2021 Recruitment Trends

Posted in Candidates, Employers

Posted by Joanne Caine
Published on 16 December, 2020

In the last year, the recruitment landscape has changed dramatically. Just before the nation’s lockdown at the end of March, we were already feeling a slowdown which was driven by several things, including the looming uncertainty of Brexit. However, when COVID-19 hit, recruitment just stopped, and the industry was a ghost town; there was no time to think or to plan, it was an anxiety-fuelled time for many.

Thankfully, this horrible period of darkness did have light at the end of the tunnel, and in July things began to improve and there was a decent uptake for recruitment, especially by those sectors who had managed to escape without too many casualties such as service providers and charities.

Since then, despite hiccups along the way, the green shoots that appeared in the summer have continued growing and businesses have adapted and flexed well to the ‘new normal’ we are now facing as we close 2020 and head into 2021. So, what might we expect from the year ahead?

An increase in interim and temporary roles

Whilst we are witnessing more silver linings by the day, there will still be hesitation for employers to hire new staff members on a permanent basis in the New Year. While potential hurdles such as the end of furlough and Brexit still loom, as well as the fact that we aren’t out of the storm with COVID-19 yet, business leaders won't be comfortable to put all their eggs in one basket but will still need internal help in order to get growth plans back on track and fulfil increasing workloads.

Therefore, it is very likely that we will see an abundance of temporary and interim roles advertised in 2021, especially across Q1 and Q2. But as the year progresses and the economy starts to repair, we may see these roles evolve into permanent positions. This will be very dependent on the industry the business serves and how well they continue to adapt to ever-changing circumstances.

Competition in the South West will increase...

Usually, areas such as Exeter have a very low rate of unemployment and therefore, competition for roles is usually sparse however, as a direct result of the pandemic, levels of redundancies shot up and, sadly, there are too many candidates and not enough positions.

While a real difficulty for many candidates, clients now have an amazing talent pool of which to choose from and, of course, they will want the crème de la crème to ensure their recovery and growth plans post-pandemic can be as efficient and effective as possible.

This will mean candidates needing to really step up their game in terms of their CV, interview skills, enhancing their skills and taking heed to upskill in areas they have perhaps neglected previously.

...but salary attraction will be hard

Many of the top specialists applying for jobs in the South West will undoubtedly come from far and wide in 2021 as remote working becomes the norm for many businesses. This will mean clients are able to choose from some of the best candidates in the country from big cities such as London without needing to worry about wasted time whilst they relocate.

However, this will undoubtedly create tensions regarding salaries. Those working in London will expect to take no more than a 20 per cent salary drop when relocating to the South West however, in reality, it is more likely to be around the 30 – 35 per cent mark.

Either companies in the South West will have to bite the bullet and increase salaries to become more competitive and attract national talent or, there will need to be more conversations about realistic salary options for those looking to relocate out of the cities.

The answer to what this will look like next year, and for years after, is unclear but it will be interesting to see which way the pendulum swings.


In April next year, IR35 will be coming into full effect and is going to have a profound effect on contractor recruitment.

Up until now, the responsibility for paying income tax has been on the individual contractor but as of 6th April 2021, the responsibility will come down to the employer instead. The idea being that by implementing this system, there is less chance for tax avoidance.

Employers will determine whether each contractor falls outside of IR35 or inside. For those who fall outside of IR35, things carry on as usual, but it has been reported that this is unlikely to be the case for most contractors which raises concerns across a plethora of individuals who are self-employed.

According to research, only half of contractors will be willing to take up roles in companies where they are inside IR35, with the other half opting for companies who deem them to be outside. This is going to create huge skills shortages for many companies moving forward and may have a profound effect on the UK labour market in 2021 and beyond.

Tech specialists will be sought after

As a direct response to the pandemic and the ever-increasing remote working or working from home business models up and down the country, businesses have had to invest in and implement a vast amount of technology in order to keep processes and day-to-day working capabilities up to scratch. As this remote working generation is set to continue well into 2021, the need to keep the technology, both its software and its hardware, up to date and working to its best is crucial, but this is somewhere that many businesses currently have skills gaps. To resolve this, companies will need to begin to hire in-house tech specialists on an unprecedented scale, and rapidly.

It is incredibly likely that as the 4th January rolls around, recruitment agencies will be inundated with requests to find tech specialists across a wide range of areas, including AI, Machine Learning and coding platforms such as Python, in order to keep companies competitive whilst away from the office.

2020 has been a challenging year for us all but, thankfully, it appears that we are slowly but surely coming out of the eye of the storm and looking ahead to much brighter days. While no one can predict exactly what 2021 will have in store, it certainly looks like a much more positive place not just for recruitment, but the business world overall.

Article featured in StartUps Magazine

Managing Director

I joined Cathedral Appointments in 1998 to cover a maternity leave and never left. I now own the business and love my job. I've a great team of consultants who work with me in ensuring that Cathedral Appointments provide an excellent service to candidates and clients alike.

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2021 Recruitment Trends

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