How Brexit Could Change Recruitment


How Brexit Could Change Recruitment

‘What does Brexit mean for me?’

This is the big question at the moment. With the more general Brexit situation seeming somewhat chaotic at best, you could be forgiven for giving up on trying to understand it fully, instead confining your attention solely to the outcomes that look set to directly affect you – and, more specifically, your job.

As someone who works in the recruitment industry, and therefore someone whose current job very much depends upon the health of the UK job market, I’ve been paying particular attention as March 2019 draws ever closer. Love it or hate it, Brexit very much appears to be happening, and it’s imperative that all of us try to keep up.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest and most burning question UK-based recruiters have is how Brexit will affect the talent supply and their ability to find candidates and fill vacancies in future. At least 60% of the placements made by my own company are with workers from the European Union – and, while this number will of course vary across different agencies, I feel extremely confident in saying that there won’t be a single recruiter in the UK who has not at some point benefited from the massive number of skilled workers migrating to the UK every year.

While it seems – at least for now – that those EU citizens already working in the UK will be allowed to apply to remain, the number of new workers we can expect to see coming over to the UK after Brexit becomes official is less assured.

In August 2018, net migration from the EU to the UK reached its lowest point since December 2012,with some reporting that the drop was the steepest since records began. In response to this, many companies have already started to migrate their operations over to the EU and beyond. Naturally, larger recruitment agencies have already begun to follow suit so as not to lose business. Smaller agencies, however, do not have the same luxurious set of options available to them.

It’s therefore not hard to see why a small, UK-based recruiter may be tempted to look at 29th March 2019 as some sort of Doomsday. However, let’s not start building bomb shelters and stocking up on tinned goods just yet.

For one thing, Brexit’s not yet a done deal, and there’s a chance the outcome may not be anywhere near as dramatic – or as ghastly – as we might think. Indeed, there is in fact a broad spectrum of possible outcomes, ranging all the way from the hard, no-deal Brexit everyone’s afraid of, to a deal where single market access and freedom of movement are preserved, and a whole host of options in-between.

Many may be hesitant to treat this uncertainty as a comfort, and certainly there’s something to be said for the ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’ approach. However, even if ‘hard’ Brexit goes through, that still doesn’t spell the end for the UK recruitment industry. On the contrary, closer inspection reveals that a hard Brexit may in fact kick off some interesting changes which – for those agencies who are up to the challenge – could prove extremely favourable.

A downturn in the number of available candidates in the UK could potentially breathe a new competitive life into the recruitment arms race, as the eternal battle to get to the best candidates and vacancies first greatly intensifies. Consultants unable to build solid professional relationships from the word go will soon find those clients and candidates drifting away in favour of those consultants with whom they feel more of a connection.

Agencies who do manage to push themselves to the front of the pack may subsequently find that the decrease in candidates gives them more negotiating power than they had before. A reduction of supply often means an increase in demand, and companies well-placed to take full advantage of this could benefit immensely.

On the other hand, recruiters may suddenly find themselves with a whole new crop of freshly-graduated UK talent to pursue. Historically, a large proportion of UK graduates – particularly in technological sectors – have turned their attentions to the EU when seeking first employment. With Brexit potentially making this more difficult, there’s a good chance that there will be a marked increase in the number of home-grown candidates to choose from, although whether or not that will be enough to fill the void left by the aforementioned lack of EU workers remains to be seen.

In short, Brexit is happening, and there are still a great number of questions waiting to be answered. But while the knee-jerk reaction may be one of panic, a more measured analysis reveals that Brexit has a whole lot more to offer the recruitment industry than just threats – there are also a great deal of opportunities. And it may be that only the very best recruitment agencies find themselves sufficiently equipped to take full advantage of said opportunities. But really, that may not be such a bad thing.

Saragossa are a talent provider specialising in the Financial Technology, Financial Operations and Data Science sectors. Our role is to match clients with high calibre candidates. Our work encompasses filling temporary contracts along with building permanent teams and resourcing projects. To find out more, please contact or call 020 7871 3666.

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