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  • Candidate or client market?

  • Media: Leasing Life, Issue 135

    Date: Dec 2004

    Article: Candidate or client market?

    Author: Jane Theobald - Recruitment Director, New Leaf Search

    Does the recruitment sector differ from other markets?
    IT is essential that during a ‘trade’, both candidates and clients understand their relative bargaining powers and position themselves in a way which ensures recruitment success.

    The asset finance market has changed considerably and this has had a huge impact on recruitment. Seven years ago, the market was bigger as improving economic trends attracted new players and the more established lessors constantly strived to compete by broadening their range of products and established new programmes. This resulted in the recruitment market becoming more buoyant.

    Since then, a number of factors have adversely affected the industry and greatly influenced the recruitment process. Reduced business confidence has led to market consolidation through corporate restructuring and numerous mergers and acquisitions. One sector in particular that has been particularly affected by this is the small ticket vendor market, where organisations continue to acquire competitors – only this year we have seen ING Lease UK acquire Abbey National Business and more recently CIT acquired CitiCapital Vendor Finance.

    “The client needs to promote their company and the opportunity just as much, if not more, than the candidate selling their services.”

    As the number of players has contracted, there has been a steady influx of candidates onto the job market consisting of a combination of the casualties of consolidation, those facing redundancy, those unhappy with their new parent or revised function, and those that are speculatively looking to exploit new opportunities.

    Those employees unfortunate enough to have experienced redundancy are often faced with a saturated market where prospective employers have the pick of the bunch. This hints at a client dominated market, particularly in the areas of credit, collections, operations and support, where there is a surplus of candidates vying for limited opportunities. The same is also true of senior management positions where competition is fierce and employers seeking such individuals can be more discerning. There’s no better time as an employer to go to market for these positions.

    Employers attempting to attract calibre candidates need to be attentive to this candidate state of mind. Gone are the days when the right candidate could be handpicked, headhunted and persuaded to join off the back of a straightforward interview process. Today, employers must sell the opportunity to the candidate, empathising with their fears and uncertainties and reassuring them with greater financial and company benefits, improved promotional prospects and longer notice periods. Here, the balance appears to have shifted in favour of the candidate. For the first time in a long time, the client needs to promote their company and the opportunity just as much, if not more, than the candidate selling their services.

    The other area in which this shift is apparent is in the specialist sales sectors of IT, telecoms, office equipment, medical and construction. Here, clients are generally seeking candidates with five to eight years experience in their industry sector, with bank finance grounding, ideally of graduate calibre and with a proven track record. Bank-based finance companies have traditionally provided a steady supply of suitably trained individuals into this market sector. However, due to the recent consolidation of these companies, coupled with cutbacks in their training and development budgets, there is a now a distinct shortage of candidates matching these criteria. As a result, those with the right experience and skill set are not only in demand but are also in a strong position to negotiate favourable terms of employment.

    It is clear there is no distinct division between a client or candidate marketplace. It is the type of opportunity which tends to dictate client or candidate dominance. One thing that has become apparent is that companies rationalising their hierarchies are polarising towards flatter structures and more specialised skill sets. As a candidate therefore, being a generalist in the present climate may not necessarily present you with the most opportunities.

    “Although the market is tougher, the opportunities are there.”

    Our message to potential candidates is to ensure they nurture their specialist skills profile and to be realistic about timescales in search of a new role. At present the end-to-end process can be as lengthy as 12 months. Work with a reputable recruiter to develop your career plan, research the market and make the right connections for you.

    For clients we advise that they do not overlook internal applicants. Often quality candidates are missed and subsequently lost to competition. Thereafter, ensure you have a clear job and person specification. Work with recruiters that can demonstrate proven success in your particular field and remember that the interview process is essentially a two-way sale. Do not recruit just for today but recruit for the long-term. A viable business is wholly dependent upon its people.

    Although the market is tougher, the opportunities are there. Leasing still holds good career prospects, but in a constantly changing environment both candidates and clients need to be continually evaluating their strengths and weaknesses as it does boil down to survival of the fittest.

    Jane Theobald is recruitment director at New Leaf Search.

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