At the risk of stating the obvious, 2020 flipped the job market on its head. This time last year, as we were adjusting to zoom meetings and makeshift home offices, recruitment died. In April 2020, Reuben Sinclair was briefed on less than half the number of roles it was in April 2019. By the end of May 2020, there were just three live PR vacancies across the business. With recruitment being a strong indicator of industry buoyancy, the future was looking bleak.
Volume of hiring is back to pre-pandemic levels
However, Autumn 2020 and the acceptance of a ‘new normal’ saw new hiring plans being formulated as businesses looked to make up for lost time. Fast forward to Q1 2021 and Reuben Sinclair has been briefed on the same number of jobs per consultant as Q1 2019. It seems the bounce-back is well and truly here.
Nevertheless, this brings about a new set of challenges for those looking to recruit. With the volume of hiring back to pre-pandemic levels, and the majority of PR professionals that sadly lost their jobs during the pandemic having now found new positions, there’s a high level of competition for great candidates.
Candidates looking for security are hesitant to move jobs, for now
There’s also still some nervousness from candidates when it comes to moving jobs. Joining a new team remotely is a challenge and it wasn’t long ago that everyone’s job was at risk. Ultimately, many candidates are hesitant to make a move when they’re secure in their current position.
With lots of companies looking to hire again and fewer candidates wanting to move, once more there’s a supply and demand challenge when it comes to talent acquisition in the PR industry.
Candidates will review their career options when they feel ‘safe’
Employers should be wary of what’s to come; whilst their team might feel that moving jobs right now isn’t a sensible option, as lockdown lifts and life slowly returns to some degree of normality, candidate confidence in the market will start to match that of their employers.
With little to no movement in the past 12 months, and lots of time to reflect on what’s important, some candidates will be keen to reconsider their options as soon as it’s ‘safe’ to do so.
Get the best on board now to stay competitive
Now, more than ever, it’s important for employers to consider how to retain their best assets – their people – and ensure that when hiring for new talent they are able to get the best people on board. With that in mind, here are some top tips for employers in the post-pandemic resurgence:
Start with your existing team. Employees need to feel valued and recognised for their efforts throughout these challenging times, otherwise they’re going to start considering their options elsewhere. Ask for their opinions, try to understand what’s important to them and where they might be struggling, and then act on it. It’s never too late to let your people know your care.
When COVID hit, the starting point was to talk to employees to see how they were feeling, so Nick Bolshaw, our managing director, and I organised one-to-one chats with each employee, every Friday, to see how they were getting on. Once we knew that the team was OK, we could shift our focus to providing more structured support. There's no sense trying to impose what you think people want, what you think is good for them or, worst of all, what other companies are doing. Everyone is so different, so find out what people want and then be open to the fact that no two people are going to want the same thing.
- Michael Kahn, director, resources and development, Rostrum
Have a strong identity and know your culture. High on every candidate’s wish list is a ‘good company culture’. What ‘good’ looks like will be different for everyone and businesses should recognise they can’t be all things to all people. But it’s important to be able to define and articulate your culture. Long term retention relies on hiring people that feel like they belong.
Consider your interview process carefully. Interviews should be a two-way process; candidates are assessing a potential employer as much as they’re being assessed themselves. As well as ensuring the candidate is given all the necessary information, businesses should carefully consider who is conducting the interview. Can they put candidates at ease and make them feel welcome? Are they a good representation of the organisation?
Try to plan ahead. Talent pipelining means having an ‘always on’ approach to recruitment – engaging with talent even when you’re not actively hiring and continuously working on employer brand can help organisations get ahead of hiring by ensuring a ‘pipeline’ of potential candidates when you are ready to hire.
Mistakes whilst hiring tend to happen when businesses are in panic mode. Nurturing talent throughout the year not only provides your firm with a better idea of the quality of talent and what your team may be missing, but also allows for you to hire quickly and effectively when the time is right. This is essential in a candidate-driven market.
- Callum Stevenson, head of corporate affairs, Reuben Sinclair
Widen your horizons. If you’re finding it difficult to hire, think about essential skills and where they might be transferable from other sectors or disciplines. Try to hire for attitude over and above skillset – if someone has the right attitude, shares similar values and has the aptitude to learn, you can teach them the skills they need.
Take advantage of the ‘new normal’. Now we know it’s possible to work successfully from home, take the opportunity to consider candidates from outside of your normal geographic locations and unearth hidden talent. However, it’s important to ensure everyone is well equipped to work from home if that’s a requirement.
There’s a great deal of talent outside of the city – especially (and critically) more seasoned professionals who have had children and are raising a family. At Resonance, we have decided to take a hybrid approach to the office indefinitely, which makes it a lot easier to tap into that talent across the country. “With the help of Reuben Sinclair, we’ve just hired two more team members, one of whom lives on the South Coast. Being a London agency no longer limits us to talent based within the M25.
- Claire Williamson, managing director, Resonance
As more and more candidates reclaim the driving seat and review their career options, it is those employers that plan ahead to rebuild their talent pipelines and employer brand early that will most likely thrive.
To discuss your PR recruitment needs, contact Alexandra Lewington at Reuben Sinclair on 020 3826 1206 or email Alexl@reuben-sinclair.com.