Misconceptions about the state of the Project market - don't believe the hype

People naturally tend towards affirming existing beliefs. Our brains do not act entirely logically and rationally, like computers do. Instead, we tend to jump to a conclusion, and then retroactively make rational arguments to supplement this.

That is why science is difficult - you have to try to be as objective as possible. I bring this up because there are a number of misconceptions that I’ve heard in the last 3 months about what’s going on in the Project recruitment market. There’s no doubt that the beginning of this year has been slow, however explaining the causes is not a simple affair- there are a number of factors at play. Because there’s no easy explanation, people have been believing assumptions that don’t look accurate when examined objectively. In this blog, I’ll point out some of the these and also look out for our Q1 Market update, which will be on the way soon.

1. The market is slower than it’s ever been/than it’s been in years

I’ve heard this one quite often over the last three months, but it’s actually not true. Yes, the market is slower than usual, and we certainly haven’t seen the usual start of year rush that we normally do, but the Projects desk over January and February of this year saw roughly the same number of jobs as we did in 2015. March is a little slower, but there have been periodic dips in the market that have shown more drastic declines in job numbers.

I would accept this one if it came out of the woodwork in March, but people were saying it to me as early as January. The difference has been that in the first 2 months of the year, we had 2 or 3 weeks with a lot of roles, and the rest of the time was slow, whereas there’s normally a steadier flow of roles coming in. Longer periods with low activity make it seem like there were less roles available, but this was not the case.

2. Nobody’s hiring, and they won’t be this year

You would think that this is hyperbole, but there are people out there who firmly believe that literally no banks are hiring in their space. This isn’t true, although it may be the case for some of the big players. Obviously there are clients that have curtailed recruitment activity, and some that have frozen hiring for all but exceptional cases. 

However, Tier 2 Banks, consultancies and Fintech firms have all been hiring actively, and the big Banks have been hiring in pockets. It’s also very unlikely that pickings will be this slim all year. The demand is still there in many instances, but we have to be patient while the process of getting roles signed off and released trundles slowly along.

3. The process is moving slowly, so I can take my time with it

This one is specific to those that have found appropriate roles, and progressed to interview stages. One thing that’s true of this market is that it is slow moving. Roles are taking longer than usual to get approved, and interview processes are, for the most part, taking longer too. Part of this is that hiring managers are so stretched at the moment that they need to hire someone who can potentially cover more than is normally expected. Part of it is that they just don’t have room in the diary to bang out interviews that quickly. A large part of it is that they have to justify and re-justify every hire, and need to jump through the loops of the sign-off process.

The upshot of this is that candidates can get complacent. If it’s taken the hiring manager 3 days to give feedback, it doesn’t seem so bad to leave it 24 hours before coming back to the recruiter. But this is definitely not advisable. In the current market, there is far more supply than demand. If you come back quickly on an interview request or a request for more information, you’re cutting down the chances of the hiring manager considering more options, and making sure that they know you’re engaged in the process. The last thing managers want in this climate is for a candidate to pull out of the process, or reject an offer. Candidates need to be actively guarding against this perception. If you aren’t engaged in the process, there are other candidates banging down the door to get interviews for the role. Don’t let them in.

The slow Q1 is coming to a close. Indications are that Q2 will be better, but it may well be a repeat of the ‘famine or feast’ market of the first 2 months of this year. Be ready to jump when the roles come, as you might be waiting a while for more opportunities.

Victoria Walmsley's picture
Managing Director


Business Analyst - Manchester
Agile Project Manager - Financial Crime Transformation - Tier-1 Global Bank based in Sheffield
Business Process Analyst - Transformation