Candidates in control

ESP Recruitment MD Liz Sinclair on the changing recruitment market in events

It has been a rollercoaster in the world of events in the last two years and recruiters have seen a turnaround from no jobs for several months after the first lockdown, with hundreds of fantastic candidates at all levels on the market; to jobs appearing globally as the restrictions eased off in different countries.

As restrictions were lifted, the floodgates opened and hundreds of jobs appeared on LinkedIn, with our industry sharing recommendations to help each other back into work. Many unemployed candidates were snapped up, some back to their old jobs and some finding exciting new opportunities in a post-Covid industry.

But what has changed? Candidates are in control.

The number of lower-level jobs posted far exceeded the number of event professionals available for work, which highlighted how the recruitment market has flipped to a candidate-led environment in many countries.

Candidates were calling the shots, telling employers how many days they wanted to work at home to achieve work-life balance and what salary they were now looking for. 

I spent an afternoon ringing eight candidates perfect for the job, none of them even entertaining the thought of going into the office five days a week. All said ‘thanks but no thanks’.

In September 2021, several candidates turned down offers with great companies, because those employers under-offered on salary. Employers assumed it was the same market as six months before, but things had changed.

Recruitment in exhibitions became cut-throat, when the reality of the market was clear – too many jobs, not enough candidates and a backlog of shows to deliver. The LinkedIn referrals had dried up, adverts online and job boards were not getting the expected response  and marketeers were more in demand than toilet roll and pasta in lockdown.

Some organisers became aggressive, trying to poach from their competitors, throwing cash at those targeted candidates, with employers having to match those salaries to keep their staff.

Thankfully things have settled down in 2022, but employers do need to take a different approach. The changes to the employment market since the pandemic have made a people-first approach to recruitment a priority for 2022.

Some tips: 

• Recognise the market as it is now and don’t compare it to pre-pandemic times

• Offer the correct remuneration for candidates, which in many places is at least 10% more than it was before the pandemic for junior roles and sometimes up to 20% more for the more in demand jobs like marketing and content producers

• Create a simplified hiring process – presentations should be left for a second interview when the candidate has bought into the company and the job

• Move fast. It is still important to conduct a thorough process, but offer a date for second interview within days of the first

• Offer flexibility and hybrid working where possible

• Also, focus on internal talent mobility and staff retention.

Regarding styles of recruitment.  LinkedIn and job board advertising is proving less successful now, at least in Europe, as candidates often expect to be contacted rather than applying for jobs. The trend seems to be towards in-house Talent Acquisition for many larger companies. We find that they tend to be generalist Recruiters/Resourcers who don’t necessarily know the market.

Understanding what an exhibition candidate is looking for in a job or company culture can also make the difference between a candidate wanting to be put forward for a job or not.

It is also worth remembering that a lot of the best candidates for jobs don’t advertise that they are looking. A Talent Acquisition Manager won’t be able to find them on LinkedIn, so companies are missing out. The really good news is that at mid and senior levels, there are still many people looking for a new career/challenge
in our industry.

ESP Recruitment works in partnership with Trevor Foley, tfconnect