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Recruitment Trends Sept 2009

Recent media reports strongly suggest that recovery is starting.

Kevin Green, Chief Exec of the REC, commented earlier this month on recruitment records for August

 “For the first time in 17 months, this month’s report shows signs that the UK jobs market is improving.  It seems that employers are becoming more confident in their hiring decisions with an increase in permanent recruitment and growth in temporary placements for the first time in over a year”

The media have used these comments in such a way as to suggest it is evidence that we are on the way back toward healthy employment.

Any good accountant knows that a trend is a level of activity sustained over a period of time. August figures alone do not constitute a trend. If these results, gathered from recruitment agencies, were to be sustained then we may be able to claim that recovery is beginning. While good news is always welcome, care should be taken to understand the context of such reports.

There is a more likely explanation to the August result. The effect of pent up demand is a possible reason. Companies hold off from recruiting over a period of time to the point of damaging their businesses. As a consequence they decided there is no option but to recruit. A number of businesses reach the same point and happen to come to market at the same time. This is what may have happened in August, normally one of the quietest times in the recruitment cycle. This apparent and sudden uplift in the rise of employment opportunities represents a “spike” which is likely to be repeated from time to time, after which the market returns to its normal level for recession hit times.

Recruiting accountants through the last recession I observed a similar phenomenon including the media talking up the economy.  Not understanding the true state of the recruitment market presented the potential for making poor career and recruitment decisions.  Candidates should keep in mind that the employment market usually lags twelve months behind any recovery, as is well documented. In recession salaries become depressed temporarily and employers should resist the temptation of employing accountants on rates lower than commensurate with their level of ability or the post. When recovery occurs, confidence and rates improve. Naturally candidates will then move for better incomes.  The result is a shortened appointment and disruption to the business. A false economy.

For candidates not all is doom and gloom. Recruitment still takes place in recession but at a slower pace and on occasion “spikes” will occur. When they do,  candidates should perhaps bear in mind the old adage “make hay while the sun shines”. If you are redundant or facing redundancy, look carefully at opportunities and don’t necessarily reject them out of hand, nor assume that the market is back and become too selective. If you are in work and looking for career progression, when you are presented with opportunities during a “spike” be vigilant over not only the stability of the business but the stability of the role within the organisation. As an accountant, perform your own personal due dilligence on the company and the role to ensure a career enhancing move that wont be prematurley terminated.

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