The UK went into lockdown on March 23rd 2020, but the economic effects of COVID-19 began much earlier and have greatly impacted the global market. With airlines shut down, office buildings closed, and furloughs and redundancies being handed out, it has been a difficult start to the new year.

Both FTSE 100s and startups have halted hiring across a wide array of roles and have placed a streamlined approach on their department structures. Only 19% of UK businesses have continued to hire throughout the pandemic. That alone shows the difficulties many face in the employment market.


COVID-19 Hiring Impact

Woman with face mask

With this near-instant halt of services, the recruitment sector has felt the shock. The hospitality, retail and service sectors were arguably the hardest hit. Many traditional roles and contractors have been put on pause until the quarantine has been lifted. However, despite the more pessimistic news, there are windows of opportunity. Recruiters, while seeing a slow-down in the available number of roles, are seeing certain parts of the IT sector still hiring and finding solutions to their hiring difficulties. 


According to a REC survey, temporary roles have increased by 15% since the outbreak of coronavirus. Tech recruitment, especially, saw numerous Fintech and MedTech companies continuing to hire throughout the coronavirus outbreak. The tech sector may have been one of the more resilient areas of the UK economy, as many brands moved most, if not all, of their staff into a remote work setup.


Recruitment Challenges

Laptop screens

One of the key challenges many clients had was the interview process, which was largely still done face-to-face in a pre-COVID-19 world. Even roles that are currently considered to be designated as "key worker" have candidates hesitant to commit to a face-to-face interview at the moment. However, a fair portion of clients placing contractors were quick to set up software like Zoom in order to coordinate with candidates. This agile response from employers surely aided their abilities to attract the right candidate for their roles. 


Businesses looking to fill permanent roles however were more hesitant to commit without the traditional interview process and as a result, there has been a decrease in the number of permanent roles being filled in certain areas. However, considering the overall value that long-term roles have on the industry, some £50 billion a year, it will surely be the first to bounce back once the lockdown is eased.


The Hiring Funnel

Man writing on paper

Companies have begun to alter their hiring funnel to help compensate for the lack of available roles, manpower, and potential funds. There are numerous ways businesses can still hire without having to put undue stress on their teams. Identifying roles that can endure the limitations of the current lockdown, and a potential second-wave lockdown would be key. Those who can work effectively in a remote setting and still offer a vital edge for your company are crucial and most likely at the forefront of consideration. 


When utilising recruitment services it helps to go with a brand that has a high level of consumer trust, or those with longevity and large talent pools. They may be more expensive initially but will save you money in the overall talent acquisition process. Another important consideration is consultants who have a solid foundation in delivering experienced and applicable candidates to their clients.


Additionally, the interview process will surely see changes going forward. As more businesses hire via video calling software, questions will likely become more complex and interview times longer, as the Hiring Managers will have to provide new hires with a certain level of trust and credibility to their proficiency in the role.

Brighter Days Ahead

London, UK Skyline

Despite the decrease in hiring of certain sectors, it is not quite similar to previous economic woes of 2007 for example. In fact, until the coronavirus outbreak both the global and UK economy, especially in the tech sector, were still on very stable ground. Businesses were hungry to hire more staff as areas like Cyber Security were even seeing a skills gap. This likely won't change post-lockdown. 


The coronavirus itself, while it is sure to have an effect on the global economy, may not be the harbinger of doom that some are predicting. The return back to the state of growth may be slow, but it is sure to return. In addition to this, some £330 billion worth of furlough funds has been injected into the economy and will likely aid many to bounce back quicker once businesses are allowed to open up. With only a week until the UK lockdown is reviewed and countries like Spain, Italy, France and even Canada looking to ease restrictions the end appears to be near.