  • Senior talent is getting scarce again
  • Social media works for staffing at many levels, but not at the executive level
  • Cleantech continues to march on – and more opportunities will be there for investors
  • Venture capital is emerging from a difficult stretch, but there is money for good ideas and strong teams in mobile applications, gaming and health care IT
  • Candidates want cash and equity.
  • Acquisitions will provide the bulk of exits in 2011; the IPO market isn’t here yet.