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GTM Exec’s reflections on a volatile UK recruitment market.

30 Aug 2023

GTM Exec’s reflections on a volatile UK recruitment market.

By Chris Jennings, founder of GMT Exec – sales leadership recruitment specialist

Navigating the turbulent waters of the post-pandemic global recruitment market has been interesting, to say the least – especially when you set up your own recruitment company in its aftermath. Here I share my views on the 2022-2023 UK recruitment rollercoaster. It’s been quite a ride.

Always Expect the Unexpected in this Changing Recruitment Market

The massive swings from a candidate to a client-led market over the last 18 months have been insane. Throughout my 16 years of working in executive search, I’ve witnessed the market dip, flip and change multiple times. It’s to be expected.

However, in the first 6 months of GTM Exec in 2022, the sheer demand for talent and the impact this had on the market was on a different scale. I learned very quickly that this unusual, high-octane market presented a new set of challenges – with candidate engagement and expectations shifting completely.   

The 2022 Boom Candidate’s Market – and Getting ‘Blinded by the Basic Salary’

At the end of 2021 and early 2022, the demand for experienced enterprise sales talent was unprecedented. This was obviously fantastic for GTM Exec, launching a business in a boom market was everything I had hoped for. However, this had a huge impact on candidates.

In early-to-mid-2022, I experienced candidates who were managing up to 10 different processes at one time. Individuals were being bombarded by daily approaches and conversations were just blurring into one for them. This led to a much more challenging qualification process for many people.

With the demand for talent greater and candidate expectations rising, it led to a situation where clients were offering candidates huge increases. Candidates were often “blinded by the basic” – making key career decisions based predominantly on inflated packages.

Pre-pandemic, a head-hunted candidate would look to negotiate a 10 – 15% salary increase. In 2022, candidates, even people in the early phase of their careers, were entering discussions looking to achieve 25 – 40% increases.

From a sales recruitment perspective, the negative side to this coin was that some candidates were entering businesses with astronomical targets to achieve to mitigate the higher packages. Candidates were under huge pressure from day one, and this approach to hiring was not sustainable.

Today’s far more Cautious Recruitment Market

Due to the obvious changes to the global economy, the mood changed from mid-October 2022, and the difference was night and day. From October through to April 2023, the market transformed seemingly overnight, from hyperdrive into a sedate walk.

From mid-April onwards, once it was clear that the economy was not going to be as negatively affected as many feared, the job market improved. Now, it seems there is generally a mood of caution from both sides.  

I have experienced many clients starting processes and getting all the way to the end before withdrawing headcount or changing the brief multiple times, as business plans evolve.  Often clients are saying they need to hire. However, they are unable to do so due to external factors.

Candidates with motivations to look at the market are often ‘biding their time’. Deciding to complete the year and hit their number rather than look to make a change.

From a candidate’s perspective, many of those who took advantage of those eyewatering 40% salary uplifts in 2022, have fallen foul of large targets and unachievable expectations. They find themselves having to leave their jobs and take salary drops – rapidly adjusting their expectations in a short time.

For the last few months, the balance seems to have shifted into a more conservative and cautious market. Salary expectations are generally as they were pre-pandemic. Passive candidates who are open to a discussion are far more focused on achieving the right move, to the right business, with the right technology. Few are seeking the huge uplifts seen last year.

Managing Forward in an Ever-changing UK Recruitment Market

The Jekyll and Hyde industry changes over the past 18 months have been nothing short of spectacular. This switch from a candidate market on steroids in six short months to today’s cautious client-led market is unparalleled. A reflection of the uncertain world around us. Ever the optimist, I believe a positive market shift is approaching, and I will hopefully discuss this in my next blog.  

To round things up, in an incredibly busy and volatile market, the basics of recruitment are as fundamental as ever. It’s about people, maintaining strong relationships, staying alert to change and being willing to adapt to it.

I have been fortunate to have worked with some fantastic candidates and clients in the last eighteen months, and I would like to thank everyone who has put their faith in this brand-new business. Thanks for reading.

My highs and lows – the first 18 months at GTM Exec:

The Highs 

  • Closing a deal with a new client in my first week.
  • Winning my first retained assignment with a new Private Equity client.
  • Closing three deals in the Banking & Insurance SaaS markets – two target markets for me.

The Lows

  • Taking a “drop out” candidate call following a dreaded counteroffer, whilst hungover in Faro airport.
  • Getting a role pulled just before the final interview for an immediately available candidate is always tough.
  • Sending out a proposal with the wrong company logo. Never again.

The Lessons

  • Pipeline is king. You will win and lose, however, maintaining a healthy pipeline of opportunities is the number one priority.
  • If it doesn’t feel right, say no.
  • Investing in long-term relationships and building trust is everything. Successfully managing communications with stakeholders remains the best way to separate you professionally from the crowd.


GMT Exec:  connecting investors with sales leaders to accelerate Go To Market performance. Find out more

GTM Exec was founded by Chris Jennings 2022, a highly experienced search consultant. He spent 15 years working for boutique Executive Search firms, placing up to board level, before carving out a niche in sales leadership roles within the private equity market. Working with investors to place Chief Revenue Officers, Sales Directors, and Senior Enterprise Sales Professionals into transformative investor-backed tech businesses.


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