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Temperature Check – Recruitment in 2021


Simon Lythgoe market sentiment, 2021

​As we close on 2020, supposedly the year of clarity (20/20 vision) what do our Consultants see the future holding:

Despite the threat of a 2nd mutated strain arriving at our shores and the likelihood of measures akin to tier 5 happening in the near future, the vaccine roll-out is well underway, which hopefully means the beginning of the end for this wretched pandemic.

UK’s business confidence climbed to a nine-month high, according to the Lloyds Bank Business Barometer (21st December). And that’s despite harsh tier 4 restrictions, eroding business capital and putting too many on the brink across huge swathes of Britain. But, and it’s a big but, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Consequently, we thought it worthwhile to ask some of our most experienced consultants, with a combined 40+ years in the recruitment industry, to assess how they see their markets right now. In particular, we asked them to contact clients and candidates to take the temperature and see how the market thinks things will pan out as we enter 2021. Here’s what they said:

“On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is totally pessimistic and 10 is a return to pre-Covid recruitment, how optimistic are you for where the recruitment industry will be in the next six months?”

  • The answers averaged 7.3, which we take as being genuinely positive and with a fair degree of optimism.

    How is your market right now – volume of work, confidence levels, glut of candidates or candidate shortages in key areas? In general, volumes of work are growing. Comments included:

  • “work is increasing across all levels of vacancy.”

  • “Candidates are braver and happier to consider options.”

  • “For the part qual (accountancy) market I’d say it’s steady. It’s become busier in the last month or so. Lots of good candidates on the market but a shortage of jobs, especially at the transactional level.”

  • “We didn't see the usual December drop-off in recruitment this year"

  • “Candidate supply is very high which has meant a greater need for experts to shortlist CV’s more effectively.”

  • “Many passive candidates, which suggests candidate confidence is still high.”

    How do you see the next three months in your area of specialty?
    Cautious optimism seems to be the order of the day, tempered with realism. Comments included:

  • “I am hoping to maintain some of the momentum we gathered in 2020".

  • “I think January will be quieter than we hoped given the new Covid variants, but with the market pace towards the end of 2020 and the vaccine programme, we hope to see real up-lift in February".

  • “Still lots of hesitation to recruit due to Covid.”

  • “It seems clients want and need to recruit but restrictions are in place.”

What is the most common question you are currently being asked by employers?
In general, people want to know one simple thing: “what’s the market like?” One or two specific questions included:

  • “What are our competitors doing?” and “Are you able to support us with virtual onboarding?"

    What are the key things that employers need to do to ensure they hire the best talent when they need to recruit? Our experts have a range of views here. Some of the most important are:

  • “Follow a process with different interview techniques as well as technical tests dependent on the level at which you are recruiting."

  • “Make sure you stick to the timings/scheduled dates. Communication is important at the best of times, and right now transparency and honesty is a key factor in securing the best talent.”

  • “Be honest/realistic with salaries and career progression. Don’t use Covid or the fact that a candidate is desperate for work as an excuse to reduce pay.”

  • “Working from home is a big factor now. People want flexible working.”

    What is the most common question candidates are asking?
    There is one overriding theme here: candidates, like employers, want to know what the market is like for them. Some specific points raised include:

  • “Are there any risks in my taking this role in the current climate?”

  • “Would the client take me on despite my being too senior for this role?”

    In the current climate, what are the key things that candidates need to do to ensure they have the best chance of being hired? In many respects, nothing has really changed. The answers are still:

  • “Make sure your CV is well written and is aligned with the role(s) you are applying for.”

  • “Research the business and really prepare for the interview, including having some good questions to ask.”

  • "Make sure you're properly set up for a video interview; the background, a quiet space and the correct camera angle (nobody wants to be looking up your nose."

  • “Focus only on roles that are right for your skillset. The scatter-gun approach doesn’t work as there are so many people applying for jobs.”

  • “Build strong relationships with your recruiters.”

  • “Be versatile in interviews - show flexibility and commitment to the role you are interviewing for.”

And finally, for those who hire contractors, should the Government postpone the introduction of IR35 to the private sector, currently scheduled for April? In the unlikely event that anyone from Government is listening, the answer from our experts is an unequivocal “YES.” Specific comments included:

  • Especially for those firms that don’t want to make a long-term commitment to perm roles at this time.”

  • “The interim market is normally the first to recover when things go quiet and I think the introduction of IR35 would mean contracting could be less appealing to candidates – which in turn means meaning employers will miss out on some of the best talent on the market.”

  • “When IR35 was scheduled to begin in April 2020 we saw businesses holding back on strategic project hires as a result. The economy needs to avoid a similar situation as we hopefully begin to recover in Spring.”

  • “With the demand for more flexible working, much of which can be through contracts outside IR35, it makes no sense to introduce it next April.”

  • “Interim roles are hired for a reason - to support a business through a scheduled transition of change. Not allowing contractors to work outside IR35 means businesses have to pay more for flexible workforces and means interim professionals are more reluctant to take roles.”

    So there you have it; the views of some of our most senior people. Given their collective experience, there is a lot of accumulated wisdom here, which I am sure will be of value to employers and candidates alike. If you’d like to ask us any specific question, across any of our areas of speciality, please get in touch.