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“The times they are a- [hopefully] changing”. A Job Market Update

For a number of months, I’ve been pondering a market update in a bid to reach more people than anyone realistically can over the phone.

When I reflect on what’s stopped me putting pen to paper, it’s been whether I’m actually able to write, edit and post quickly enough to accurately capture the mood, before it swiftly changes again. 

This is a strange thing to say given the market has been so very slow this year. But months of ‘nothing-ness’ inevitably leads to overthinking and therefore exaggerated swings in sentiment from even the slightest crumb of news; good or bad.

Indeed many job-seekers have had little to distract them from recent events. They’ve often been completely alone; either entirely or while their spouse busily works all day in the other room. 

This inevitably invites a roster of thoughts that oscillate dizzyingly between belief and despair. Morning affirmations generating determination and positivity, before doom reliably delivers a sucker-punch to the gut, all by mid-morning.

Knowing this, how does one communicate sensitively with those enduring this torturous cycle, whilst also being informative and realistic about their circumstances? All while knowing that the slightest government update or rejection email could have a paradigm-altering impact on how one interprets this messaging?

So here is my first attempt to accurately summarise what’s gone before and, what I think is to come, based on conversations we’re having with clients and candidates alike.

The good news is that it seems the outlook for job seekers is generally bright. Admittedly, the brightness isn’t quite here yet (although the market has picked up just lately), but it’s also not ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ far either. It’s close, as if it’s 12pm and sunny, but your garden is west-facing. Also known as “getting there”.

October was always going to be a ‘funny’ month in 2020. Long earmarked as the dark, eerie doorway into the dreaded second wave, it’s an unfortunate association given Recruiters have grown to love it so dearly over the years. October has long been Hawkwood’s silver medallist in revenue terms, lagging behind only the warm, loving, spring-time embrace of March (with the exception of this March obviously, damn you March 2020).

But before looking ahead to what might come next, let’s briefly reflect on the last few months for greater context.

As restrictions eased, June and July encouraged us with job-flow akin to a typical (non-CV19) December or August – nothing too spectacular, but certainly enough for a fair number of candidates to secure new roles.

Indeed, we spoke with many candidates who were in 3+ interview processes and Hawkwood had the unexpected joy of two job offers being re-tabled, having been cautiously withdrawn in March for the same reason so many others did.

And then came August. Take 66 million people and lock them up for months. Then when the sun comes out, offer them dirt-cheap flight + hotel deals to Zante with Woo-Woo’s so large they’re served in a literal fish-bowl. I mean, we weren’t about to turn that down were we?

So yes, holiday season led to a collective pause in hiring, stunting most of the momentum building prior to its arrival, but all in the name of good fun for those fortunate enough. So, having got our fix, it was back to the grind-stone and focus shifted to September. Would we hit-resume on July’s momentum or would we cautiously await October’s spread-inducing coldness?

With the large-scale lockdown being so damaging, it’s unsurprising that employers were hesitant, rendering September a bit ‘meh’ overall. The UK weather also reliably gifted us a September heat-wave, drop-kicking our ‘cold-meets-virus experiment’ well into the long-grass for another month. Alas, our anxious wait continued, but at least I got to squeeze yet-more wear out of my customary, fading, summer WFH uniform. Ta very much.

And that brings us to today. The second wave, whilst late, it’s here and it’s loud, obnoxious and it’s polarising the guests at the party; some want to stay in and others want to go out…

But it hasn’t sent us in to another full-on lockdown yet and, the longer this remains the case, the more new jobs will appear. That is, before the spirit of Christmas sets in and attention switches to stuffing our faces in front of the TV. Because we all need more time for that in 2020…

Despite the obvious economic damage of the lockdown, the government has pumped billions of pounds into the system that will fuel productivity (and therefore jobs). Currently, many businesses and (fortunate) individuals are sensibly sitting on this freshly-printed cash, but as we all know, it does have a tendency to burn a whole in one’s pocket, so it’s only a matter of time before it gets put to use and momentum gathers. Retail sales are already 4% up on pre-lockdown figures according to The Office for National Statistics, and PMI is up too.

Given that, January seems like a well placed juncture between: getting to grips with the second wave, and kicking off investment in a more prosperous future. Indeed, many businesses seemingly intend to hire, but plan to do so in Jan – either for budgetary reasons or to better safeguard them from the commercial risk of another extended lockdown. So things are looking up.

This isn’t to mention the “new year, new me” gang, who will begin making moves as confidence returns, having held off from doing so during 2020 due to the choppy waters in the market. One of our FTSE clients reported a drop to just 6% attrition this year. 

2021 is not as close as job seekers and Recruiters may wish, but the signs suggest that it will be worth the wait as the economy does already seem firmly on the road to recovery.

Or maybe that’s just what I want to believe?

Perhaps that’s all that really matters? 

Thanks for reading

Kristian James; Founder of Hawkwood

We have been supporting the evolution of People & Talent teams within London’s Tech & Creative scene since 2016. We’re thankful to all of our clients, but especially those who have recruited through us since April, hell, we’ve needed something to keep us busy!

With that in mind, special thanks to Google DeepMind, iTech Media, Kyra TV, Gett, QuantiQ, Dishoom, Entertainment One, ScreenCloud, Babylon Health, Liberis, Virtus, Maverick, BBC and Thriva Health.