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Last year’s snow and new winds

The transition of the headhunting market

The time has come that managers have been expecting for years. No, I did not lose my sound judgement by making such a statement in such a challenging period. As a headhunter, I am sitting in my office checking the statistics of recent months, and I smile when I think about how if somebody had told me at the end of 2019 that there would be a 348% increase in the number of applications and the number of people suitable for certain positions, I would have called them crazy.

Where is last year’s snow?

It seems unbelievable, and it is as if it happened decades ago that we had to build up a serious strategy for finding out where we could hunt for applicants for a given position. We had orders, mainly because it was almost impossible for companies to start a recruitment process directly, so they needed external support. In the case of international companies, it was a natural process; however, SME demand for headhunting and recruitment services has significantly increased in the past decade. We professionals tried to do our best. I have never really seen such oversupply as in 2015-2019, when the situation worsened from one year to the next. Nevertheless, it must be mentioned that there were companies in that period for whom it was not hard to get the best employees. Usually, startups benefited from this situation because when there is such oversupply, employees were also ready to “take risks” and end up in a very cool workplace even if it did not necessarily offer the best conditions. What could a good employee lose when the average salary of certain positions was 30-40% above the normal level? That was possible a few years ago. If things do not go well at one startup, they would go to another, and if they got utterly fed up with the world of startups, they would choose a multinational company to work for. We cannot say that such a period is harmful because employers, especially those painting completely unrealistic pictures of themselves, confront their real market value. Many discussions we made came to an embarrassing ending when the potential client showed up with the “we are a completely unique company in the market, where it is fun to work for younger employees” idea, but we had to cool them down with the “there are companies in the market with the same expertise who are more successful, so it will be quite a challenge to attract younger employees” facts. However, this wake-up call was needed for the sake of mutual success.

New winds are blowing

By the end of 2020, we already saw that the “rest period” for employees was over. The market has mobilised, and I am not only talking about the employees who were made redundant. The entire labour market has mobilised. Employees woke up because they saw how their companies reacted to the crisis. In many cases, they had a very negative opinion regarding the employers’ decisions, even if they did not necessarily directly affect them. As a result, demand for companies dealing with recruitment and headhunting has significantly increased. What is more, the number of people who were not immediately looking for a job out of necessity has risen as well. The best professionals look around in the market. Of course, I am happy about it because, to tell the truth, I could not really “practice” my profession in the past few years. The whole headhunting industry has turned into a kind of sales activity, where the most important thing was “selling” the client to the potential workforce. I am not saying that it is obviously a wrong direction, but based on the “charity begins at home” principle, it often happened that we wanted to fill in a vacancy so much that we turned a blind eye to some important factors. We did not even do so for financial reasons, but simply because one loses their patience when a position is not filled for almost a year, and then comes to the “this person will be fine too” point. What is more, these employees work well; indeed, they are just not the best ones, so they do not support a company’s development. However, 2021 has started an entirely new chapter in our field as well. We finally have the chance to assess, harshly select, and choose the best candidates. We can finally be real headhunters again.