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What Hawkwood think Talent Acquisition professionals can expect from the job market

And so here we are. Those who needed to be furloughed have been furloughed, and now we’re eagerly waiting news on when will we be back in the office, what that will look like, and whether we will be in a V, U or L-shaped recession.

All of this uncertainty has, needless to say, had a monumental impact on hiring. As a specialist in placing Recruiters in to In-house Talent teams, we’ve been able to glean some useful insights in to the hiring plans of many of London’s Tech & Digital brands, large and small.

We’ve decided to interpret these in to an overview of the market that may help those currently working within, or seeking to work within, the field of In-house Talent Acquisition.

We will start by discussing changes to the wider candidate market as a whole, before proposing how these will impact the hiring process in the near-term.

This, in turn, will lead us nicely on to how Talent professionals will need to adapt, and what they can do to enhance their odds of getting hired.

It is worth mentioning now that this article does include generalisations. Lockdown has affected different companies in different ways depending on the product/service they provide and through which channels they provide it.

It’s for this reason that we can’t possibly cover every different eventuality in detail, and have instead taken a more macro-level view at the general movements within the market, as we feel this will prove most use to our candidate base as a collective.

Some broader context

As you well know, the market is typically divided in to active, passive and inactive candidates. The active candidate pool being made up of a mix of employed (but dissatisfied) and unemployed candidates; all motivated to find a new job.

The passive market is usually the largest of the three – these people are quite happily employed, but will open an InMail to have a glance if they receive one.

The truly inactive candidate base is typically a small group (that has generally shrunk further over the years) who simply won’t contemplate a change. They are likely to have a big blocker to moving such as a significant retention bonus/LTIP or visa requirement in many cases.

Recent re-segmentation

Needless to say, the active candidate pool has just received an influx of new incumbents to compete with those who were already seeking work prior to lockdown, with many people sadly already being made redundant, while others remain employed for now but harbour serious concerns over their job security.

However, despite the loss/imminent loss of jobs of many, we are actually likely to see the active pool only modestly increase in size overall for now, as the employed people among this group decide to wait it out (assuming they believe that their current role is safe) and join the inactive group through fear of what they could be going in to with a lesser-known new business.

What this means is that the segmentation of the candidate market is now based to a far-lesser extent on levels of job satisfaction, and is instead to a greater extent based on one’s current employment status or job security.

This is important as it significantly changes the job-switching decision for the currently employed from – “is this job better than the one I have?” to “am I prepared to put my overall employment at risk?”

Furthermore, among the active candidate base, the actual median-level of motivation to apply for positions and secure a role is far greater than before as, in most cases, their alternative is, sadly, unemployment.

Whilst there are clearly generalisations in here to illustrate the point, these two factors will significantly change the way hiring is conducted in the short-term. The remainder of this article will explore how this will impact on the role of Talent Acquisition and the demands on those brought in to perform it.

The below pie charts gives our rough estimate as to what the make up of the candidate market may look like now vs pre lockdown.


In light of the aforementioned developments, companies seeking to hire will have, broadly, three options:

  • Hire almost exclusively from the active candidate pool
  • Wait until market conditions dramatically improve
  • Find a strategy to hire inactive candidates

Waiting longer than post-lockdown won’t be an option for most businesses, so this essentially means there will broadly be two forms of recruitment for the foreseeable:

  • Reactive, higher-volume in-bound active-candidate application filtering
  • Subtle, informal enticing of inactive candidates leading to elongated conversations underpinned by empathy, reassurance and radical transparency

These will create job opportunities for two types of Talent professionals:

  1. Cost-effective, transactional, delivery-focused Recruiters

As discussed, the active candidate base will be eager to avoid extended unemployment, so we can expect to see a significant upturn in job applications and greater flexibility on salary demands also.

The good news is that this presents an opportunity for fast-paced, generalist recruiters to carry out the work of filtering and processing these applications. The bad news is that the less-specialist nature of these recruitment roles means that they are likely to be lower-paid and they also, generally speaking, have a firmer ceiling (less exposure to the skills needed to progress upwards in talent acquisition).

That said, many of those who are happy to roll their sleeves-up and work in a systematic, commercial way should still be able to gain in-house employment if they are prepared to be flexible on their salary demands.

What Recruiters seeking this kind of work can be doing now to improve their odds:

  • Pack their CV with numbers and clear deliverables to show the ability to work at pace, strong determination and a commercial mindset
  • Prepare to be flexible on salary, at least in the short-term, by running some numbers and understanding what their outgoings are
  • Obtain testimonials pertaining to strong delivery, focus and determination as well as high conscientiousness
  • Find ways to differentiate from the competition through leveraging personal connections, and using lockdown to read up on related skills such as NLP, dealing with conflict and time management.
  • Niche specialists with personal leverage in their market and strong emotional intelligence

As covered in the first section, organisations who need to headhunt employed inactive candidates are going to have to work harder than ever to successfully do so.

Given the choice, these businesses will likely seek to hire a skilled In-house Recruiter with a deep specialism in the particular field they recruit into. Someone who understands the unique drivers of their specific candidate base, has strong relationships with candidates, and who knows which companies are hiring and which are making redundancies within their industry.

This will likely demand more than being a Tech-specialist Recruiter who has covered an array of tech stacks, but, instead, being the “go-to” for Python dev’s and Python dev’s only.

Employed (inactive) Python dev’s might not be open to returning calls from Recruiters at the moment, but they might still take the phone call of a Recruiter they’ve built up real rapport with over the years. That initial phone call is all it takes the start the headhunt process, and that is the difference that companies will seek when hiring for their Talent teams (assuming their requirements don’t allow them to solely rely on the active candidate market).

Furthermore, to be successful in headhunting inactive candidates, Recruiters must demonstrate high levels of empathy, a trustworthy style, impeccable candidate experience and the ability to deploy creativity when overcoming problems due to the additional layer of complexity the current conditions present.

What Recruiters seeking this kind of work can be doing now to improve their odds:

  • Immerse themselves in their niche through reading industry publications, reconnecting with contacts and closely observing hiring and redundancies in their field
  • Contacting high-calibre peers to learn about the novel, creative approaches their business are deploying to navigate the complex talent landscape of current
  • Studying Crunchbase and similar publications with a view to speculatively approaching organisations in their field who have successfully raised capital
  • Obtain testimonials from well-respected names in their industry
  • Ramp up their own personal branding activity through LinkedIn content
  • Offering themselves as a flexible day-rate solution in the short-term to prove their worth to the business longer-term


As the market eventually shows shoots of recovery, companies may begin cautiously ramping up hiring. The element of caution may see them favour the flexibility of a contract/day-rate In-house Recruiter who they only need to engage for as long as they require them.

Day rates are likely to fall short of previous highs given the surplus of Talent professionals on the market, but highly-specialist, emotionally-intelligent, conscientious, relationship-driven recruiters may find opportunities to be part of the “bounce-back” by supporting these early, ‘test-the-water’ hiring efforts.

We hope you found some of these insights useful. Hawkwood recognise that this is a very challenging time for many of our candidates and, indeed, we are not immune from these challenges ourselves.

Our recruitment activity has dropped by c80% since lockdown and, as such, we have furloughed a large proportion of our team. It’s for this reason that it is difficult for us to reach everyone with the regularity we would ideally like, so have decided to write this piece in a bid to reach more of you.

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all well and please do get in touch if we can help in any way.

Thanks for reading


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