Will Brexit backlash break the executive recruitment industry?

Was the “Vote to Leave” good for senior level positions in the UK? Will Brexit spell doomsday for the executive recruitment industry?

Firstly, I must apologise, as I am sure you’re sick to the back teeth of reading ‘Brexit this’ and ‘EU that’, maybe nearly even as sick as hearing about ‘GDPR’. But as I’ve not personally covered Brexit and the “Vote to Leave” in a blog, and it’s been a good period now since, this has allowed us time to analyse the market and reflect on the impact (if any) that there has been so far.

executive recruitment


Initially I’m sure it would not have been surprising to see executive consultants pulling their hair out and banging their heads repeatedly on their desks on the morning after the result, purely on the fear of another recession. But on reflection, I think most didn’t quite know what to expect so approached it with a bit more of a “let’s see how it goes” attitude, particularly on the basis that Brexit itself would not happen for at least another 2 years (if it happened at all), and stockpile on rat poison in the meantime…

Having worked through the last recession in the recruitment sector myself, I know it was a pretty dire place; a bloody minefield of desperate recruiters dropping their pants on fees left right and centre. As well as there being an influx of multiple times more unfortunate job-seekers, all applying for a tiny pool of jobs, and with far less patience and understanding for briefs and the fact that they don’t have the required skills. Understandably might I add, as we all have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed; but this didn’t make it any easier for the poor recruiter who saw his ability to negotiate reasonable fees diminish overnight, and almost every aspect of his job be made even more difficult. To sum up, it was not pretty, it was not clever, and it was certainly not fun, but it did build character (at least I tell myself that).

This was especially apparent in the marketing industry, as marketing was often one of the first divisions to suffer the proverbial axe, particularly by companies that were naïve to its incredible importance in times of need (though in its defence it’s also one of the first divisions to get investment when the market regains some strength).

Now, I’m open to disagreement on this, but I have personally felt the senior marketing recruitment sector had never fully regained the traction and buoyancy that it had pre-recession. There was still an abundance of good talent on the scrapheap being told they were ‘too experienced’ for the bulk of roles available, and companies were often still looking for consultants/interims for positions where they would previously have hired full time staff, and the upper salaries seemed to have had £30,000 sliced off the top end which never really recovered.

So, when the “Vote to Leave” happened, I feared the worst, I thought salaries would be pushed down further, and senior and executive roles would disappear from the face of the earth. But to my amazement, if anything, I would say the opposite has happened – perhaps organisations have learnt from their mistakes and realised a marketing offensive is now the best protection. I’m not saying we’re getting twice as many live senior positions as before, or any silly figures like that, but I would say that there’s certainly more around in general, companies seem relaxed about the future, and are investing at all levels in new roles across the marketing industry.

They say in the world of trading that “even a dead cat will bounce, if it falls from a great height”, so maybe this is the delayed temporary uprising post-recession and the real fall is yet to come triggered by Brexit. Or maybe, the outlook from the industry, and employers is bullish, and that now’s the time to invest and not divest, to ensure we succeed as a separate nation.

I would be interested to hear any thoughts about this in the comments from recruiters, marketers, hiring managers and any business professionals alike. How are you finding the market? Are you a bull or a bear? How do you and your clients feel about what’s coming?

If you’re an employer currently looking to hire senior and executive level marketing, communications, client services or PR staff across the UK, and would be interested in hearing about Brand Recruitment’s market leading Senior Marketing & Executive Recruitment services, please contact us on 01223 242423, or find out more.

Senior Marketing Recruitment & Executive Search

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