"There must be hundreds of people out there at the moment… Right…?"​.

"There must be hundreds of people out there at the moment… Right…?"​
January 30, 2023

Pandemic recruitment myths…

There’s no getting away from the fact that the last year has been one of the most horrendous on record for most people – lockdowns, restricted movement, negative impact on the economy and the sometimes unmanageable stress levels of anyone trying to run a business in entirely uncharted waters.

All of that said, as in the case of the 2008/9 financial crash, the mainstream, sensationalist media have an awful lot to answer for, and their influence is having a profound effect on the current employment market.

I have been able to take comfort from the very large number of businesses who after the paralysis of the initial UK lockdown last year, have taken the decision to continue to actively recruit and have stuck to their plans to replace leavers and in many cases, appoint to speculative / growth roles.

Undoubtedly there are fewer vacancies across generalist areas – call centres, general administration etc, but in almost all other areas; Specialist, Accountancy, Technical, Sales etc there is consistent demand. 

The employment market is at the current time, unlike anything I have known in my recruitment career of nearly 20 years. Recruitment activity continues at a medium pace, candidate activity and availability is at an all time low, yet a perception exists amongst those businesses who are recruiting, that an army of top quality candidates will arrive within moments of an online advert going live, because ‘there must be hundreds of people out there at the moment… right…?’ Wrong. 

In many businesses the recruitment process has slowed considerably owing to additional stages added in readiness for the onslaught of available talent, decision making is taking longer in some cases due to a number of factors. For some, a false perception creeping in that the need to compete and ‘race’ for talent has faded away along with the threat posed by other companies that must be actively recruiting. For others, different focuses that have come in to play – operating a COVID secure business, concerns around remote onboarding and how to do it effectively – an endless list.

The reality of the situation is that overall, significant reductions in [quality] application rates are being reported across the recruitment industry. There will of course be sector exceptions to this, but as a result, a further increased majority of successfully filled roles come from candidates in our network, or people we seek out. Put simply – there are very few quality candidates making new applications or looking to change roles.

At the £30-50k + marketspace, candidates with two years service or more are reluctant to forfeit this service in pursuit of new opportunities and the uncertainty (along with reduced rights) that may bring. In addition, many of those would be candidates are busy and challenged juggling home schooling duties, and making compromises within the family to enable themselves, or their partner to work some or all of their hours. There is limited appetite to complicate this further by adding a job change into the mix.

At the lower end of the salary scale, many candidates are still furloughed. There are of course many people who fall within this category who are desperate to return to their jobs and the sense of purpose and normality that would bring, but also a good number who have computed that 80% of their salary with no childcare, commuting, fuel, parking or sandwich shop bills and the freedom to paint, decorate and dog walk to their hearts content is a luxury not to be given up any earlier than absolutely necessary, so they aren’t looking for a new job either! Add to that the keyworkers, service technicians, heating, fire engineers, property maintenance technicians all of whom are incredibly busy and the newfound demand for import and export roles driven by the administrative burden of the B word, and it all makes for a very interesting dynamic.

So lets talk about all of those people who have been made redundant… Of course, there will be a number of people in the market who have fallen victim to company closures or rightsizing in affected areas and my comments in no way seek to play down the stress and anxiety that will have been encountered by those individuals. I’m pleased that we have been able to support many people facing redundancy and help them into new roles and we will continue to do so. It is important to maintain perspective. 

We all will have heard the many sensationalist media reports about the ‘High Street Blood Bath’, big names across the world of travel, tourism, retail who have been forced to shed headcount in droves. So dark and pessimistic are these stories that we could all be forgiven for the seemingly rational belief that we will all be living in mud huts – penniless and destitute by four o’clock next Tuesday. It is this very panic that keeps us clicking, reading and sharing articles, feeding the pay-per-click machine. If you search really hard though, you will find barely covered stories about the raging success of many other businesses, about how two companies alone - Amazon and Asos have created more jobs between them since the start of the pandemic than have been shed by many of the biggest names put together. You’ll find stories covering the boom in mortgage businesses and the thousands of roles created by supermarkets and food producers. Cumulatively these go a long way towards countering the number of redundant roles, which of course have been significantly limited by the existence of the Furlough scheme.

When we blend this with a candidate market which prior to the pandemic was already the driest we have known, the needle has barely shifted in most sectors. 

 For the many businesses still looking to attract talent, to grow or to replace headcount – your employer brand, recruitment process, candidate experience and associated factors have never been more pivotal. Now more than ever, employers need a clearly defined process where timescales are communicated, kept to and feedback provided quickly. Whether a recruitment consultancy is involved or not, it isn’t too difficult in most cases to put together an interactive, engaging onboarding process which can be delivered remotely and we are well placed to offer advice on this without commitment or obligation. There is no question about the value that a passionate recruiter can add in this market - often the attraction of a passive candidate, or a previous contact can make a significant difference.

For further information, comment or discussion on any of the points raised here please get in touch.