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Simon Benstead: Strong signs of improving recruitment market

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A recent ‘jobs outlook’ survey by one the country’s largest recruitment groups has said that employers across the country will be looking to grow their workforce over the next six months.

This is the strongest outlook since 2008 and employers in the finance and business industries are the most positive. This outlook does not match the current economic climate and I have been closely monitoring our own vacancy situation to see if this looks right and how it is that employment is increasing but the economy is still flat.

Broadly, I agree with this outlook and we ourselves have seen a big upturn in vacancies this year and the signs are that this will continue for the rest of 2012.

In addition to our regular core clients, we are seeing work coming through from clients that have not recruited for several years as well as from clients that have not used us previously.

However, we continue to operate in a climate where employers are being very careful over their recruitment and the whole process can be extremely lengthy.

A vacancy remaining unfilled for a long time does not appear to be overly-detrimental to the company and employers are only prepared to make an offer when they are convinced they have the right person. They are being careful and they can afford to be – after all the candidates are not collecting offers elsewhere so there is no requirement to rush.

Clients are well aware, however, that there are shortages of skills in certain areas and they are often prepared to pay well for the right person. They may have spent a long time looking for the right individual and they are not going to risk losing them over a few thousand pounds extra if the candidate is worth it.

This year we have seen some huge pay rises although this is also partly due the fact that salaries have been held low over the last few years.

A lot of the vacancies that are coming in are not new jobs but replacements and this also adds weight to the increase in confidence argument, candidates need to balance the risk of leaving an employer they know well and more confidence will mean more people moving and therefore more vacancies.

From our point of view, it is very encouraging to see a growth in vacancies from attracting new clients who have tried to recruit through their normal means and have failed. Whatever anyone says about a recession, it’s a great time to pick up some new clients and show them what you can do.

So, on the whole, I would agree with this recruitment company’s findings but I think we have to be very careful not assume that growth will automatically follow an increase in confidence.

The gap in time between thinking about hiring and someone starting can be an awfully long one and a lot can change in that time. It may be that we have to wait until the New Year before we start any evidence of the current positive employment outlook.

Simon Benstead is a director of James Associates

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