Where are all the applications?

Posted on Monday, May 24, 2021 by Barbara Robertson8 comments

This time last year, just three months into COVID-19, vacancies were starting to trickle back in.  It was great – it wasn’t the end of the word after all!  Employers were taking action to navigate through COVID-19, looking for the new skills they needed to survive, or they were the lucky ones that were thriving in COVID-19.  The demand was real, employers were taking action, and their response was quick. 

Candidate applications were surging, mostly from immediately available candidates desperately in need of a new role, those furloughed or those whose offers fell through as a result of COVID-19.  Applications were flying in, not always with the right skills or experience, but in quantity.

Roll on one year, and further lockdowns, what is happening in the job market? 

The Office for National Statistics reported that increases in vacancies in early April were reaching pre-pandemic levels, with the majority of industries displaying positive quarterly vacancy growth. 

Usually a high level of vacancies, indicates a high level of movement in the market and a reasonable level of active candidates.  But over the last 6 weeks candidate activity has fallen to a trickle.

My media buyer confirmed that it is across the board, everyone is complaining about a lack of candidates, so I asked for the data.

CV Library reported that applications were down to an average of 5 applications per vacancy (across all categories).  Yes 5!  That is a 62% reduction in applications from May last year. 

The consequence of Brexit, overseas workers leaving the country, high vacancies, and actually extraordinarily little movement in the market, has highlighted our recurring skills shortage.  It seems that this isn’t specific to Purchasing, Supply Chain and Operations,

Today the BBC reported that even hospitality cant fill its vacancies, and is offering bonuses up to £2,000 to workers who introduce candidates that get hired https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57218978 

Is this likely to mean higher employment costs for employers?  Well, the ONS has reported that underlying wage growth for regular pay (without bonuses) is growing at 2%,  nudging above inflation (currently 1.6%).  I can see that moving upwards and quickly.

What does this mean for Candidates? – it’s a great time to look, you’ve got less competition, more choice and a strong bargaining position.

A warning for Employers - the battle for talent is on (again).  There’s likely to be some increased costs, because you are going to need a strong basic salary.  But there is much still to do that doesn’t cost anything.  A great employer brand and a great sense of purpose for people in their work goes a long way.  You’re going to need to have Managers that people want to work for and…. there is no going back….. you are going to need a flexible working policy. 

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