Majority of UK recruiters say an ‘opportunity divide’ still exists in the jobs market despite skills shortages

04 February 2019, LONDON – The majority (59 per cent) of UK recruiters say there is an “opportunity divide” between affluent talent and less privileged talent, according to a survey of more than 2,000 global recruitment professionals by Bullhorn, the cloud computing company that helps staffing and recruiting organisations transform their businesses.

This “opportunity divide” further compounds a chronic challenge for recruiters – the lack of available talent. More than three quarters (78 per cent) of respondents claimed that dealing with shallow talent pools and skills shortages and gaps will be a top hiring challenge this year. In fact, 57 per cent of respondents agreed that skills shortages in certain sectors in the UK are worse in 2019 than they were five years ago.

The generational divide is a significant stumbling block for recruiters: 45 per cent said that Millennials (those between 22-37 years old) are the hardest group to reach. Comparatively, only 15 per cent said the same of Baby Boomers (54-72 years old).

Addressing talent shortages

The survey highlighted other possible solutions for skills gaps. Seventy-seven per cent of recruiters agreed that their clients must accelerate salary increases if they are to compete for the best candidates. However, 34 per cent also said that encouraging employers to do this will be another top challenge for this year, largely owing to uncertain economic conditions.

Reskilling the workforce – and understanding the role recruiters should play in this process – was the third most commonly cited hiring challenge for 2019. A quarter (25 percent) said that reskilling workers due to the changing nature of jobs will be a daunting prospect. Despite this challenge, 77 per cent agreed that reskilling workers will be an effective way to address the problem of shallow talent pools.

The research also found that a majority (60 per cent) of recruiters believe organisations with a strong degree of diversity are more productive.

Peter Linas, Bullhorn’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Development and International, commented: “Economic, political, and generational considerations are aggravating talent gaps, and recruiters must look beyond conventional solutions. While there is a clear ‘opportunity divide’ in the jobs market, adopting diverse hiring practices isn’t just the right thing to do: it’s good business.”

Growing strong

Despite hiring challenges, more than a quarter of UK recruiters expect a revenue increase of 25 per cent or more this year, 61 per cent expect their number of temporary placements to increase, and 58 per cent anticipate increasing their investment in technology. When asked specifically about a firm’s primary growth strategy over the next three to five years, only 9 per cent of respondents expected to grow via mergers and acquisitions. The majority (80 per cent) of respondents expected to grow their businesses organically, expanding business from new and existing clients.

When asked for their three most urgent operational challenges for the year ahead, recruiters cited:

  1. Digital transformation (by 80 per cent)
  2. Pricing pressure and margin compression (by 54 per cent)
  3. Cybersecurity and data protection compliance (by 37 per cent)

Some 86 per cent of recruiters agreed that staffing and recruitment firms must embrace digital transformation — defined as the integration of technology into all areas of their business for the purposes of improving operations and the way they deliver value to customers — in order to remain competitive.

“Technology will play a critical role in encouraging more diverse hiring practices,” said Linas. “Intelligent CRM and ATS technology can help recruiters spot candidates who might not be the most obvious choices, but do in fact have the right experience and skills to succeed.”

Political and economic challenges

Bullhorn’s research found that macroeconomic and political issues are expected to apply more pressure to the industry in 2019. The three most commonly cited were:

  1. Uncertainty over the economy and future growth (by 58 per cent)
  2. Cybersecurity and data protection regulations such as GDPR (by 32 per cent)
  3. Restrictions on use of foreign labour (by 30 per cent)

“The common thread for all of these challenges is the potential impact of Brexit,” commented Linas. “Uncertainty is still the name of the game, but it’s encouraging that the industry still anticipates growth, still expects to make more placements, and is proactive in adopting new technologies. The UK recruitment industry has always been robust, resilient, and ready for anything; the question now is whether it needs to prepare for a spot of bad weather or an oncoming storm.”

To read more about Bullhorn’s Global Recruitment Insights and Data research, visit

About Bullhorn

Bullhorn is the global leader in CRM and operations software for the recruitment industry. More than 8,000 staffing companies worldwide rely on Bullhorn’s cloud-based platform to drive sales, build relationships, and power their recruitment processes from end to end. Headquartered in Boston, with offices around the world, Bullhorn is founder-led and employs more than 900 people globally. To learn more, visit or follow @BullhornUK on Twitter.

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