A look back at how recruitment changed in 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, we're taking a look back at the last 12 months and how the world of recruitment has changed.

A look back at how recruitment changed in 2021 Feature

The recruitment landscape changed drastically during 2021 from job vacancies being at a record high to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – it has been a year like no other for recruitment!

As 2021 comes to a close, we're taking a look back at the past 12 months and how the industry has adapted, to what has been one of the toughest years on record. 



The year started with approximately 3.8 million workers on the Government’s furlough scheme. With the introduction of a new national lockdown that rapidly rose to 4.9 million by the end of January 2021. [1]

By the scheme’s closure at the end of September 2021, there were still 1.14 million employees furloughed – many predicted that thousands would be made redundant as the scheme wrapped up and unemployment figures would rise. However, the reverse happened, and unemployment figures fell at the end of the scheme from 4.3% down to 4.2%. There could still be a delayed rise in the coming months with employees working notice periods or companies struggling to retain their staff. 



Hybrid working was also a key factor in early 2021, with many employees still working from home. As restrictions began to ease, we saw many beginning to venture back to their offices either permanently or with a hybrid model, where employees split their time between home and office working. This new way of working looks like it may continue for years to come, with many companies downsizing their offices and employees reporting a better work/life balance.

The London School of Economics and Political Science reported that employees who had the option to remote work reported lower rates of burnout along with the following statistics; 

“Overall, compared to those without remote-work access, access to remote work increases employee well-being, productivity, innovation, and inclusion. It increases innovation by 63%, work engagement by 75%, organisational commitment by 68%, and 93% of employees are more likely to report feeling included.” [2]

Hybrid working was made significantly easier with the ability to use video and chat services like Teams - this was a lifeline for recruiters who still needed to hire into the business but were unable to conduct face-to-face interviews. Many businesses have continued to conduct virtual interviews as restrictions lifted, waiting until the final round of interviews before bringing candidates into the business.



The Office for National Statistics announced in September that job vacancies had hit record highs between June and August 2021, with 1,034,000 vacancies recorded - the first time it had crossed the one million mark since records began in 2001! This has continued to rise throughout the latter half of 2021, with December recording 1,219,000 vacancies with almost every industry recording growth. 

Coupled with unemployment now at a low of 1.4 million (4.2%) the ONS revealed that between increasing vacancies and falling unemployment, the labour market is becoming challenging – with 1.2 unemployed persons per vacancy. 

Furthermore, the ONS reported that over 50% of businesses that already have a shortage of workers, revealed that they're struggling to fill vacancies - the most common reasons being a lack of qualified applicants and a low number of applications. [3] These labour shortages made the headlines when supermarkets and petrol stations announced supply issues and goods became unavailable. Although the end of the furlough scheme brought many back into the job market, there is an apparent skills shortage within the sectors that are struggling to fill their vacancies. This is not solely down to one individual factor but a combination of events such as the pandemic, EU workers leaving the country and the skills shortage.

Recruiters are having to work harder to attract candidates into these sectors by widening their search – whether that is attracting candidates from other sectors to casting a wider net and offering remote working.  



The huge increase in demand for staff, poor candidate availability, candidates not wanting to leave a secure job during the pandemic and the increased skills shortage has created a candidate led market that is seeing companies fight for attention and candidates receiving multiple job offers – leaving them with the power of who they choose!

Recruiters are having to have to work even harder to attract candidates, it’s no longer enough to post a vacancy and wait to see who applies. You need to entice candidates into wanting to pick you as their first choice! 

From highlighting your employer brand on your website with a section that showcases your business, people, and culture to proving that you are standing by your mission statement – whether that is pledging to be environmentally friendly or having a robust diversity and inclusion statement – you need to show that you are committed to what you say!

The current candidate-led market is looking to remain in 2022. Hays revealed in their recent ‘Salary and Recruiting Trends Guide’ that 80% of employers that they surveyed are planning on hiring in the next year but, only 52% of employees are planning to change jobs within the same timeframe [4]


The past twelve months have been difficult for everyone who has had to run a recruitment campaign, conduct interviews, and onboard new employees, so sit back, relax, and enjoy a nice, chilled drink this Christmas.


Reach is on hand to help you with recruitment in 2022, from our Reach Online advertising service to our recruitment technology - we can help you streamline your recruitment. Call 01527 574408 or email [email protected] to find out how we can help you implement a more efficient and effective recruitment process that will support your hiring needs in 2022.








National Fostering Agency

"Reach has given our candidates a much better experience. It's made us more visible in the market."

Suzanne Robson - Group HR Director