Conditions are tough and the outlook uncertain but the jobs market is showing some signs of life

Five months into the covid-19 pandemic, why would a QS firm – or any firm for that matter – start recruiting? After the first two or three months of lockdown, we recruiters started to see signs of life as the odd vacancy or two trickled into our inboxes and the phone started ringing again.

It is undoubtedly tough out there but some companies have been able to press on with new projects, new inquiries and, therefore, new demand for staff.

Then it comes down to mindset. Do you use the resources you have, or do you recruit?

I was delighted to hear one director tell me that, because of multiple new projects which came in during lockdown, he has hired two new members of staff and will possibly hire a third in September. There are a lot of talented quantity surveyors that, currently, find themselves unemployed, or on the verge, because of covid – and there are employers who are in a position to take advantage of the lack of competition and hire now.

However, covid-19 has temporarily changed recruitment as we know it. So here are some observations of the jobs market that QSs find themselves dealing with right now:

Pay cuts or redundancies An unprecedented number of directors, partners and CEOs have taken pay cuts throughout the pandemic to prevent large-scale redundancies and long-term, furloughed periods.

Team DNA Companies are reviewing their teams, focusing on culture and ethics. Working hard and being a team player are going to be vital attributes moving forward.

Contacts are key Companies who have prevailed during this difficult time can link their success to hard work and contacts. Many QS firms opened their black book of contacts and made hundreds of calls, resulting in new projects, company security and new QS recruits coming on board. The same approach can be applied if you are seeking a new role. Contacts and relationships are key.

WFH vs the office The general narrative towards working from home (WFH) or working in the office was: work from home, the office is there if you need it. In conclusion, do not expect to be in the office for a while yet.

Zoom and Teams With working from home looking like a long-term movement, the interview process for many companies will begin with a video call via Zoom or Microsoft Teams before a socially-distanced meeting, face to face.

Tip: make sure your internet connection is strong and the microphone is on.

Are QS firms recruiting? The short answer is yes. QS firms are still looking to recruit talented surveyors despite the pandemic.

Graduates, do not fear Directors still plan to invest in youth and take on graduates fresh from university to prevent further skill shortages in the future.

Supply and demand Before the pandemic, the demand for QSs was at an all-time high, which led to salaries escalating year on year. However, with covid-19 the demand for QSs is lower, meaning the balance of power has swung back towards the company as we enter a vacancy-driven period.

What next? While the recruiters await an increase in job vacancies, the QS firms wait on projects being granted and new work commencing. Only once there is certainty about the decline of the pandemic will confidence begin to grow.

Providing a definite date for when recruitment will return to pre-coronavirus levels is impossible. However, for now, we must live in the knowledge that positive changes are taking place daily – and that we are moving towards a new normal, whatever that may be.

Daniel Foster is associate director at Brandon James