UK recruiters struggle to access talent in 2023 as skills gap widens

51% of UK recruiters claim that finding candidates with the necessary skills is the most significant challenge they will face in the next three years, according to a new survey by Monster, one of the world's largest recruitment firms. The research report, titled "Recruitment Survival Guide 2023," highlights that the UK's battle for talent is intensifying, while the skills gap widens.

Despite concerns about a possible recession, the survey of 2,500 industry professionals conducted by independent research firm Dynata on behalf of Monster shows that UK recruiters are optimistic, with 87% looking to hire in 2023. 

However, recruiters may need to engage in a "battle for benefits" to attract the top talent as the report reveals that finding candidates with the right skills is the biggest obstacle to recruiting in 2023, with 29% of recruiters indicating that the skills gap has widened compared to a year ago.  86% of recruiters "sometimes" or "very often" struggle to fill vacancies due to this.

Of the 87% of recruiters looking to fill vacancies, 44% are replacing or backfilling roles while 43% are hiring for net new job requirements. Only 13% of recruiters anticipate hiring freezes.

Claire Barnes, Monster's Chief Human Capital Officer, stresses the importance of embracing new technologies and solutions to match talent with opportunities. She says, “Addressing the talent shortage is the number one task facing industry professionals across the UK, Europe and USA. As always, the main challenge is to identify and interview candidates faster than the competition.  Our survey found that only 24% of UK recruiters use online recruitment sites, tools, and new technologies to engage talent - far lower than recruiters in the USA and Europe – and are less confident of finding the right candidates.  This means that 76% of recruiters should take steps to improve their search methods or face being left behind in the battle for the top employees.”

Across all sectors, accessing quality candidates is getting harder, and is especially difficult in automotive (57%), leisure & hospitality (46%), education (45%), and insurance (45%) sectors.

The survey also found that recruiters are searching for radically different soft skills from candidates from different generations. For instance, 13% of Gen Z recruiters are searching for dependability, compared to 57% of Boomers. In contrast, 40% of Gen Z recruiters seek managerial skills, compared to just 17% of Boomers.

Flexibility is fundamental to recruitment in 2023, with 53% of candidates expecting more flexibility in where they work, and 39% expecting more flexibility when they work. However, the report reveals that only 25% of businesses offer genuine flexibility to new starters.

Claire Barnes emphasises that to thrive in 2023, recruiters must balance the demands of employees and employers and address the long benefits wish list from candidates. "As flexible options become standard in many industries, and candidates increasingly want more than a good salary, recruitment of the best could soon become a battle for benefits," she says.

The top five benefits employees are seeking in 2023 are: remote flexibility (50%); flexible work schedules (49%);skills training/learning and development (45%); salary protection/fair compensation (44%); and healthcare benefits (41%).