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Key Highlights

  • Within the education sector England’s schools are facing a “severe shortage” of teachers, with bigger class sizes and more subjects taught by staff without a relevant degree.
  • Google launched its new jobs search feature, Google For Jobs, on its result pages, bringing an ease to job seekers.
  • 2018 has also seen employer branding become an even more crucial part of attracting and retaining top talent as candidates.

The world of recruitment is always heavily influenced by political and economic uncertainty as both significantly impact how we all recruit.

2018 has certainly offered its fair share of challenges for those of us within the UK recruitment sector, which has shaped how we find, hire and retain the very best talent.

Here’s a closer look at the key challenges and obstacles that the UK recruitment sector has faced, and the recruitment trends seen in 2018:



Brexit and ongoing skill shortages

Although the UK economy is doing better and unemployment figures are at their lowest, since 1975, there is little doubt that uncertainty over the impact of Brexit has had a considerable bearing on the recruitment sector and has fundamentally created an even smaller pool of talent.

In fact, the truth is recruiters are faced with an ongoing increase in demand for workers, as the latest figures highlight the number of both jobs and vacancies has increased to the highest since comparable records began.

However, significantly this increase in demand for workers has been combined with the supply of people actually looking for work falling.

With only five months to go until Britain leaves the EU, we still do not have an agreement over labour movement.

However, whatever the final decision is, the effects of Brexit are already being felt throughout the UK workforce with less access to both high and low skilled migrant workers, whose skills and talent have plugged the ever-growing gaps as demand continues to outstrip supply of labour, especially in certain sectors such as Healthcare, IT and Hospitality.

Plus, there will be a need for a greater focus on retaining and developing existing talent to ensure both imminent and future demands are met.

IMS People Possible serves over 150 Leading Staffing Companies with 12 years of experience in the recruitment industry

Healthcare and Education recruitment

It would be very understandable if this year healthcare and education recruitment agencies, who provide vital support to both sectors felt over criticised and undervalued.

In August the NHS regulator, NHS Improvement (NHSI), issued a statement calling for NHS Trusts to take a ‘bank first’ approach and fill temporary vacancies with workers from a staffing bank rather than, relying on “expensive” recruitment agencies, making market conditions tougher for already challenged healthcare recruitment agencies.

The role of the recruiter in placing teachers into schools also became even more contentious when in June news broke regarding the government’s intended crackdown on ‘excessive’ fees being charged.

Many in both sectors continue to believe that they are expected to work to a different business model, resulting in lower profitability than other agencies, who it could be said have a much easier job.

In addition, the introduction of IR35 in the public sector has placed a real burden on accounting and administrative functions within recruitment agencies and has often resulted in the need to employ more specialised, highly in demand and expensive staff or look to outsourcing the accounting process to achieve not only cost savings but an increase in efficiency.

Another significant challenge facing accounting teams is the constant new levels of regulation and compliance demands, especially in the areas of payroll and tax.

Staying on top of legislative and regulation changes by the HMRC is not an easy undertaking and it constantly places a heavy weight of responsibility on in-house accounting teams. Many businesses have been forced to employ more and more in-house experts and upgrade technology or again outsource to an accounting expert to ensure compliance.

Skills shortages in healthcare sector still dominate headlines with the latest highlighting more than 500 family doctors left the NHS between March and June this year, quitting at a rate of more than 43 per week and the latest findings indicate that one in four student nurses drop out before they finish their degrees at a time when the NHS is suffering from a severe shortage of nurses.

Within the education sector England’s schools are facing a “severe shortage” of teachers, with bigger class sizes and more subjects taught by staff without a relevant degree according to education think tank Education Policy Institute (EPI).


The last year has also seen the need for recruitment businesses to comply with GDPR, which came into force with a bang on 25 May or face significant fines. This has again added even more extra burden and cost to already stretched admin and accounting teams who have had to update their existing processes and fundamentally change how they gather, manage, process, store and secure candidate data.

The addition of GDPR to recruitment agencies worries has certainly made compliance a hot topic and made thriving in an already competitive and demanding marketplace all that harder.



AI, big data, block chains etc.

2018 has seen data in recruitment become the new superpower, allowing more insights into candidate selection and management, the ability to identify skills gaps that potentially existing talent can fill and has offered more accurate and detailed metrics such as cost to hire, time to hire and attrition rates.

2018 has also seen AI become more ubiquitous throughout the sector with many hailing it as the answer to candidate sourcing and selecting and the solution to reducing unconscious bias when recruiting.

However the latest reports regarding Amazon having to scrap its AI recruiting tool as it had learnt to be sexist and taught itself that male candidates were preferable has ensured the debate over the benefits will continue for many years.

One thing for sure is that AI is making it possible for recruiters to save time sifting through CVs allowing for more focus on the candidate management and relationship building necessary in the current candidate-driven marketplace.

Gig economy

There can be little doubt that the gig economy is growing as more and more businesses see the benefit of being able to keep costs lower by only hiring workers when there is a demand and not having to pay out benefits such as sick leave and holidays.

What form of changes will take place are still to be determined. However, the recent cases have highlighted that workers within the gig economy are certainly becoming less tolerant about continuing to work without any rights or protection.

Diversity and Equality

2018 saw all companies in Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) with more than 250 employees reporting their gender pay gap and publishing the details of the proportion of men and women in the company, who receive bonuses and the breakdown of men and women in different pay quartiles.

Sadly, this exercise has highlighted that much still has to be done to bring about pay equality as reports highlight disparity in gender pay throughout all sectors and industries and in some cases almost 8 in 10 companies and public sector bodies paying men more than women.

Fortunately, more and more businesses have begun to see the many benefits of employing a truly diverse workforce including improved culture and financial performance and have continued to move away from it just being an exercise in box ticking.

There are progressive moves being made to ensure that not only are there more diverse candidates in the pipeline but that the culture they will be working in is more inclusive and embraces diversity.

New ways of doing things in 2018:

2018 has seen new ways to source candidates and has seen Google and Microsoft recognizing that the recruitment sector offers tremendous potential for growth.

  • Google launched its new jobs search feature, Google For Jobs, on its result pages, bringing an ease to job seekers.
  • Social recruiting has been widely used throughout 2018 with social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, online forums and even personal blogs being utilised to search for candidates, especially passive one.
  • A new wave of interviewing tools is being used by businesses who see traditional interview processes as ineffective, limited and full of bias when it comes to assessing a candidate’s soft skills and understanding their weaknesses and strengths.
  • Believed to offer a more realistic snapshot of a candidate’s personality, predictive tools, for example, can measure and assess a candidate’s skills and traits such as curiosity and teamwork
  • There is also a growing trend towards offering more unusual methods such as ‘job auditions’ which allow employers to observe a candidate’s skills and weaknesses and lets applicants to try a role in real time.
  • 2018 has also seen employer branding become an even more crucial part of attracting and retaining top talent as candidates, especially younger generations, considering the reputation of a business before they apply for a job there.



Above all else, 2018 has for the recruitment sector been dominated by ongoing skills shortages, business, economic and political uncertainty and new legislative demands.

This has created a need for recruiters to create smarter and more strategic ways of working to attract both clients and candidates alike.

Indeed, 2018 has seen a need for recruiters to become as much an advisor as a recruiter, who needs to fully utilise the tools available, such as AI, to help them work more efficiently, quicker and allows them to focus on the ‘human’ element of the role.