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Oxfordshire Recruitment Market Overview for Q2 of 2022

Business is booming for Oxfordshire employers but recruitment remains an ongoing challenge and competition for the best candidates rages on. While some employers are still struggling to get to grips with market conditions, others have risen to the challenge and are starting to reap the rewards. Those that are winning their recruitment battles are taking a flexible approach and thinking more laterally about the roles they are trying to fill.

Our quarterly Oxfordshire Recruitment Market Overview for April to June 2022 includes insights on the latest trends as well as advice on how to succeed in spite of the ongoing challenges.

A large scale report published by jobsite Monster in April 2022 has revealed that 90% of UK employers are planning to recruit this year – up from 65% in 2021. Around 47% will be replacing staff while 43% will be looking to recruit for new roles, according to Monster's survey of 3,100 hiring decision-makers.

In Oxfordshire, we are seeing increased demand for HR professionals along with in-house and agency recruiters – although employers are still actively looking to fill roles at all levels in the other areas that we recruit for, including PA and administration, marketing and finance. This demand coupled with a shortage of permanent applicants, has led to more temporary workers being taken on and has contributed to the sharp rise in temp-to-perm placements that we have seen over the last quarter.

According to Monster, 87% of employers say they are struggling to fill their vacancies which sends a clear signal that something has to change. With so few candidates applying for roles, employers are having to rethink their recruitment processes and policies. Fortunately, there are clear signs that those that are adapting are succeeding.

Key hiring challenges and how to overcome them

Hiring challenges are often individual, but there are three main hurdles that appear to be affecting employers' ability to recruit successfully:

  1. Skills shortages
  2. 'Unrealistic' demands from candidates
  3. Competition

These challenges are unlikely to diminish in the near future which means employers are having to find new ways to overcome them.

Actively look for transferrable skills and experience

There are lots of competent people out there who may be interested in your job vacancy but do not have the specific skills or sector experience that you are looking for. Unfortunately, too many employers are still rejecting candidates that do not meet a long list of criteria, even when they have transferable skills and experience that could add significant value to the role.

When it comes to the business support roles that we recruit for, we find that many of the practical skills required for the day-to-day job can be taught and developed in-house. We recognise that training often requires a significant investment of time, manpower and in some cases money, but in our experience, if you take the long-term view and invest in your people, you are much more likely to build a rewarding and long-lasting relationship with them – as well as the specific skills your business needs.

Occasionally, even when a candidate has the right skills, employers will reject candidates because they have never worked in a particular industry sector. Rather than being a disadvantage, you could argue that this is an opportunity to improve diversity and inject fresh thinking and new perspectives into the role, the team and the business.

Soft skills and behavioural traits are also often not given enough consideration, particularly when it comes to the roles that we recruit for in PA and administration, marketing, HR and finance. For example, an ability to communicate well and inspire confidence at all levels, be efficient and organised, a natural leader, strategic thinker or commercially savvy, are qualities that are difficult to teach but highly prized. It is therefore often surprising to see how under-valued these qualities are – or rather the degree to which easily taught, practical skills are still prioritised.

Actively looking for transferable skills and experience is not about compromising on quality. We have seen many examples over the years where clients have taken a 'whole person' approach and hired a candidate from a different industry sector to their own, with brilliant soft skills and transferrable practical skills, and been delighted with the outcome.

Be flexible and tackle 'unrealistic' demands head on!

This mantra hasn't changed and is as relevant now as it was in the last three quarters. Job seekers are still in short supply and those that are proactively looking for new opportunities, are selective and discerning. They are more in tune with their personal and professional needs now than they were at any point before the pandemic. As an employer, you may have a long wish list but rest assured, the best candidates will have one too.

Flexible working is now a given – both in terms of hours of work and location. According to Monster, 43% of employees are looking for hybrid working while 25% want to work from home permanently.

In addition to work-life balance, today's candidates continue to be highly motivated by salary, benefits, career development opportunities and company culture (including a clear sense of purpose, ethics, trust and autonomy), not to mention individual specifications – for example, in relation to commuting.

It's hardly surprising then that many employers are feeling daunted. Understandably, many are unable or unwilling to meet every demand, but fortunately there is usually room for a sensible conversation based on mutual respect and a willingness to compromise.

Our advice to employers is to remain open-minded and flexible and to consider their preferred candidate's demands carefully – even if they go against the status quo or seem unreasonable. We find that candidates are often happy to meet employers half-way if they feel that their needs have been carefully considered and time has been taken to explain why not all of their requirements can be accommodated.

Unfortunately for Oxfordshire employers, this is a candidate's market which can make compromise difficult. More often than not, candidates are in the driving seat with at least one other job offer to choose from. Salaries have always been a key motivator so it is important to benchmark them regularly to make sure yours is competitive. You shouldn't have to over pay though. If you have an attractive benefits package, compelling employer brand and take the time to showcase everything that makes your organisation special, candidates are usually more inclined to compromise for a great employment experience.

Beat the competition and consider 'Temp to Perm' solutions

The businesses that we work with in Oxford and the market towns of Oxfordshire, neighbouring areas along the M4 corridor and in London, are thriving and many have turned to temporary workers for immediate support. We find that initially, employers take on our temps as an interim solution to bridge a gap or give them more flexibility, but the match is often so successful that they end up offering our temps a permanent role.

This trend is likely to continue as it offers clients and candidates a real-life insight into what it is like to work with one another, before making a firm commitment. It also offers a welcome respite for jaded employers who have been finding it difficult to secure their ideal permanent candidate.

Interestingly, we've noticed that employers are willing to be more flexible with the temps they hire – for example, by embracing transferable skills and experience – and yet once the person is in place and demonstrates what they can do – they are happy to offer them a permanent role.

There may be a lesson here for those struggling to make a permanent hire.

We are here to help!

For further information about the recruitment market in Oxfordshire, advice or support with your next hire, please contact Kate Allen, Managing Director at Allen Associates, on 01865 335600 or kate@allen-associates.co.uk

Further insights

Kate Allen

Kate Allen

Kate founded Allen Associates in 1998 out of a determination to build a recruitment business which delivered a bespoke service centred on the needs of clients and candidates.

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