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Good people are hard to find: Q&A with recruitment expert Joe Synes

The latest RIBA Future Trends survey found that almost a fifth of practices are struggling to recruit. Joe Synes, managing director of recruitment consultancy Hunter Dunning, discusses the employment market

Do the findings of the Future Trends survey match your experience?

A fifth of practices struggling sounds surprisingly low. Brexit and Covid created uncertainty, but recruitment has picked up since last summer and it’s very much a candidate-driven market; good people are hard to find. Except for a short period after 2008, that has been the case throughout my 20 years in recruitment. 

Where is demand highest?

Everywhere is busy but demand for residential experience and knowledge of Revit are far and away the highest. There’s also a shortage of seasoned, mid-level people who can work without much supervision, but aren’t yet in management positions. Brexit produced a spike in requests for contract staff; now practices want to fill permanent roles. Salaries have risen recently and, as roles can take a long time to fill, companies often have to consider being flexible about levels of experience.

How has the pandemic changed the jobs market?

People who might normally have changed jobs last year didn’t, so there are moves waiting to happen. We’ve surveyed architects and 70% are looking to market themselves this year – that’s huge. An anticipated avalanche of New Year applications was slowed by continuing uncertainty, but we will see a lot of activity before things settle down. The biggest long-term change is hybrid or remote working. Around 50% of candidates want the option to work from home at least part time. For some it’s a red line, and we’ve already seen others require a huge difference in salary to take a fully office-based role. We’ve also had a significant increase in candidates wanting to relocate from cities, which was very rare before Covid. And employers who were once wary about relocations are much more open to the idea.

Are most employers willing to accommodate flexible working?

About half are, and half want a full return to the office as soon as possible. When that happens, CVs will appear in our inbox. In 2022 we foresee the biggest shift coming from candidates exiting businesses that insist on being in the office Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. More than 75% of practices are ‘micro businesses’ that recruit infrequently and aren’t aware of how candidate-driven the market has become, or how quickly they need to act when recruiting. But candidates know what they can ask for as they are approached regularly. Their concern has been job security, but the feeling that you are safer in existing roles is not accurate. Now is as good a time as any to move. 

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