Why it is only the "Year of the Candidate" if you have the right management skills

02 June 2015


Managers who have honed personal development plans are more likely to benefit from growth in senior hiring, says an executive search expert

Jason Atkinson

Many are calling 2015 the “Year of the Candidate”, which I tend to agree with.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), we have the highest employment rates since 1971.

If we look back over the history of the recruitment industry with a focus on management roles, we can see that things move roughly in seven-year cycles.

I would say that we are in Year Two of another cycle, with serious momentum and solid growth at senior levels in both interim and permanent recruitment.

Numbers of self-employed professionals have also increased by 33,000 to reach 4.53 million people. Further positive noises have emerged from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), which said that the interim placements in the private sector have been at their highest level since its survey began in 2006.


Anecdotally, I see the impact. I know of an insurance company that has more than 50 vacancies in its commercial area, and a top-tier charity that desperately needs talented people at all levels – especially in “narrow” areas such as business development, governance and digital marketing.

But there is a mismatch.

It’s a bit like a golf grip where there’s an overlap between your fourth finger and your little finger. There is supply and demand – but the problem is that they don’t align perfectly. They are overlapping 15% to 20% of the time.

The reason is that, currently, successful organisations – whether public, private or not-for-profit – are moving at a very fast pace, and the management skills they need today will be different from those they will need in two to three years.

For example, clients are calling us daily looking for professionals such as:

i) chief digital officers to maximise online efficiency, and

ii) risk-management specialists to help cope with increasing regulation

They are roles that didn’t even exist in those organisations two years ago.

So on that basis, it is the year of the candidate… but only if you have the skills.

We have returned to the days where you can have five offers on the table if you are a candidate at the top of your game.

But if you are a candidate and don’t have the skills that are in demand, then you have work to do.

You have to find the niches and new avenues to position your professional product(s).

Our own annual Russam GMS Snapshot Survey shows that 60% of all interim executives placed are required because they have unique management skills that are completely absent from the organisation they are going in to help.

And it’s not just the hard skills. It is having the right attitude, ability and strategic nous to hit the ground running.

There is no honeymoon period these days across any role in management and leadership.

The recession has made us all – and I say this as a managing director of a growing firm – extremely judicious about bringing in the right people and removing the wrong people.

In short, it may well be the year of the candidate… but we will have a problem in the next few years if the supply of talent does not improve.

Jason Atkinson is managing director of executive search specialists Russam GMS.

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