Although the current news headlines are dominated by the trouble involving the global stock markets, the British economy is still performing well and business confidence is generally positive. This is reflected in a genuine appetite to hire new staff and the recruitment sector is consequently rude health. At BCL Legal, 2015 has proven to be extremely busy across all of our regions and legal disciplines – in-house, private practice, North, South, commercial, civil etc. – and we are seeing clients new and old approaching us for help. In particular, we have seen a dramatic increase in clients seeking assistance having tried and failed to recruit direct, and we are seeing the average hiring time increase – industry figures put the average hiring time at c. 28 days, which is 14 days longer than 2010.
Why is this? Simply put, whilst the jobs market is buoyant at present, the volume of candidate applications per job is reducing. The market has turned back to being candidate-led – i.e. a market where the candidate has various job options, is in short supply and/or is being well looked after by their existing employers to try to retain them. This makes filling each job much harder and it increases the chance that a role will remain unfilled or will endure a back-out situation – e.g. when a candidate changes their mind or is retained (bought back) by their existing employer.
A recent article on the Recruitment Grapevine website comments on this subject. Utilising data from Adzuna’s UK Job Market Report, the article tells us that ‘there were 0.64 jobseekers for every advertised vacancy in July 2015’ whilst the number in July 2014 was 1.14.’ The premise of the article is that this is a result of a reduction in the average advertised salary, which has ‘decreased from £33,873 in July 2014 to £33,505 in July 2015’, and a result of employers ‘boosting the salaries of their existing staff’ and therefore having ‘less money in the bank for recruitment’. It also talks about a ‘ flood of lower paid or part-time roles coming onto the market … pulling the average advertised salaries down’ – this is less relevant in the legal sector.
Our experience at BCL Legal is not so much that advertised salaries have reduced compared to last years figures, it is more a consequence of a lack of high quality job applicants to suit demand. This is a result of candidates (employees) being happier – as salary and career advancement is increasingly possible – and because there is simply not enough talent in the market to satisfy demand. It is correct that employers are looking to reward their existing (loyal) staff however this is in part driven by a desire to retain those staff because it is simply too costly to lose an employee who might be difficult to replace (either through external recruitment or through training and development of an existing staff member). This is the cause of many buy-back situations where a candidate pulls out having been made an offer.
With the volume of job applicants reducing and the length of time required to fill a job increasing, the need for employers to work with a credible and specialist recruitment consultancy has never been higher. Running a job advert and waiting for applicants is no longer enough, employers need to partner with a recruitment company that has well developed networks, a strong reputation and an established presence in the market. Candidate and client referrals and networking, plus the utilisation of an extensive historic database is the best way to find the people needed. On the part of the employer, an open mind about your candidate requirements is also needed – some flexibility on background, experience, salary, academics, location etc. is now needed to ensure a suitable shortlist can be generated. Moving quickly is also vital – candidates are often receiving multiple offers and those who delay will lose out.