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Both recruiting employers and candidates are becoming frustrated, as varied jobseekers compete for often inappropriate but available roles



17 November 2009

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The past 18 months has undoubtedly brought many changes and challenges to both employers and employees. Layoffs, pay cuts, rationalisation and redundancies have been widespread, thus contributing to a job market saturated with candidates competing for fewer jobs.

However, despite this steep competition among candidates, employers are still struggling to find professionals with the skill sets and experience they require.

In addition to this, employers face a new challenge: ensuring their companies are prepared when the economy does make an inevitable turnaround, which will give them a competitive advantage.

Consistently employers and candidates are asking me the same questions. What challenges are employers facing in recruitment and how will these change in the future? Where will jobs be added first in the recovery? How will employers retain the talent they have preserved throughout the recession? How will compensation be impacted?
So I will attempt to answer these questions emanating from either side of the recruitment process.

The challenges

At present clients employing candidates are finding themselves overwhelmed with applications from non-qualified candidates for the roles that they have available. This is a symptom of growing unemployment and no one can blame unemployed candidates for applying for any live vacancies. But the level of frustration in HR departments is apparent and most companies are adapting and making changes to deal with this issue as professionally as possible.

Employers that cut staffing levels extensively are taking a close look at the core skills needed in new hires in order to rebuild their rosters once the economic recovery takes hold and to make sure that they have not over rationalised their businesses and losing sales due to a lack of service.

Where to find the first new jobs

Our recruitment managers currently consider customer service as the most critical to a company’s success and look to fill service-orientated operations roles, followed by sales, business development, marketing and finance.

When the economy does start to rebound, our recruitment managers say operations, customer service and sales departments will add positions first, followed by marketing/creative, business development, human resources and accounting/finance.

In the meantime, recruitment managers continue to appreciate employees who can perform multiple functions. Employers cited multitasking, initiative and creative problem solving as the most valuable characteristics in ideal new hires.

Retaining talent

There is a real danger of companies losing their talent as opportunities rise during a recovery. Employers need to look at the way rationalisation is handled in the downturn to avoid a mass exodus in the upturn. Employers must also consider how their decisions during the financial crisis have impacted job satisfaction and loyalty of their current staff.


Employers are aware that competitive pay and benefits will play a critical role in retaining talent. Many companies have reduced wages in line with the downturn. However, deflation in the context of the wider economy has gone some way to compensating employees for this. It seems to be quite obvious that over inflation of wages contributed to our economic downfall and with Northern Ireland being so accessible, there is a real need for competitiveness. Will wages rise during an upturn? Absolutely, will they spiral out of control? That is unlikely.



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