I have been quiet on social platforms recently and think it is a good idea to give you an update on the HR recruitment market, purely based on my own experience so far this year!
It is helpful especially for candidates to know the realities of the current job market; what do companies want from HR now, what are they paying and what impact does this have on the overall market conditions.
But let me start with a quick overview of what I have been focusing on at Holden Reilly, as a start up in 2020.
Launching a start-up during a crisis
When I launched in January, I had the vision to work with a few loyal & professional clients who I have known and successfully supported over the last 9 years. There was immediate interest, and positive conversations where had. Fees agreed, procurement process started, I was then able to focus on the candidate side to build a strong HR database of my own. Since launching I have personally or virtually met over 200 HR professionals in my network, speaking with many more over email. As I have mentioned in previous communications, the influx of CVs is difficult to manage but candidates should be confident that their CVs are at least viewed in my own case.
In March everything slowed or stopped completely, and the reality is it took Holden Reilly the best part of 6 months to get signed contracts and processes into place with clients. I am not one to waste peoples’ time, and therefore any role that I work on is a verified position, even if not exclusive. Going into September, I have witnessed more commitment from organisations to engage with agencies on signed-off opportunities and to manage the recruitment process at a more appropriate pace for all parties. Roles still go on hold, but this is purely for financial/budgetary reasons.
What I am trying to show is that it has been a very reactive year. The only strategy I currently have is to place good HR candidates when possible and to keep Holden Reilly active in people’s minds for when the market finally gains momentum, which it will inevitably do.
At the same time, I realise the value-add, especially for candidates is much less in 2020 that ever before. Candidates are still very worried, frustrated and in some cases disappointed with the recruitment market, agencies, and in-house recruiters.
It is the first time that many of my own candidates have been out of work for so long, and it has become disheartening for most. If you are reading this and you are in that position still, please be assured that you are not forgotten. Financially it can be an extremely difficult time but understanding the drivers in the market are key (more on that later).
Who is recruiting HR professionals now?
Sector wise, placements have been across industrial sectors, FMCG, professional services and local diversified groups going through change. Almost every role I have worked on in 2020 has been a generalist or recruitment focused position. Learning & Development, Talent and Reward have been less prominent.
Many MNCs have global hiring freezes in place and have gone through restructures leading to HR being taken out of the ME region to consolidate cost. They have moved senior HR roles to Asia, India, Australia & Europe and in some cases back to the US.
Regional companies have also gone through redundancies in HR and witnessed voluntary resignations due to personal considerations such as schooling or pay cuts within the family unit.
So, from what I can see, many senior HR roles in MNCs have been taken out of the region (salaries AED 60-90K per month). At the same time, regional companies are more likely to replace a senior HR hire who resigns, but not at a pre-covid rate of pay. In previous downturns I would suggest that this is a risky strategy for organisations – as soon as the market improves, people leave. However, this crisis is very different. Salaries across most disciplines and sectors have reduce by 15-25%. Pay cuts are in place until the end of the year, but there is no guarantee of increases for some. Add to this the fact that many employees can now effectively work from home, companies can now attract talent without the cost of expatriate benefits and relocation. I therefore do not necessarily see HR salaries increasing any time soon.
I do not, however, condone organisations taking advantage of the covid situation. The salary for any HR role should be fair based on the candidate’s knowledge, skill set and experience, and the cost of living in the country. Otherwise we will see a huge exodus of true talent, which will not be easily replaced.
This leads me on to the levels being hired. It is a junior-mid level market, with clients looking to find strong operational HR skills, coupled with an ability to build relationships with management & leadership. Of the few senior level roles in the market, the clients are extremely detailed about the skills, experience, and cultural fit of the shortlisted candidates. It is not easy to land an interview in this market, and I fear this is having a negative effect on some excellent talents.
Advice for HR candidates still actively looking after lock-down
My advice in this situation is to make sure your CV is tailored to any organisation and role you apply for, and you have researched the company in advance of applying. Take the time to read the job descriptions and acknowledge the fact your CV might not highlight the correct examples or skills in its current state. Changing your CV is not time wasted and could make all the difference to being shortlisted. This is where the “Easy Apply” function on LinkedIn can be misleading! Applying for any role requires effort in this market….
As an agency recruiter, I am now asked for incredibly detailed candidate interview notes from contingent clients and I understand this due to the sheer number of CVs on the market. If you are being represented by an agency for a role, make sure the recruiter has at least interviewed you adequately by telephone. If not, it is unlikely you are not being sold into the client in a way that will guarantee an interview.
Make sure you CV is also up to date. Many candidates who were made redundant during covid where not expecting it and do not have an adequate CV which highlights recent projects, commercials and value add. If you do not know where to start, ask for CV advice. And before you apply for a role through an agency, ask them if your CV needs to be amended for the client.
What organisations should know
If you are reading this as a hiring manager, you should know that there is some excellent HR talent still available in the UAE at all levels. The candidates I have registered have a breadth & depth of experience, often gained in multinationals and strong local companies. They are diverse, commercially aligned and people oriented – which companies need in difficult economies. In addition, they are realistic and flexible on their salary expectations, within a fair benchmark. However, this talent pool is shrinking and many more will leave before the end of 2020. The ME has come so far in its HR journey, progressing from admin focused teams to business-aligned people functions which supports the bottom line. It would be disappointing to see us go backwards in HR, and extremely difficult to regain momentum.
This is a longer piece than I envisaged! But I hope it gives some insight to the reality of the HR recruitment market from my perspective. As always, we need to stay positive and try to support the UAE HR community in 2020. It is not easy, and motivation is low for many. I am grateful to have helped some incredibly good HR professionals this year and hope to continue as we move into the latter part of 2020.
Wishing you all a successful September and I hope to hear some positive outcomes soon!