Employers drag heels over HR appointments

Roisin Woolnough on the state of the HR recruitment market

The HR jobs market is slow but relatively steady at the moment, with clients
taking their time to fill vacancies, according to the HR Candidate Survey 2003.

"A common theme is that it takes longer to fill vacancies now as many
clients are dragging their heels because they know there are many candidates
out there," says Claire Watson, co-director of Network HR Recruitment,
which carried out the survey.

"It is taking three to six months for some people to find something
new. In particular, there aren’t too many jobs around in the £40,000-50,000
upwards salary bracket."

The market has also been made harder because the supply of HR professionals
is plentiful. A significant number of the survey respondents – 36 per cent –
are looking for work because they have been made redundant. "There seems
to be many candidates in the £30,000-plus range of salaries who are looking for
new roles because of redundancy," says Watson.

This flat state of the market is causing many people who have jobs to stay put.
Those looking for a new job realise it might not be a very quick process. Bob
Archer, who started as HR manager at Hazelwood Foods in August, found it took
him about four months to find his new job role.

"I wanted to move because I had been employed in my last place for
eight years, the role was changing and I was not sure it was the path I wanted
to follow."

Archer decided to work closely with three agencies to make sure he was only
put forward for jobs that matched his requirements. "I wanted the consultants
to understand why I was looking for a new job, the skills I possessed, what
kind of job I was looking for and also to check that they knew their clients
well."

Proactive recruitment consultants are the main quality most respondents want
from an agency (29 per cent), according to the survey. Honest advice ranked
second at 25 per cent and frequent contact at 20 per cent. However, 25 per cent
of those polled did not venture an opinion or said they would not change the
service provided by agencies.

John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development (CIPD) believes it is up to HR professionals themselves to ensure
they can find new jobs in the future.

"Things might be tricky in the long term as the market for HR becomes
more complex," he says. "We have seen something of a trend towards
outsourcing, so employers might be looking for niche skills to suit a
specialist HR organisation."

Philpott feels individuals who only possess traditional HR qualifications
and skills might have a harder time finding new employment.

"They might want to balance their skills with broader business skills
and general management skills," he says. "Those with the biggest
disadvantage will be professionals who have been doing process-type jobs."

At the moment, the private sector is still suffering the effects of the
economic downturn and recruitment is low. However, the public sector is still
recruiting in healthy numbers, as are retail, construction and food
manufacturing organisations, says Watson.

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