Trends in the Current UK Recruitment Market

As we find ourselves 15 months on from the beginning of the first Lockdown restrictions here in the UK, we are now starting to see the eagerly anticipated bounce within much of the recruitment sector. From my discussions with hundreds of business owners, most markets have recovered and businesses are now experiencing levels similar to those pre-COVID with a significant volume of live roles hitting the market over the last couple of months.

However, while the number of live vacancies may well be on the rise, the extended Furlough Scheme, coupled with the effects Brexit is having on the labour market, is certainly creating a candidate shortage across many sectors. It has been reported by many that over 800,000 European workers returned to their homelands during the pandemic. With changes to immigration rules, it is not possible for many of these people to return. While the Furlough Scheme has undoubtedly helped millions of businesses and their workforces over the last year, it is now exacerbating sluggish job fluidity as those who remain on Furlough may well be eyeing redundancy payouts.

This talent shortage seems to be impacting all areas of the market. While sectors who traditionally use high numbers of temporary labour (such as agriculture, manufacturing, logistics and the recently opened sectors of retail and hospitality) are experiencing challenges hiring, so too are those looking for skilled talent in business critical roles.

As recruiters it is important we brief our clients on the challenges of hiring in such a market and set expectations accordingly. This is a great opportunity for independent recruiters to position themselves as the right partners to work with in order to source the talent clients need to achieve their business goals. Exclusivity, deposit payments and even full retained services are all excellent ways to bring on new business and ensure you are focusing your time working with clients who are committed to hiring. Now is the time to be turning down bad business – let your competition fight over contingency business given to multiple agencies while you focus on requirements you can successfully fill.

The temp market is seeing further disruption caused by COVID-specific roles – the staffing of testing and vaccination centres and the production of PPE. It is believed that many of these people will come back to the temp market as the comprehensive vaccination rollout starts to slow.

As an independent recruiter with either TEAM or NPA, this is the ideal time to collaborate with like-minded partners to support each other throughout these unique challenges. If you are unsure who to work with then reach out to the management team at either NPA or TEAM for guidance. These networks represent a large portfolio of Members – many of whom have experience in collaborating – and whose professionalism and quality can be an extension of your own service and resources. Partnering with the right colleagues in NPA and TEAM can scale your business by increasing productivity while not imposing the risk of directly employing more staff and the challenges of managing a larger workforce.

In the UK we are heading for a 4% growth in GDP this year and nearly 8% GDP growth next year. This is unheard of in the western world and are numbers more typically associated with the fast growing economies of India and China. This equates to a 20% growth in recruitment markets for the next 18 months, so my advice is to ensure you are prepared:

  • Stick to your strengths.
  • Say no to bad business.
  • Ask for exclusivity.
  • Pitch for deposits or retained assignments.
  • Educate your clients on the challenges in the current talent market.


Your clients will need to recognise the need to offer some degree of flexibility in working to attract the best talent and invest properly in a robust Diversity and Inclusion programme.

The future has real opportunity; don’t let it pass you by.

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