Is This The End of the Candidate Led IT Jobs Market?

  • February 1, 2021

We’ll be honest with you – we didn’t see this coming. When we blogged this time last year about our IT recruitment industry predictions for 2020, nowhere did we foresee a global pandemic, widescale business interruption, and no pubs for the majority of the year. We certainly didn’t think we would be writing about the entire jobs market turning on its head within a matter of months.

Changes to the IT Jobs market

We’ve written a lot about the foibles of the IT jobs market and how increasingly candidate-led it had become. We’ve thought about strategies UK employers could use to secure and retain top talent, to develop talent and skills within their own workforce and how we could work together to bridge the skills gap for the future.

But here we are, less than a year later, living and working in a very different world. Frightening, uncertain, and though improved in many ways in terms of new-found flexibility of working and work-life balance, it is almost unrecognisable from the familiar world we entered into in January 2020.

Over the course of the last decade, a candidate-driven market had evolved from record low unemployment levels. In the IT sector, particularly, innovation and rapid technological advancement added fuel to the fire. Top talent were so in demand that they were often deliberating over multiple job offers as well as counteroffers from their current employer tempting them to stay onboard.

The result was, as we have blogged about extensively in the past, a war for talent. This didn’t only translate to more and more competitive salaries, but also resulted in a focus on the so-called soft-benefits and company culture that can provide the edge between one employer and another.

Now, amongst these very same people who were only months ago beating off potential employers with a proverbial stick, there has been a paradigm shift. There are those who have been furloughed and haven’t worked since March, made redundant, who have taken pay cuts, whose roles are uncertain and who are now often too expensive and experienced for the businesses who are looking to recruit but must simultaneously tighten their belts.

People are grateful to have jobs

There’s an understandable air of gratitude amongst those with job security that has, for now, dampened ambitions and thoughts of moving on. There’s a pause, a stay, time to reflect on what we have and focus less on what we might be missing out on.

There’s been a shift in employers’ attitudes, too.

A year ago, employers had no choice but to invest heavily in developing and selling their culture, brand and reputation, as well as the soft benefits that could attract top talent through their doors and into their teams.

With plummeting hiring and investment confidence as signalled by the REC, this has left those clients who still want to hire with a very different market than the one they were navigating only months prior.

These extraordinary circumstances presented extraordinary challenges, and in many ways, the business world has been flipped on its head. Subsequently, the jobs market has also been flipped on its head. Entering a sudden and stark recession has left the market saturated with candidates – saturated with good candidates.

Employers are calling the shots

Employers have been rubbing their hands together with glee, and with other priorities to tend to, there’s also been a relaxation in how much effort certain employers are putting into selling themselves to potential candidates.

Previously, we were preaching that time was of the essence and while you are busy umming and ahhing your chosen candidate was busy accepting another offer, now it seems employers can focus a little more on their needs and wishlists. With some juicy low hanging fruit ripe for the picking, making strategic hires at this time could pay dividends.

The future is unpredictable

Learning from our experience of 2020, we won’t be making any predictions for 2021. Market conditions are interesting, and with great hope for the COVID-19 vaccine programme being rolled out in the early part of this year, who knows where we could be by next January if we recover quickly.

In the meantime, we are working closely with our clients to understand how their businesses are affected by the ongoing recession and the pandemic, and how we can best meet their needs.

We are also continuing to register high-calibre candidates, and it is our advice to our clients that now more than ever it is the time to seize the opportunity to find the right talent to take your business forward. There are opportunities available that would previously been unimagined. But, now is not the time to lose sight of all of the work you have put into developing culture, brand and reputation. If we have learned anything from the last year, let it be that we should always be expecting the unexpected.

Whether you want to discuss your options and prospects at this time as a candidate, or your business is looking to seize the moment and make hires, our expert team are here to help. We would love to hear from you.

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