The Candidate-Led Job Market Explained and Our Advice to Businesses

The Candidate-Led Job Market Explained and Our Advice to Businesses


We are currently experiencing a candidate-led job market. UK job vacancies are at an all-time high, and millions of employees are planning to switch jobs post pandemic. But how did we get here and what does this mean for businesses moving forward? The Harper Fox Partners senior leadership team, Elaine Hickman (Head Of Candidate Research), Henry Allen-Horton (Senior Search Consultant), Luke Munday (Business Development Manager) and Scarlett Allen-Horton (Director), sat down to discuss these issues and share their advice.


What does the current job market look like?

Elaine: “The current job market is picking up however it is very much candidate-led. Of course, this varies from industry to industry, depending on how impacted they were by the pandemic. The aerospace, automotive and retail industries were hit heavily with mass redundancies and many employees were put on furlough. Whereas the energy industry remained mostly steady and the requirement for health and social care professionals soared.”

Henry: “There are some exceptions but overall, we are now in a period of huge recovery from the pandemic and there is plenty of choice for candidates. There are far more opportunities out there for candidates at the moment as businesses ramp up post pandemic.”


How do you know that we are currently experiencing a candidate-led market within the STEM sectors?

Luke: “Candidates now have plenty of choice and control over their next move. They have the luxury of being able to play the field. This results in more declined offers which is quite common in a candidate-led market.”

Elaine: “We are speaking to candidates who have had multiple offers and some are then using these offers as leverage to progress in their current position. We are also seeing more businesses counteroffering as companies realise there is a skills shortage and don’t want to lose their highly skilled employees.”


Why are we in this position?

Luke: “We have just gone through a period where there was mass unemployment and furlough over the last year and huge insecurity around jobs. But that has completely flipped now, we have the reverse. There are so many more vacancies and candidates have much more choice.”

Elaine: “In the UK and Europe, Brexit has also had an impact on how willing people are to relocate. We are finding that the UK can now be seen as a less attractive proposition for European candidates and vice versa.”


What are the consequences of a candidate-led market? What does it mean for businesses?

Henry: “It is much tougher to get the right candidate for your vacancy because there are more options on the table for them. This means that businesses will need move quickly and really sell themselves and what they can offer. We will see salaries start to increase as businesses will need to compete to offer the best packages to attract and retain the best candidates. We have already seen wages starting to increase, in particular for those higher-level positions or highly skilled technical roles.”

Elaine: “Companies are also realising that to avoid their staff members being poached by competitors they will have to improve their retention initiatives. There is a greater focus on mental health, inclusion, and flexibility now more than ever before.”


Will a candidate-led job market impact the STEM sectors EDI efforts?

Scarlett: “This depends on the specific sector – some industries are much more buoyant whereas others are much more reserved. I believe overall, yes it will. In a candidate-led job market, there may be a negative impact on the STEM sectors general EDI efforts, especially if there is less movement of candidates. A candidate-led market will decrease the number of options of candidates to move around in positions.  This means it may be harder for businesses to meet their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion goals. However, ultimately this depends on the recruitment process, a good search firm will be able to present a diverse candidate shortlist that is reflective of society regardless of the current landscape.”


What would your advice be to businesses currently hiring?

Henry: “Where possible, move quickly through the recruitment process. This reduces the chance of your favoured candidate receiving another offer whilst they await your decision. Also, be prepared to sell yourself to the candidate. In a candidate-led market it is important to really sell the business, ensure your offer is attractive and outline why your company is a good fit for the candidate longer term.”

Luke: “Look at the package you are offering as a whole, not just the salary. Healthcare, childcare assistance, education and progression are sometimes just as important to candidates as pay. Try to provide flexibility in as many areas as possible and consider work from home opportunities. Also try to be flexible with the job specification. Do candidates need to be from a specific location, do they need a specific qualification? This will open up the talent pool available to you, increasing your chances of finding the best candidate for the vacancy.”


If your business is currently hiring, Harper Fox Partners are optimally placed to assist with your executive search needs. Even in the current candidate-led market and with the skills shortage issues faced by the STEM sector, we are confident we can bring perfect fit leadership talent, first time, to your business. Get in touch to start the conversation.



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