Back to Latest Posts

A Candidate's Market

Just a few years ago, the search industry was down 50% from the previous year.  Unemployment hit 10%.  Companies were shedding people.  Replacement hiring - only if really needed. Interestingly, candidates would not return calls - they were 'hunkering down' if they had a job. If they were unemployed/in transition, they would apply for every job they found.

2014 - what a difference a few years can bring.  While the news still reports higher than wanted unemployment, the market has improved substantially.  The retained executive search industry stands (again) as a leading economic indicator - we are seeing strong labor demand. Candidates we contact are returning our calls - and open to hearing about opportunities. Opportunities - NOT just one - are what they say they are hearing about. We are often the third or fourth call they have received about varying opportunities. (As a retained-only firm, all of our work is exclusive - meaning the candidates we talk with are hearing about multiple opportunities with multiple companies.)

Recruiting challenges

Each Friday, I check out the latest articles about recruiting on  An article from last week caught my eye. The title is Big Challenges for Recruiting Leaders - The Top 10 Upcoming Recruiting Problems (article by Dr. John Sullivan).  I am drawn to articles with lists - they can be easy to read/digest in a world of information overload. I immediately stopped at point #1 - we are seeing it daily (remember the article's title):

  • Not being prepared for the return of intense recruiting competition

It has (again) become a candidate's market

I started writing the above sub-headline with the word BECOMING rather than become. The market has changed - and quickly. There were a few interesting themes in point #1 (listed above) that need to be mentioned.

What IS the unemployment rate?

The federal government posted the rate for March on April 4th - the overall rate is 6.7% (high by historic standards; a huge improvement over just a few years ago). The rate we track is different - for people that have a four-year degree (or higher) and that are at least 25 years old. Their rate - 3.4%. (See for information on unemployment by education level.)

Back to the article . . . . . .

Most corporate recruiting functions are not ready to get back to a War For Talent orientation, yet that is what we now have. Candidates are aware of this - they are receiving the calls from recruiters and/or seeing the job postings on company websites. Companies are only seeing their own postings and assuming candidates will flock to them for easy picking.

Companies - be prepared.

3% increases in base salary every year (the average) is keeping salary ranges rather low. Companies, generally speaking, have done a good job of being competitive with each other - assuming NO movement. That said, with the market change that has and will continue to occur, candidates will not move for a lateral or just a small amount. We are back to 10+%. Why? Market supply and demand. The article points out that the recruiting approaches that worked well in the recent past will simply fail in this new market situation.

More on additional upcoming recruiting challenges in future posts.