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Recruitment is busier than ever, but what does that mean?

As we close off the first quarter of 2022 and reflect on our expectations versus performance, it’s fair to say we’ve had an incredible start to the year. Significantly exceeding target, we’re certainly heading into Q2 with optimism and confidence – but as a team, we can all acknowledge that this strong start to the year hasn’t come without its challenges.

As a business, we’re operating loosely at double our normal workload in terms of live vacancies. A good problem to have, right? We thought so, too. However, despite a successful first three months, this has probably been the most challenging quarter we’ve experienced across our 40+ years of combined experience.

Typically, we would expect to see a spike in live roles to result in an equal uplift in placements made, but this simply hasn’t been the case. Instead, what we are noticing and having to adapt to accommodate, is an increase in declined offers and counter offers, as well as unprecedented increasing salary and benefits expectations from candidates.

To put the matter into numbers, we would usually expect around 10% of offers to be declined, for any number of reasons. Declined offers are part and parcel of the job and sometimes accepting just isn’t the right move for a candidate.

This quarter, that 10% has jumped to around 25%, and counter-offers have risen to close to 90%. Simply speaking, that’s one in four offers that don’t result in a placement and approximately nine out of 10 offers requiring further negotiation with clients, just to make the placement happen. There’s no hiding from the numbers, and with such a noticeable change in behaviour, it begs the question - what has caused such a drastic shift?

You could argue that we’re still seeing the knock-on effects from the pandemic, and more recently the economic climate and soaring cost of living. Perhaps candidates are still hesitant to leave roles they know are secure, despite being unfulfilled or with no opportunity to progress?

I also believe this shift in candidate behaviour is being driven by employers themselves, as clients are adapting to a market in which talent is sparse and should be held onto - whatever the cost. A less cynical view could also suggest that clients are working hard to nurture talent before they look to leave, which would help to account for the drop in available candidates for each vacancy.

Don’t get me wrong, the recruitment market is healthy and after the challenges that COVID-19 brought with it, we’re delighted to be busy – and more importantly, helping to match fantastic talent, with fantastic career opportunities.

But I can’t help but wonder what it all means for the future. And, as we head into Q2 of 2022 I know we’ll be asking ourselves; is this the ‘new normal’? Are soaring salary expectations sustainable? And how far can this ‘candidate’s market’ go before we see another shift in behaviours?