In the ever-evolving world of recruitment, the landscape for job interviews has shifted dramatically. Gone are the days of recruitment being solely through in-person meetings. Now, most interview processes begin behind a computer screen, adding a new layer of complexity.

Whether you’re an experienced practitioner or re-entering the job market after a long hiatus, navigating the change requires a focused approach where you get out what you put in.

NO DETAIL IS TOO SMALL

Preparation has always been key, but even more so in the digital age. Take the time to plan every aspect of your interview. From testing software and knowing when and where you need to be to investigating potential road closures and parking options. Establish who you’ll be meeting and what’s expected of you ahead of time, leaving no room for last-minute uncertainty to hamper your first impression and performance.

APPEARANCE MATTERS

Your appearance speaks volumes so make sure you dress in an outfit that both exudes confidence and is also appropriate to the setting. Whether it is formal attire or more relaxed, choose wisely to make a strong first impression.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

Beyond landing the job, it is important to define what you hope to achieve from your interview. I am not talking about salary and benefits here; moreover, it’s about filling in the gaps in your knowledge of the business. Prepare insightful questions. It not only demonstrates a genuine interest in the company and role but it will help you to decide if this is the right place for you.

FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL

Take advantage of the online resources at your disposal, such as the company website careers page and social media channels. There is no longer an excuse for not understanding an organisation’s culture, values, and goals before you attend an interview. And once you do, it will be a lot easier to demonstrate how you are the ideal candidate for their team.

LEARN FROM OTHERS

If you have the support of a recruitment consultant, use their expertise to your advantage. Ask for a pre-interview discussion. Lean on their experience so you can gain valuable insights and tips to enhance your preparation and improve your performance on the day.

MAKE FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE

Remember that likability and trust play a significant role in the outcome of an interview. Focus on building rapport with your interviewers on a personal level to make a positive impression. Take the time to research the people you’ll be meeting. Familiarise yourself with their backgrounds and roles so you can establish an early connection. Setting a positive tone from the start helps the conversation flow and showcases your interpersonal skills.

MASTER THE ART OF TELLING YOUR STORY

There is nothing worse than interviewing someone who is not fluent in the professional journey within their CV. Learn it inside and out. Craft compelling stories to highlight your achievements and experiences. Use the chance to talk about your journey as a platform to introduce your character and emphasise your biggest strengths and capabilities.

FACE INTO CHALLENGE

Take the time to anticipate and prepare for people who challenge your career and choices. By responding honestly and confidently to difficult and direct questions, you demonstrate self-awareness, inner belief, and a positive and mature approach – all traits people want to see in their employees.

PLAN YOUR STAR COMPETENCIES

Practice answering competency-based questions using the STAR method: situation, task, action, result. Pre-plan four or five examples that illustrate the key skills they are looking for and will prove you can thrive in the role.

In conclusion, succeeding in a job interview requires more than just technical expertise. It demands preparation, planning, effective communication, and a proactive approach. By applying these tips, you will help to position yourself as a prime candidate and almost certainly increase your chances of being offered that new job opportunity you are dreaming about.

Another year has passed at lightning speed. Older? Definitely. Wiser? I hope so. It’s certainly been another unpredictable and challenging year in recruitment, but as it draws to a close, I have been reflecting on what I have learned and what the next twelve months could hold in the world of accountancy and finance.

Skills Shortages

There is no end in sight for the skills shortages that are driving an increase in outsourcing services overseas. Firms are also expanding their advisory offerings to provide businesses with greater management information, so they become much more than the traditional once-a-year annual audit and accounts service. Both areas of growth will heighten pressure to attract and retain talent and it could be a challenging time for businesses trying to keep salary demands under control.

Employee Wellbeing 

Businesses that embrace people’s desire for a better work-life balance will fare well. According to ACCA, 83% of accountants would like to work remotely at least one day per week. In a candidate-driven market, embracing hybrid working and demonstrating that you can deliver on personal development plans will appeal to a wider talent pool.

Advancing Technology

Continuing to shape the future, technology already plays a big role in the accounting sector. Moving at a relentless pace, according to the ACCA, 63% of us would like more technology training. To stay relevant, businesses need to adopt a culture of technological innovation, which includes upskilling and valuing those skills in the recruitment process.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Employers will continue to place a greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion in their recruitment strategies. With the benefits well documented, it is important to recognise the need for this in the accounting and finance sectors. A survey by Skills, Retention, and Attraction confirmed that 57% of UK businesses regard this as a strategic priority as it opens a wider candidate market and draws talent from all backgrounds.

Training and Skills

The ongoing impact of the pandemic and the training and skills gaps created means that while some professional roles will continue to call for college degrees, recruiters will be casting their net wider. Larger employers already target candidates in education, with entry-level recruits requiring lower salaries. Increasingly, it’s your talent rather than the pedigree of your institution or past employer that counts.

Relocate or Resign

For those not keen on hybrid working, 2024 will see a resurgence in the expectation that people head back into the office four or five days a week, meaning there are tough choices ahead. In the accounting profession, as a result, we expect to see more people choosing to move or simply resigning to find something closer to home that offers the flexibility they seek.

Generation Z

Set to become a significant part of the workforce, successful recruiters need to adapt to the distinct values, traits, and preferences of this generation. To attract and retain Gen-Z talent, companies need to leverage digital recruitment platforms, bring a focus to their social responsibility efforts, offer clear pathways for career progress and skill development, and provide a flexible working environment.

While I don’t profess to see the future clearly, I believe it will be bright for those who leverage technology, nurture inclusivity, and meet the needs and expectations of candidates and employees.

Embracing a better work-life balance and remote work preferences will widen your talent pool. Technological innovation remains key, with a strong call for more training in advancing technologies.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are rightly gaining prominence in recruitment strategies, and, with the evolving landscape moving toward valuing talent over institutional pedigree, Generation Z could be ready to take centre stage.

Despite the skills shortages driving outsourcing and the pressure to balance well-being with business demands, I remain optimistic in my outlook for 2024 as, however we see it, the journey will continue to be marked by challenges and buoyed by the resilience and adaptability of the accounting and finance industry.

Influenced by economic uncertainty and rising costs, the latest UK Report on Jobs, commissioned by the REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) and KMPG, suggests a worrying time ahead for the region’s job market.

Perhaps most ominous, the report highlights a fall in overall demand for new starters for the first time since February 2021. While the contraction is marginal, underlying data reveals a fresh but slight reduction in permanent vacancies, with demand for temporary staff moderated to a four-month low.

It appears to be the public sector that is taking the biggest hit, declining at a far steeper rate than individual or shareholder-owned businesses. In the private sector, a modest number of the 400 recruitment professionals feeding into the survey reported an uptick in clients exploring temporary staffing solutions as an alternative. Rising at a gentle pace, the figures also suggest that permanent vacancies are increasing in five of the ten employment categories, which suggests all is not lost. However, with businesses undoubtedly nervous, the result is a labour market that appears to be in a precarious position once again.

From a recruiter’s viewpoint, while we are seeing companies show a willingness to become more adaptable in their hiring strategy, there has not been a significant shift in the landscape toward temporary placements in the North East and so it will be fascinating to see if this trend continues.

Diving deeper into the report it is not all doom and gloom. There are some green shoots evident for employers who will be pleased to discover the pressure that has been building to offer inflated starting salaries is beginning to ease thanks to gradually rising candidate availability.

Regional and sector variations play a pivotal role in understanding the nuances, but anecdotal evidence from our region suggests that redundancies, increasing unemployment, and slowing market conditions are significant contributors.

In its summary, the REC reasoned that the market is finding the bottom of a year-long slowdown. The relative buoyancy of the private sector is likely to be driving this more positive outlook and while vacancies are reducing they remain robust for many industries with some sectors – hospitality, engineering, logistics and healthcare – continuing to experience very strong and growing demand.

What is clear is that depending on where you stand, the recruitment landscape is a mixed bag of challenges and opportunities. Reinforced by ONS data, there is little doubt that companies are becoming slightly more hesitant to commit to new recruitment in a bid to limit uncertainty and control costs. Whether you view this as a temporary disruption or think it will lead to permanent change, there is certainly a need to face the challenges head-on.

As always, internally, a focus on the development of skills and staff retention is prudent. In the interim, slower wage growth should also ease pressure on employers as it is likely to lead to a reduction in the rise of inflation rates.

For anyone looking to navigate the job market as an employer or job seeker, my advice is to make sure you are partnered with an expert in your field. Someone who can guide you safely through the ambiguity.

Regardless of the conditions, to be successful, you need to demonstrate what it is that makes you stand out from the crowd and, as an experienced recruitment consultancy, we can offer you support and expertise to help you find the best path forward.

Summer is a time of relaxation, a chance to unwind and recharge our batteries. It also offers a rare opportunity to take a moment among the daily demands of work to reflect on our professional path and evaluate where we stand.

In my line of work, I often encounter people who have already decided to seek a new horizon. But let me be clear, taking stock and examining your career doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to move on. In fact, what I am suggesting is simply about taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable for ensuring your ambitions are aligned with your personal goals.

Granted, finding time for introspection amid a busy and contented life is not easy. However, it is precisely during these periods of contentment that we should evaluate our direction and progress to ensure our careers remain fulfilling. Summer gives us the extra time and space needed to reflect on this and our aspirations.

So, where do we begin? Start by asking yourself some fundamental yet pivotal questions. Are you excelling in your field? Does going to work bring you joy? Are you happy with your work-life balance? Do your values align with your colleagues and does your company’s mission still ignite your passion?

Ask yourself when the last time was that you received a performance appraisal or sought feedback from your boss. Can you outline your key objectives for the next 3, 6 and 12 months, or have they evolved since your last discussion with your manager? Being aware of these changes and maintaining open communication is essential, as your line manager will have a significant impact on your future promotion prospects.

Assuming you aspire to continue growing and developing professionally, consider the new skills you’ve acquired over the past year. Are you actively expanding your knowledge base? Are there any courses or support systems available to help your personal and professional growth?

Moreover, when was the last time you refreshed your CV? Keeping an eye on the job market not only reveals enticing opportunities but also ensures you understand your own value – especially if you have remained with a single employer for a significant period.

Even the most exceptional jobs can lose their appeal over time. Sometimes, you do need a change or a fresh challenge to reignite your passion. However, before diving into a job search, make sure you think carefully about your current role, employer, and prospects. And be honest with yourself but remember that work will never rival the joy of spending time with your loved ones, so be realistic and kind to yourself too.

To find genuine happiness, I firmly believe you need to discover a purpose in your work that aligns with your long-term goals. This requires understanding what truly matters to you in life. When your strengths align with this purpose, determining your next steps becomes more natural, and the power to make it happen lies with you.

So, embrace the summer as more than just a season of leisure. Use it to unlock new and exciting career opportunities that match your aspirations. Take charge of your professional journey, and let the sunshine illuminate your path to fulfilment.

This year, instead of merely dreaming of distant shores, why not use this break to embark on a fulfilling journey of self-discovery?

It never ceases to amaze me how small the North East business community can appear. For the most part, I believe this is one of our major strengths, but when it comes to searching for a new job, the closeness of the professional community places added emphasis on how you behave at every stage of the process.

From the initial allure of a new opportunity to attending a job interview and how you exit a business, the commitment and integrity you show to current and future employers has the potential to propel your career forward or leave a mark on your professional standing for some time to come.

So, what is the best thing to do if you start to get itchy feet? Well, the natural temptation is to quickly pull together a CV, fire up an online job board and begin submitting applications to see if you can secure an interview. If that sounds like you, before you go any further, I suggest you pause for a breath and take the time to work out exactly what it is that you are not happy about.

Ask yourself what the reasons are you want to leave your current role. Would you like to solve the issues and stay? Are you convinced it’s time for a change and genuinely ready to start a new chapter in your career?

If you think some factors can be adjusted and will make a positive difference, I encourage you to be brave and speak openly with your line manager. Whatever the motivation for change – money, progression, culture, work-life balance – it is better to understand the scope for this to happen before committing to speculatively attend an interview or use a job offer as leverage when you kick-start the conversation. No employer – current or future – will ever thank you for that.

And with plenty of exciting opportunities around, good people do not stay on the market for long so, while the conversation might seem daunting, whatever the outcome, you will have been honest and transparent from the outset. Whether you ultimately stay or go, you will have conducted yourself professionally and maturely and gained respect in the process.

In contrast, opting for what seems to be the less confrontational route of finding a new role, resigning and hoping to hear how important you are and that your employer can grant you that elusive pay rise and the flexibility for remote working is the type of negotiation that only serves to erode trust.

In my time as a recruiter, I’ve seen many people surrender to a flattering counter-offer. Again, it’s the easier choice but invariably in those cases, the true problems don’t go away. Once your employer is over the short-term worry of losing you, often, the way they view you will change; particularly when it comes to future promotions and salary reviews.

This is why it pays to be authentic and true to whatever course of action you choose. There is profound wisdom in embracing a commitment to your employer until you have explored all the options and are genuinely sure it is the right thing to move on.

When embarking on the recruitment process without a commitment to it, you have to consider your long-term career and reputation which is on the line anytime a prospective employer invests in you by meeting or offering you the chance to join their team.

And while people understand when an offer is turned down in favour of an alternative move, how you behave will affect the opportunities available next time you come to the market. Staying with your existing employer can leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths. Nobody appreciates feeling like they have had their time wasted and your reputation and integrity are hugely important in a place as connected as the North East.

When speaking with clients, there is one question I am repeatedly asked: Why are we struggling to recruit?

It’s an ongoing challenge, and a topic for a good, honest conversation but, in the past month or two it has moved higher up the agenda as businesses seek to understand why they are not attracting the right candidates and more importantly, what we can do to find solutions.

Right now, there simply aren’t enough quality people to go around and, when your company is hiring, that means you can often find yourself sharing what you believe is an attractive opportunity, but you can’t seem to find the right person.

When recruitment is an add-on to your role and you’re struggling to fill a vacancy, it can be difficult to work out why, so I’ve pulled together my thoughts on the most common issues, and what you can do if you are in a similar position.

Speed

I cannot stress the importance of speed enough when recruiting. Not only does it create a good impression about how your business operates, but it also shows you are interested in the candidate and decisive. This means you are less likely to lose out to another firm. The only potential drawback is if you move too fast without understanding how far along the “changing jobs” journey someone is, however, this can be overcome with some sensitivity.

The Interview

When someone attends an interview, if they don’t warm up to the host, it doesn’t matter how good your company or the opportunity is. If people don’t like who they meet – and have options – they will not take the job. You need the first point of contact to be an enthusiastic advocate for your business. Someone who will put people at ease, can sell the opportunity and workplace well, and is confident, friendly and a good communicator.

This extends to the interview format and what works best. Consider how many people meet the candidate. You shouldn’t need more than two, as it makes the meeting less appealing for the candidate to open up and harder to create a personal connection.

Tests to quantify values or competency need careful consideration in terms of timing. If personality is key, you may want to assess it before the interview. A technical test alongside an interview will unnerve many applicants, so is best managed carefully; with the reasons for the test explained.

Be Flexible with Experience

With the absence of the ideal candidate, my advice is to be flexible in the experience you consider. Have an open outlook toward training in some areas if you find a person who is the right fit culturally or has needs that require a certain level of flexibility on your part. As a guideline, I’d recommend you don’t dismiss a CV if it includes more than 60% of what it is you need.

Your Offer

What exactly are you offering people and, perhaps more importantly, does it align with what they see as an attractive work-life integration? The answer may well depend upon your age and outlook. What was once typical is no longer desirable for many. If you want someone in the office 9 to 5, five days a week, you will struggle to fill your vacancy. Again, flexibility is key, as you may need to consider different working patterns just to measure up to your competitors.

You may note that salary has not been mentioned. It goes without saying that you need to be competitive and know what the market rate is, as, if you do, money is rarely the reason a candidate will turn a good opportunity down.

In a difficult market, with technical shortages that aren’t going away, you have to be realistic and open to changing your approach. Whilst there is no silver bullet to solve your staffing problems overnight, these key areas should certainly help.

Have you ever gone through the recruitment process and found the ideal candidate only for them to reject your job offer?

In a perfect world, everyone would agree to join your team, but the truth is that this is an all-too-common problem for employers and a growing issue in what has become a heavily candidate-driven job market.

From my experience, when talented accountancy professionals begin to look for a new challenge in public practice, they very quickly discover they have plenty of choices; often before they’ve even convinced themselves that they genuinely want to change their role.

In contrast, when employers uncover a candidate who appears to be a great fit for their team, due to the lack of available people, they tend to act quickly. While showing early intent is the right thing to do, it is also important to remember a candidate in demand needs time to build a connection with your business before they will choose you. They need to understand why your organisation is the right place for them to progress in their career, rather than going elsewhere.

So, how do to swing the decision in your favour? The first thing I suggest is to review your current recruitment process.

Begin by asking yourself whether an hour-long interview is the right format for someone to decide whether they want to spend 37 hours+ every week with you and your team. I’m not sure it would be enough for me, but your recruitment process is probably more in-depth than that already. Even so, this question is a good place to start.

With online interviews continuing in popularity, another consideration is whether people have met face-to-face. Have they seen the working environment first-hand, or spoken to any of the other employees they could be working with?

A lot of people make their final decision based on the emotions they felt during the interview process. That is why it is important to make sure it is fit for purpose. Even if this is more time-consuming, trickier to arrange, or requires a little longer to plan, once you have a two-way process in place that allows you to get what you require from the candidate but also connect with them on an emotional level and share the benefits of working in your business, you should begin to see acceptance rates climb.

There are other factors that you can influence to improve your appeal. If you suffer from low job acceptance rates, a good approach is to tackle the issue head-on and spend time trying to understand why candidates have previously turned you down.

Your recruitment partner will be able to help with this, but knowing whether the rejection is commonly down to salary and benefits, the role itself, personal restrictions (i.e. commute), a bad feeling about the company culture, or simply a better offer elsewhere, will help you to remedy problems going forward.

Rethinking your initial screening process can also lead to being able to spend more time with the right people at the interview stage and beyond. Benchmarking your salary and benefits against competitors will help you to be more competitive with your offers.

If you are keen on a candidate, you should always invite them for a second meeting. Even if it is for an informal coffee or a tour of the office, it will give you both a chance to dive a little deeper, to ask questions that don’t always fit well in an initial interview, and it will also give them a chance to see potential colleagues and get a feel for working in your business.

Whatever your recruitment plans, the most important thing is to ensure that you treat candidates with respect and communicate with them effectively and honestly from the outset. Being genuine will go a long way toward building trust; something that is critical when it comes to making a final decision.

As the new year unfolds with economic uncertainty, the job market finds itself on unfamiliar ground. Typically, a fiscal slowdown like this would suggest that the number of people looking for a new role will soon diminish, alongside job vacancies.

Currently, while there is a significant rise in people feeling anxious about moving to a new job, the pressure businesses are under to deliver means we are continuing to see high levels of hiring demand and an even more pronounced emphasis on the quality of recruitment.

“Demand for staff continued to increase across the North of England at rates which exceeded those seen in the rest of England … Job openings rose at their fastest rates for three months, with temp billings rising for the first time in three months in December. We also saw increases in starting salaries across the North.”

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive, REC

With such a complex and challenging labour market, where the best candidates hold all the power, the competition for talent will only become fiercer. This is why, if you believe that people are your greatest asset, there are many benefits to be found from working closely with a trusted recruitment partner:

Identify hard-to-find talent

Not only can recruitment specialists help you to find and attract the right candidates for your business, our deep understanding of the recruitment process and connections throughout the wider industry mean that we can often source (and approach) people who are right for a role but otherwise could not be found.

Provide market insight & analysis

At a time when recruitment is more competitive than ever, recruitment consultants offer invaluable insight into the current market, trends and best practices. Not only will this help you to hire, but it will also improve your ability to retain valuable employees by benchmarking salaries and benefits and understanding what could drive them to search for a new challenge.

Save time and money

If recruitment isn’t your number one priority, it can become slow, difficult and, often, expensive. Managers can waste a lot of time sifting through unsuitable CVs or interviewing inappropriate candidates. A professional recruiter is trained to quickly assess candidates. We know what to look for, and what questions to ask, and can identify early warning signs. We also do the heavy lifting in terms of your time, arranging interviews quickly and efficiently, following up to collate candidate feedback, and helping you to negotiate salaries, all for your convenience.

Improve your “employer’s brand”

Few businesses invest the time and money it takes to develop a positive employer brand. By finding a trusted recruitment partner, you are empowering them to act as your ambassador, offering potential candidates an insight into what it’s like to work at your firm. Benefiting from the strength of the recruiter’s relationships, a partner should not only be able to address any arising concerns on your behalf, but they will also represent you as an employer of choice and strengthen your appeal.

Help you at every stage of the process

There is nothing worse than making a bad impression on a brilliant candidate. Working with a recruitment specialist gives you peace of mind. From preparing the job specification to advertising the role, searching for candidates, screening applicants, conducting first interviews, shortlisting CVs, arranging interviews, delivering feedback, managing negotiations, supporting candidates through their resignation and counter offers, and throughout the onboarding process. A trusted partner will help you at every stage.

In 2023, posting an advert on LinkedIn or an online job board and hoping for the best is not going to cut it. While working closely with a trusted recruitment partner will help you to streamline your processes and find the right people efficiently, it is about so much more than that. You need to find someone who knows your market and can become a trusted advisor for all of your recruitment needs.

As the year comes to a close, the recruitment industry is still dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic and post-pandemic.

In 2022, this resulted in a seismic shift in the dynamic between businesses, employees, and job seekers. With an ever-increasing demand to recruit the best people, the desire for organisations to streamline designations and operating structures – combined with an almost universal acceptance of remote working – has also opened geographical barriers that have historically hindered access to talent.

Furthermore, while the majority of industries are experiencing a comparative reduction in recruitment activity for the fourth quarter, this is projected to improve in March and April as employers continue to consider “right-sizing”.

As we approach 2023, having a clear and robust talent acquisition and retention strategy is critical.

HYBRID WORKING

Entire remote working roles are becoming more difficult to find, but the trend of allowing your team to work flexibly both in the office and at home will continue to become even more important if organisations want to keep existing talent and go beyond location to locate the best individuals for their team.

UP-SKILLING

Because talent shortages will continue, the need to upskill employees will become a higher priority for many businesses dealing with staff and talent shortages. This method not only boosts workforce productivity, but also saves costs, increases employee satisfaction, reduces staff turnover, and, more often than not, creates a more collaborative and dynamic working atmosphere.


RETENTION

In many industries, the “Great Resignation is not slowing down and, as cost-of-living issues continue alongside economic uncertainty, this affects recruitment. The retention of your best workers will become increasingly important. In summary, if you want to keep the finest, you must be willing to look after them and fight for them because the battle for talent is underway and it’s skilled people who have the upper hand.


CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE

The first impression you create for a prospective recruit has always been crucial but, with such fierce levels of competition for talent, it is more vital than ever to represent your company as one that values and supports its people. Take the time to assess the assistance you provide and, more importantly, how you plan to demonstrate it as part of a positive candidate experience, as this may make all the difference when a prospect has alternative options and a tough decision to make.


DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION 

It is widely accepted that a culturally diverse workforce fuels innovation and creativity, hence improving profitability. Currently, barely one in three businesses tracks candidate diversity, with gender and ethnic diversity indicators rarely employed. Similarly, companies frequently neglect socioeconomic diversity, but 2023 will see positive movement in this area, hopefully helping to erase any remaining unconscious bias in hiring.


GOING VIRTUAL

As the first generation never to be without the internet takes on junior roles in the workforce, there will be an increasing expectation that everything is available online and at a fast pace. Highly collaborative, self-reliant and pragmatic, Generation Z values diversity, cooperation and connection, and wants to work from anywhere but also establish good relationships with their co-workers.


STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

The perception of recruitment consultants is changing. The days of recruiters taking job orders and firing off CV after CV in the hope that someone resonates with you are long gone (I hope). That’s not how I have ever worked; instead, I find joy in putting the right people in the right places. It often means that, in addition to the job search, I wind up collaborating with organisations on a strategic level, serving as a sounding board and a source of recruitment knowledge, market insight, and salary guidance.

While we will continue to face uncertainty, concentrating on these trends will help you not only to develop a solid recruitment and retention strategy but also in hiring the right talent to capitalise on the possibilities that 2023 will bring, despite the talent shortage.

COVID not only changed the way we work, but it also altered the balance of power in the workplace.

In sync with the adoption of new technology, reduced travel, and shift in working models, one of the more surprising differences, as we came out of the epidemic, was a reversal of control in the workplace and, in particular, the recruitment market.

Following a low period for new vacancies, millions of people around the globe suddenly chose to reassess their priorities and, in many cases left their current roles in search of a better work-life balance. Simultaneously, firms began expanding quickly and, in an instant, power transferred from employers to employees.

With savvy leaders responding quickly to protect key recruits, they inadvertently opened an opportunity for people to strengthen their position at work by negotiating salary increases and more flexibility for their roles.

Without people to fill the rising vacancies, it meant that skilled workers could enjoy a position of power as they knew they could look elsewhere and quickly find someone willing to offer what they want.

The impact of the downturn

Fast forward to today, and as inflation soars and the cost-of-living rises, in real terms, many people are facing the equivalent of a pay cut.

Regrettably, the economic downturn is also pushing some firms toward redundancies as they restructure in the aftermath of rapid expansion. This has shifted the equilibrium of power back toward businesses.

As employers tighten their belts, several global companies are already flexing their newfound confidence by requesting to bring employees back into the office environment daily, which is a brave and significant cultural shift.

All things are not equal

If history is anything to go by, the impact of power moving back to employers will not be the same for everyone.

In the face of a global recession, typically it is lower-skilled roles or people starting out in their careers that are the hardest hit. As good jobs become trickier to find, experience takes over and becomes ever more important.

In contrast, where there remains an acute shortage of skills, competition for the best people will continue with top talent holding all the cards. That means in professional industries like practice accountancy, employees are likely to maintain a wide choice of roles and enjoy the opportunity to seek higher salaries and improved benefits.

What does it mean to you?

When the balance of power lies with employers, in general, the consequences will be unequal. Some workers will keep the flexibility and benefits they gained during COVID, while others will have to accept whatever their employer offers.

Whether this culminates in a return to pre-pandemic working conditions, I am not sure, as some of the changes made during that time will be difficult to reverse and motivationally detrimental.

If you are an employee currently at the grace of your employer, however, now might be a good time to consider returning to the office voluntarily. Creating closer bonds and spending more time face-to-face with your colleagues could be an important step toward feeling continually secure in your job and progressing during challenging times.

As an employer, if budgets are tight, it is greater flexibility that will soon become your key battleground for talent. Companies that remain conscious of employees’ needs will be the most successful at retaining and attracting talent so, even if you have the desire to reduce workplace flexibility, I suggest you are very careful when you approach it. The wider implications of being too aggressive are significant.

In the end, the best piece of advice I can offer is to try and find time to think about how you feel. What – apart from money – would attract you to join a company? Why would you stay with one? By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes you will make smarter decisions, and that is the best way to succeed.