Branding/Marketing/PR Thought Leadership

Recruitment doom-mongerers are doing industry a disservice

Written by the Editorial Team

by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, Editor of Recruiter imPRint and managing director at CearlyPR

Trade bodies and recruitment media guilty of promoting inaccurate view of sector

It is almost three years since the referendum vote of June 2016, and ever since then we at Clearly PR have monitored the growth of the sector and published the figures on the size of the industry each quarter. And it’s getting bigger and better month after month, year after year.

So, why does the recruitment and wider business media publish the thoughts of those industry commentators whose tone is misrepresentative of the sector and paints a picture of a sector on the brink of demise in the immediate and post-Brexit era?

Our latest statistics – obtained and analysed under a freedom of information request from Companies House – shows that there are around 40,000 recruitment agencies currently operating in the UK, up from 35,000 in 2017. Not only that, but the number of new people choosing recruitment as a career is higher than ever, while the number of jobs filled by recruiters is also at its highest – around six out of 10. Few, if any, areas of the economy are seeing such staggering growth… and optimism.

No alt text provided for this image

Against this backdrop, it baffles me how some commentators cannot resist the urge to cast a shadow of doubt over the industry’s prospects at every given opportunity. Take the industry’s leading membership organisation, The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), as a case in point.

Time for skepticism or celebration?

In response to the latest employment figures release by the Office for National Statistics, the the REC stated that while the “figures demonstrate the continued strength of the UK labour market,” caution must prevail as “uncertainty is threatening to jeopardise this healthy position.”

“By focusing on the negatives of what may or may not happen with Brexit, they’re glazing over the incredible positivity that has dominated the recruitment industry for the past three years.”

This is not an isolated press statement. The REC’s previous commentaries stretching further back into 2018 and 2017 are littered with similarly negative undertones within its language – “fear”, “uncertainty”, “turbulence,” and “critical” to name but a few.

It’s a story oft repeated elsewhere. In February, the annual Bullhorn’s Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID) report was published. In a survey of 2,000 recruitment business leaders globally (and this latter word is a key factor), Bullhorn found that over a third (34 per cent) of respondents think “Brexit will make it harder to achieve their business goals.”

Let’s take a look at this for one moment: One in three recruiters from around the world are concerned about the negative impact Brexit will have. What is unclear is how many of the 2,000 respondents who took part in the survey are part of the 40,000 agencies currently operating in the UK?

40,000 recruiters can’t all be wrong, can they?

To be fair, whether the majority are located in this country or not really doesn’t matter. What is important is the undeniable fact that there are a number of stakeholders who perceive the current and future state of the recruitment industry as being characterised by caution and uncertainty.

By focusing on the negatives of what may or may not happen with Brexit, they’re glazing over the incredible positivity that has dominated it for three years. Not to mention the fact that this is substantiated by the sheer volume of those driving the recruitment industry ever-forward into unchartered waters of success.

“To suggest the industry is lacking confidence both in the here and now and after Brexit is formally concluded is in direct contradiction to what the research says and business is doing.”

The “possible fallout from Brexit” is just an excuse among some recruiters. Very few organisations are playing the ‘wait and see’ game. Those who have been delaying making key hiring decisions have found themselves firmly encamped on losing side of the war on talent. It’s the same for recruitment businesses – the delaying tactics among some has seen them fall away from the rest of the pack.

Yet those who have their finger on the pulse of what is actually happening in the economy and pulled out all the stops to capitalise on these positive trading conditions are already showing themselves to be the true winners. That’s why we’re seeing record numbers of people entering the recruitment profession and going it alone – no one starts a business in a declining market or one that prophesis doom and gloom around the corner. It’s also the pivotal factor that has been driving our growth as a key supplier to the industry over the last three years – the most successful period in our five-year history.

Responsible reporting

The recruitment and business media needs to consider whether the comments it publishes are inflammatory for the sake of being sensationalist, or are a true representation of how an industry is actually performing. In the case of recruitment, to suggest the industry is lacking confidence both in the here and now and after Brexit is formally concluded is in direct contradiction to what the research says and business is doing.

As a business who specialises in providing PR and marketing services to the recruitment industry, and is currently working with 15 national and international agencies and executive search firms on a retained basis, the doomongerers are clearly out of step with the realities of business. Either that or they’re not savvy enough to capitalise on the opportunities readily available to them. Harsh, perhaps. But true.