Recruitment in 2020: how the candidate market has changed

What a difference six months makes! At the beginning of the year, we were all concerned about finding candidates; now, there are more than we could have ever imagined. Here we look at how and why the market’s changed so much, and what it means for recruiters.

Back in March – which feels like years ago now – we looked at the latest Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID) survey showing what over 2000 recruiters were expecting in 2020. 43% said their biggest challenge to growing their business was the ongoing skills shortage – in fact, we went as far as to say “There’s simply no end in sight for the tight talent pools across many industries”. How wrong we were.

Welcome to the new world

Six months, a global pandemic and a complete shutdown of the UK economy later, the tables have completely turned. From being a candidate’s market, it’s suddenly flooded with people looking for work, as companies have cut staff and stopped hiring. LinkedIn described it as ‘the toughest job market in a generation’.

Media coverage has highlighted the situation too – such as Manchester restaurant 20 Stories, who advertised for a receptionist and had 963 applications in just 24 hours, or the London pub inundated with 484 applications for two £9 per hour jobs.

The reasons for the changes are fairly obvious: reduced demand in many sectors, such as travel, aviation and retail, has also had a massive knock-on effect onto supplier businesses; continued uncertainty about the future has meant few firms are rushing to return to ‘normal’; and changes in the way we live and work has brought a shift in demand for different roles.

Adapting to succeed

In this new, ever-changing world, adaptability will be the key to success – not just in working remotely, but in resetting expectations, realigning skills and refocusing on markets that are stronger.

As ever, while some business sectors have been badly hit, others have thrived. High street retail has been weak for some time, but lockdown has boosted online shopping, for example; as a result, delivery firms such as Hermes announced they’d be hiring 10,500 new staff. Construction and trades have shown strong demand since the end of lockdown, while roles for banking professionals have also been pretty resilient. And with so many people still working from home, IT roles are more in demand than ever – according to The Recruiter, they made up about a third of the total UK vacancies in June.

Advising candidates

So with an estimated 106% more applicants battling it out for every job, what advice can you give your candidates to help them land the role? HR Grapevine spoke to several recruitment leaders to get their thoughts, and found adaptability to be key here too.

‘Soft skills’, such as people, communication and social skills were seen as important, while many employers are currently looking for flexibility and agility – with experience of working in a disrupted environment being a real plus. Candidates who are positive and honest about the value they can bring are also in demand. At a managerial level, the ability to adapt to change is as important as leadership skills; and with budgets tight, companies will be looking for leaders who get involved in their strategies, rather than always delegating.

One industry figure even went as far as saying that ‘more candidates seem to be applying for work they don’t really want’. So candidates who show a genuine interest in the role and engage with the business’ growth will definitely stand out.

The future may be uncertain; but if recruiters, like their candidates, look to adapt to the inevitable changes that lie ahead, success will surely follow.

Back Office is here to offer specialist support to recruitment agencies, especially during these tricky times. To find out more, talk to one of our team on 01260 280 290 or just drop us an email.

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