The Year of the Candidate – Adapt and Thrive


The first quarter of 2017 is now over and it’s been a busy one. The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, annual gender pay gap reporting, and the rollout of auto enrolment across SMEs, the UK’s biggest employment sector, have all conspired to provide an environment where companies are taking a close look a their recruitment schedules. Add in disappointing growth in GDP and a slow down in the uptake of permanent personnel and the recruitment landscape appears even more dismal.


Whilst many recruiters have noticed a shift from permanent hiring to temporary contracts as a result of the matter of the ever-looming Brexit negotiations, business owners in certain sectors have bemoaned a significant downturn in job applications. Catering & Hospitality, particularly in tourist regions, have noticed a reduction in applications for roles usually filled by travelling EU workers. The fall of the pound has made the Euro a far stronger contender for these workers. For small business owners in other sectors, the absence of applications from the EU talent pool has left them also struggling to recruit the right people with the right skills. For sectors already suffering from the skills shortage, such as IT, construction and logistics, these factors are only adding to their woes. Added to this, the unemployment rate in the UK has fallen to a ten-year low, resulting in a smaller domestic pool of workers from whom to choose.


The British Chambers of Commerce recently conducted a survey of companies operating in the Manufacturing and Services sectors. This survey revealed both sectors reported ‘solid growth’ in the first quarter of 2017 and as a result, a greater number of companies within both sectors were looking to further increase staffing levels: 86% of manufacturing firms and 59% of services companies. However, of that number, 74% of manufacturing firms and 58% of services companies has declared a serious problem when it comes to finding candidates with the relevant skills.


In the medium to long term, the Apprenticeship Levy should help to alleviate most of the sectors afflicted by the skills shortage but what are businesses to do in the meantime and what part can recruiters play?


Agencies specialising in one or two sectors may carry an advantage in this respect. If looking to fulfil a specific role, many businesses may take the view that if they have had little success recruiting a position themselves, a generalist recruiter will have as little luck. A specialist agency then, will be more likely to attract both the client and the candidate. Generalist agencies may parry this by promoting the background, experience and skills each consultant has specifically and by recruiting consultants specifically to take on specific sectors.


Recruiters should be able to maximise their position with potential clients by highlighting their unique knowledge of how to find and access appropriate candidates: there’s little point hunting for polar bears in a rain forest. In addition, having access to the latest technologies along with the knowledge and training in how to use them to source candidates is essential: the candidate pool is shrinking and therefore the market is increasingly competitive.


The demand for skilled workers is high enough that now is the time for recruiters to examine their passive candidate pool and expand their network. Ask for referrals, ask the candidate if they know of anyone who might be interested in registering for a role. On receiving a CV, look beyond the job title and examine the role and responsibilities to determine whether another position may fit the bill, as often a candidate’s skills will grow outwith the original remit of their job description.


We’re living in The Year of the Candidate, so the candidate experience has never been more critical than it is now. Woes betide the recruiter who neglects to call a ‘star candidate’ back, provide information and deliver feedback in a timely fashion. Guaranteed, such a candidate will be quick to tell their peers whether their experience has been negative, so make sure they have something positive to say!


As an industry, Recruitment has had to weather many storms, from bad PR to economic downturns, and this period is simply one more challenge to overcome. Those recruiters who are able to adapt and offer a superior service will be the ones who not only survive, they will thrive.