Here are the best papers at STOC and FOCS in the last few years, as best as I could gather. What picture does that paint of research activity in core theoretical computer science? Crypto, approximation, and hardness of approximation are progressing swiftly, but also error-correcting codes. Structural space complexity continues strong. (Some outliers: discrete math, game theory, and the paper on faster integer multiplication.)
Are those the areas where new ideas are emerging, where things are happening, and therefore where one might consider hiring? I'm just considering the core here, not the exploding areas of interdisciplinary research.
ACM STOC 2010
"QIP=PSPACE," and "An Improved LP-based Approximation for Steiner Tree."
ACM STOC 2009
"A Constructive Proof of the Lovasz Local Lemma", and "Public-Key Cryptosystems from the Worst-Case Shortest Vector Problem".
ACM STOC 2008
"Optimal Hierarchical Decompositions for Congestion Minimization in Networks", and "Algorithms and Inapproximability Results for Every CSP?".
ACM STOC 2007
"Faster Integer Multiplication", and "Towards 3-Query Locally Decodable Codes of Subexponential Length".
ACM STOC 2006
"The PCP Theorem via Gap Amplification".
ACM STOC 2005
"Undirected ST-connectivity in log-space".
ACM STOC 2004
"Expander Flows, Geometric Embeddings, and Graph Partitionings", and "Multi-linear formulas for permanent and determinant are of super-polynomial size".
IEEE FOCS 2010
"Subexponential Algorithms for Unique Games and Related problems".
IEEE FOCS 2009
Best Paper Award: none?
IEEE FOCS 2008
"Two Query PCP with Sub-Constant Error"
IEEE FOCS 2007
"Space-Efficient Identity Based Encryption without Pairings"
IEEE FOCS 2006
"Settling the Complexity of 2-Player Nash-Equilibrium"
IEEE FOCS 2005
"The Unique Games Conjecture, Integrality Gap for Cut Problems and Embeddability of Negative Type Metrics into L1", and "Correcting Errors Beyond the Guruswami-Sudan Radius in Polynomial Time".
IEEE FOCS 2004
“Hardness of Approximating the Shortest Vector Problem in Lattices”, and “Cryptography in NC0”.