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The Proverbial Haystack: How Did it Get so Big?

23 Jul 2020 |

By Samantha Daniels


The Last Few Months Were Challenging

For many of us, it is difficult to think of an event in recent history that has been as wide-reaching and high impact as the knock-on effects that have entailed the current pandemic. By the end of June, almost 10 million people had been furloughed from their jobs, many more made redundant, and a similarly large number of people working from home indefinitely.

On the other side of this coin, a great number of businesses Victoria Wall Associates (VWA) work with have also had to adjust plans, budgets and forecasts and for many companies, one of the many adjustments to plans has come in the re-adjustments of hiring plans. By the end of March, the majority of roles were on hold, with many of the remaining live roles interviewing via video-link.

Over the months of June and July though there have been some glimmers on the recruitment front with some held roles becoming active again and new ones taken where processes have been completed remotely, offers made and the candidates onboarded remotely.

What Though Has Been The Effect On The Candidate Market?

For the first time in many years we are seeing a shift from a tight candidate-short market to a rapidly expanding and increasingly anxious plethora of candidates, with a more limited pool of jobs.

To put this into perspective, during business as normal a popular job posting – such as an Executive Assistant or Receptionist role – might receive around 200 applications from when the role is posted to when it is closed- often over a 2-3 week period. During this period of lockdown, however, these roles can receive anywhere between 700 and 1200 applications in the first 5 days of posting, with almost 2,500 after 2-3 weeks of being advertised.

Out of this number, there will be a large number of anxious candidates who are – understandably – applying for any live role, regardless of the type of job, in order to secure employment during this incredibly uncertain period. This means that a high volume of candidates – and in some cases, the vast majority – will have experience that is irrelevant to the role advertised. These factors all make for a very time-consuming and often fruitless screening process.

Despite this high number of candidates, however, we are continuing to see the competitive “war for talent” that has been a particularly common market trend in 2019 and early 2020 on certain roles - particularly roles within the finance sector as many of these candidates are still in secure roles and not looking to move on.

Survivors Adapt

Here at VWA, the team have had to quickly adapt to this increased volume, whilst still maintaining the integrity, expertise and rigour that our business has been built on. Through our extensive screening and registration process, we are able to turn a candidate pool of over 1000 into a shortlist of the very best candidates, who we are confident will be the best choice for the role. In other words – finding the ever elusive needle in the growing haystack.

Alongside brand new candidate applications, we continue to use a variety of other resources to ensure all our clients receive the best choice possible of available candidates. These resources include:

  • Our extensive candidate database – we work with many candidates throughout their careers and have been doing so during our 31 year history in business
  • Recommended candidates – over 20% of candidates who registered in 2019 came to us through referrals
  • Ex-clients who come to us with their own job search
  • Our partnership with Oxford Media and Business School – candidates with secretarial diplomas eager for their first PA/ administrative roles

Artificial Intelligence vs The VWA Method

In many ways, advertising roles is becoming easier due to advances in technology – from auto-rejection for candidates who do not meet specific criteria, adding in pre-screening questions to the ability to move and organise candidates into projects on LinkedIn.

However, using AI and technology in the recruitment process comes with some drawbacks. Auto-rejection, for example, immediately discounts candidates who don’t have very specific requirements but do have other skills or qualifications which may be equally important, or transferable to the role in question. This is why our "human" approach, and genuine recruitment expertise, continue to be at the very heart of what we do. We really get to know our candidates throughout the recruitment process- going into great detail before, during and after registration to ensure we are getting a clear idea of our candidates personalities, abilities and aspirations, pairing this with our understanding of our clients’ job brief, cultures and needs.

We are also strong advocates – where appropriate – of candidate ‘wild cards’: those who have experience perhaps outside of the specific requirements, but who have superb potential combined with a robust transferable skill set, while being a great personality fit. Over the last few years, we have seen a number of clients hire wild cards on a temp to perm basis – allowing both client and candidate a more flexible and open-minded approach to the hiring process.

We take great pride in going ‘the extra mile’ for all our clients and candidates to make the recruitment process run smoothly - taking out the labour-intensive and tedious elements from the process to match the best candidate to the vacancy. This is how we continue to have an excellent reputation in the world of recruitment and a consistently low drop-out rate.

If there is a needle you would like to find, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we will be very happy to help.

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