As of the 14th September 2021, there are 1 million job vacancies in the UK. Wow – that’s some figure! Our industry isn’t necessarily one which has the highest number of vacancies (we’ll leave that to hospitality and logistics!), but everyone knows finding the right candidates is tricky at the moment with candidates being too nervous to move roles even if they’re unhappy, many receiving multiple offers if they are looking, or counter-offers from employers desperate not to enter the recruitment market rather than because they want to keep the person.
At AF, we’ve noticed a significant change in recruiting habits this year, and we’ve successfully placed more entry-level candidates than we have for at least the last 8 years. It’s not our busiest area, most people will know that with the exception of graduate-specialist recruiters, the norm is for more experienced hires to be made through our services. The vast majority of those placed are recent grads who’ve undertaken work experience, demonstrating what we’ve known for years that ‘just’ a degree isn’t necessarily enough.
The really interesting fact though is the number of clients who have said that they just can’t get the talent even at this level. Ok, the pandemic is going to have played a significant factor with this, with many unable to take up placement offers, but we would expect to see the results of this feeding into the cohort of 2022, not this year. Attitude is deemed a massive problem; candidates applying for jobs but not responding to interview requests, and general apathy about attending interviews, even if they have experience.
The upshot of this? We’ve seen clients coming to us to recruit candidates with little or no experience, but the right attitude. We’re now seeing candidates with only a week’s of work of ‘relevant’ work experience being considered for roles if they have the right attitude. And the right attitude is obvious; they come back to you quickly and politely, and they’ve probably worked throughout their degree even if it’s not in an office-based role (though that’s clearly helping). Clients are realising that to fill their vacancies, attitude, not experience, is becoming key.
When I started working at AF Selection over 20 years ago, it was the norm for candidates not to have a degree in PR for example, but a strong Humanities degree and experience working for the University newspaper – we had several clients who wouldn’t touch PR degrees with a barge-pole! Thankfully, that has now changed.
We know it’s hard to take on someone and train them completely from scratch, but if we don’t start training people in this way and investing at junior levels, the candidate shortage is going to get worse.