Why has it Become so Hard to Find Candidates in Oxford?

The question of why has it become so hard to find candidates in Oxford is one that I have honestly been asked more than 20 times in just the last month, so I thought it would be useful for me to give my experiences and indeed go some way to providing a solution.

During a recent conference call that I attended with owners of fellow recruitment agencies and headhunting firms, there was a poll of ‘Is it harder to recruit than ever before’ and 100% of the attendees voted yes, but why?

Since records began, Oxfordshire has always been able to boast incredibly high employment rates in comparison to the national average. This is definitely a positive, especially considering the fears many of us had following the end of the furlough scheme just a few months ago, but this certainly brings challenges of its own.

In my professional opinion, the employment market is very much driven by a combination of supply and demand and confidence and neither are pushing in the favour of employers looking to attract talent.

In terms of supply, with a combination of Brexit, COVID-19 related deaths, an increase in early retirement (or part-time working), an increased number of mature students going back into education and increased government recruitment (police officers as an example), as matter of fact, there are definitely less workers open to new employment.

In terms of demand, we’ve already mentioned some of government recruitment, albeit much has come to an end, but what we are seeing in the market is such growth. In 2022 so far, almost 85% of the vacancies we’ve filled have been as a result of expansion, rather than replacement.

In terms of confidence, whilst on a local level we are seeing the employment market booming and many of the businesses we talk to are having their best ever year, we are definitely seeing a little fear from candidates. With so much happening in the world from war to COVID and inflation, we are seeing many candidates really cautious about moving, which we totally get – moving jobs is often a massive step.

I’m cautious so far that I’ve probably not made any employers reading this feel better, but the reality is that it is really tough to recruit in Oxfordshire right now. Having said that, although out time to hire has shot up by 270% of that of 2019, we and many recruitment agencies I know locally are still making more placements than ever before.

These are my top tips for what businesses can do to counter the market:

  • Plan early: We understand some vacancies will be reactive thus often time sensitive but the earlier you can plan the better. As I said, most time to hire stats have shot up so the earlier you can start your recruitment process the better, even if a delayed start date.
  • Move quickly: In most cases, gone are the days where you have a closing date, shortlist and interview day. We are finding the best candidates are getting lots of options and leaving the market very quickly therefore we encourage you to move as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining a thorough recruitment process.
  • Find win/win: It’s so important that employers and candidates alike really invest time into thinking what can they do to make the ‘deal’ better for the other side. By this I mean what flexibility can you offer, what added value could you offer (I’ll touch on this in the next point) and really listen to the other side.
  • Always a clear GOAL: In my experience, the biggest reason candidates leave jobs is due to feeling they have gone as far as they can go and not having a visible goal to work towards. You are probably thinking I mean promotions or money, and yes those things are important, but goals don’t just need to be that! What training courses could your team work on, what projects could they do alongside their job or how could they feel as if they are contributing to the wider business growth?

I think my closing note is that if you are struggling to recruit in Oxfordshire, you are not the only one – there are more jobs in Oxford than candidates but with the right strategy, and in some cases support, you’ll be able to attract some amazing people to your business.