An overview of the Hospitality Jobs market

Having recently written a blog about the retail recruitment market I am now turning my attention to the hospitality jobs market to see whether the market is as tough for candidates looking to find new roles.

As in the retail sector, I think most candidates are often pleasantly surprised when they first come onto the market to find another position, by the volume of roles that appear to be out available matching their skills and experience.  However as has been highlighted in the recent Hospitality Employment Index statistics provided by the Caterer.com and People 1st, the competition for these roles is higher than ever.

I am afraid to say that on the surface the statistics do not make encouraging reading. The number of overall vacancies is down some 8% compared to last year and in some categories such as management roles in the restaurant sector they are down a massive 45%.  Unfortunately the competition for roles has also increased with the number of applications only falling by 2% during the same period.

However, as always we should try and put some perspective on these headline grabbing figures.  What the statistics show is that the current job volumes are some 30% higher than in 2009. To some extent during the recession we have seen a much stronger focus on retention and development in the sector. This may be an additional factor in explaining the underlying statistics. As always these statistics only show part of the picture and just reflect the volume (and level) of roles posted on the job board.

Looking at the performance of some of the key players in the market, despite the miserable weather and conflicting expectations brought by the Olympics, the market has held up well.  Looking at recent announcements, Greene King reported a like-for-like sales increase of 5.1%, Mitchells and Butler LFL of 3% and The Restaurant Group LFL of 3.25%. As always there are winners and losers however with continued growth in some areas of the market the need for high calibre individuals remains strong.

As we all know, the hospitality sector is all about people and being able to inspire, lead and motivate teams to deliver great product and great service. Many businesses continue to invest in retaining and recruiting the best people to drive and maintain that competitive edge. Being focused on recruiting middle and senior appointments we have seen strong demand for individuals since the end of the summer and are watching with interest to see how the market unfolds over the coming months.

As has been the case over the last couple of years it continues to be difficult for candidates to secure positions in different sectors, so my advice to candidates is to look at businesses where your skills and experience will be most transferable.  The expectations of clients is rightly very high as they look to drive their business by hiring candidates with experience and a strong track record of success.

Without a shadow of doubt for the vast majority of middle and senior management candidates the market out there remains tough. However, whilst the job board figures are certainly negative, as we come out of recession, the market will inevitably pick up.

Russell Adams

LinkedIn
 

Leaving the dark side – how agency experience benefits the in-house recruiter.

AdMore Recruitment - Sophie Mackenzie

They say doctors make the worst patients – is the same true for ex-agency consultants who become in-house recruiters? Sometimes, certainly. Take a recent case when one of my colleagues drove to the other end of the country (a 5 hour drive) for a client meeting scheduled at 4pm. This was a new client, there was no history, good or bad and so this should have been an amiable introduction to form the foundation for the relationship going forward. Instead he received a frosty response and a grilling for 40 minutes where he was tarred with the same brush as the agencies preceding him and left with little or no inclination to work on the account. The client was an ex-agency consultant, full of bitterness about the agency world and rather than leveraging her background to build rapport and influence the agencies to deliver for her, she has taken the other path – looking down on the very industry that trained her.

This is a rare case however and I strongly support the view that the best in-house recruiters will have some experience in the agency world.

That said, it doesn’t follow that every consultant can make the move in-house. I know that there is a widespread view that an in-house recruiter is a failed agency consultant:  (those that can, recruit; those that can’t recruit in-house etc…) however in my experience of the industry this is certainly not the case.  Those making the move in-house generally do so for positive reasons – to find an environment where they can better employ their skills.

I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t the best agency consultant. I had colleagues who were more tenacious, competitive and better sellers. However the very skills which weren’t recognised in the target-driven agency environment were skills which I think made me a good in-house recruiter: relationship management, diplomacy, candidate control, communication skills, attention to detail and time management. Combine these ‘softer’ skills with a strong work ethic, a sense of urgency and a commercial outlook and this works really well in a challenging in-house role which can be highly pressured.

Some of my former colleagues just wouldn’t have cut it in-house – they wouldn’t have had the patience to deal with the internal politics and bureaucracy which forms the back drop for many resourcing teams. In an in-house role there is nowhere to hide –you can’t take a commercial decision not to work on a role if you feel it isn’t worth your while and your internal ‘clients’ are often high profile and incredibly demanding. This is a test of your influencing and communication skills - you need to be able to maximise your internal ‘brand’ in order to have some control over the hiring managers who left unchecked, have a tendency to hinder the process rather than expedite it!

There is increased pressure to source directly for obvious cost reasons however there is often little time to do this properly so you become adept at focusing your efforts and using agencies only on those roles where you really can’t do it yourself. There is also a massive difference in how you organise your time, driven by the incredible volume of email communication you receive in-house. Agency consultants are quite rightly encouraged to do everything on the phone and this is at odds with a corporate HR department where by definition, you are encouraged to keep an audit trail of absolutely everything.

Coming from an agency background was extremely powerful when working in-house. I knew all the tricks of the trade and so I was able to challenge agencies (in what I hope was a humorous and positive way) and ensure that our process was followed. I took a direct approach and tried to treat the agency consultant how I had hoped to be treated when I was in the same position – communicating openly about issues and time delays and trying to respond as quickly as possible to ensure they were able to manage their candidates’ expectations and therefore protect our employer brand in the market.

There were times when I could visualise some of my agencies mentally throwing darts at my Linkedin profile when I was forced to postpone an assignment due a corporate restructure or cancel an interview at short notice. It was embarrassing as I knew the work that the better agencies would have put in and the difficult position they would be in letting the candidates know.

Experiencing the ‘other side’ made me realise that there are some appalling practitioners in our industry but equally that there are some excellent recruitment professionals out there and I really enjoyed the relationships we made with these companies. I was genuinely pleased when they made a placement with us and was vocal in championing their brand internally.

My agency training enabled me to control the process and manage candidate offers effectively, negotiate to get the best commercial outcome for the business and, I hope, build genuine relationships with agencies based on mutual respect rather than disdain.

Most importantly, I never forgot what it was like to make that business development call and receive the inevitable frosty reception – this didn’t mean I tolerated the really poor sales approaches but it certainly made me treat consultants courteously and with respect.

I am interested to hear your opinion on this – what, in your view, is the best background for an in-house recruiter? Is it necessary to have experienced the agency world first-hand or are other backgrounds equally relevant?

Sophie Mackenzie

 

Does our reliance on recruitment technology reduce our chances of getting the best result?

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On Friday night I drove the family over to Gloucestershire to see some friends for the weekend. We decided to drive after work in the hope that the kids would fall asleep and therefore give us the most peaceful journey possible. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a ‘man’s man’ when it comes to cars and driving. I don’t have much interest in a car other than whether it has a good radio; can accommodate twins, prams and accompanying baggage in the boot and whether it will get me reliably from A to B. So it probably won’t come as much of a surprise when I tell you that I also don’t know the UK road network particularly well either and as such, have come to be utterly reliant on our beautiful, life saving and occasionally very frustrating  Satellite Navigation System. Embarrassingly, I don’t even have a map in the car.

We set off from Surrey at 5.30pm and our trusty SatNav confidently told me that we would arrive at our destination at 7.30pm. My geography is just about good enough to I realise that when my SatNav instructed me to come off at the M3 rather than the M4, it was taking a short cut, probably across country. It didn’t really feel right though – surely driving through busy urban areas at rush hour isn’t a good idea?  An hour later, when we eventually joined the M4, the kids were still awake as the stop/start nature of the traffic hadn’t created the best conditions for toddlers to nod off. As such, my stress levels went up a couple of notches as the whining started!

We got through the slow traffic on the M4 and seemed to be making some headway until my SatNav, which historically has had a predilection for cross country driving, instructed us to leave the motorway after what felt like a premature amount of miles. My Swedish wife, utterly lacking in geographic, spatial awareness and at times common sense, was pretty direct in her response to my querying  the sense of this;  "Do what the ***** SatNav says, you don’t know what you are doing, it does!" I think this takes back seat driving to a whole new level. Anyway, against my better instinct, I complied (if you know the Swedes you’ll know this is the best adjective) fearing that if I rebelled I would live to regret it…

At this point the heavens opened and what had been gentle rain became torrential. We were deep in the countryside - no lights, no other cars and limited visibility. Brilliant. The kids had realised that they were not getting out of the car anytime soon and their whining took on a slightly more urgent tone. Due to the rain I had to slow down to what felt like a snail’s pace as I made my way through unfamiliar territory and at one T junction, atop a hill, it was so pitch black I felt like I was driving blind. Just when I thought the journey couldn’t get any worse, our SatNav lost its link due to the weather conditions. We were in the middle of nowhere and had lost our only way of finding our destination. There was only one option, I had to call our host and ask him to give us live directions. We eventually arrived at 9.30pm, bleary eyed, with two screaming (and vomiting) toddlers. The journey took twice as long and was far more stressful than it needed to be.

This trip got me thinking; the Recruitment Industry (agency and in-house) has become increasingly reliant on technology and in recent years, Social Media to source candidates. As an example, it is not uncommon now for some businesses to focus their entire candidate attraction policy around Linkedin.  Although this is undoubtedly a useful tool for recruiters, it is best used to complement other sourcing methods.

There are a number of parallels between this situation and my fateful trip. How many of these have we all experienced at some point?

  • A journey (job brief) that at first seemed straightforward that took some unexpected turns.
  • A lack of basic preparation (why bother considering what is the best recruitment strategy when Social Media has all the answers?).
  • Adverse (market) conditions affecting the usefulness of the technology.
  • Allowing other ‘stakeholders’ to influence decisions through their own dependence on said technology.
  • Wasting time on unnecessary diversions (Social Media can be a terrible drain on time).
  • Stakeholders becoming angry and frustrated at the lack of a result within an agreed time-frame .
  • Placing too great a value on the use of ONE technological tool rather than a combination of skills.
  • Eventually calling in the support of a specialist, too late in the process to rectify some of my failings (to my stakeholders I had failed, regardless of the end result).
  • … And most alarmingly, such an utter reliance on one tool that I was blinkered, thinking that just because it would get me to my final destination, it would automatically be inthe best way.  I had become used to settling for second best without even realising it.

Improvements in technology have certainly made recruitment easier but it should not be relied upon to always yield the best result. Referrals, recommendations and good old head hunting should be central to any senior level recruitment strategy.

Going forward, I will buy a map book, a car charger for my mobile phone (battery nearly died on me), I will download a decent maps function to my phone, I will check an online route planner before setting off, I will seek the advice of experts (or in their absence a suitably impressive Alpha male) and perhaps most importantly I will ensure that my wife is aware that I am doing all of this!

In short, I will not rely on only ONE tool to get the best result.

Jez Styles