Insights

Make No Mistake: It’s Still a Candidate’s Market in Supply Chain

May 11, 2021

The latest from the front lines of Supply Chain hiring.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, hiring slowed to a crawl. Companies were forced to adapt to a radically different working environment on the fly – changing to remote work, navigating a host of supply chain disruptions, working to secure PPE for front-line workers, among many other immense challenges. Hiring took a bit of a back seat, understandably. When you have many daily fires to fight, it’s hard to prioritize new hires – especially when the business climate and consumer demand were all of a sudden so unpredictable. Rather than bring on new Supply Chain staff to deal with these immense tasks, many companies paused all hiring, and some seconded employees from other functions to deal with the immense workload.

It was an all-hands-on-deck situation. But as the long, difficult, strange year that was 2020 wore on, companies pivoted their hiring models as well – embracing remote interviews and hires, learning to onboard new people they hadn’t yet met in person. It turned out the demand for Supply Chain professionals hadn’t dissipated – in fact, the needs were greater than ever before.

This might be a familiar story. But today, we want to give an update on how things are looking as we move into mid 2021, from our perspective as recruiters specialized in Supply Chain Management. Every day, we speak with hiring managers and HR reps from across the Supply Chain industry – as well as the top candidates looking for jobs. It gives us a pretty good boots-on-the-ground view of what the market for Supply Chain talent looks like.

And right now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that hiring is slow, given the massive economic disruptions caused by the pandemic. That candidates are having trouble securing jobs, or finding opportunities, in a time when so many people are struggling.

But make no mistake: the Supply Chain industry is still a candidate’s market.

What exactly do we mean by this? In an employers’ market, the number of candidates vastly outnumbers the amount of open roles. In a candidate’s market, top candidates are in higher demand. They’re often fielding multiple job opportunities or even offers at the same time – which doesn’t seem like a big deal, until you spend weeks and considerable resources moving a candidate through your hiring process, only to lose out to a competing offer at the last minute.

Anecdotally, in our experience, we’ve worked with several candidates over the past 6 weeks who declined a role because they received a competing offer. As recruiters, it’s always frustrating to see a hire fall apart at the last minute, but who can blame them?

We were experiencing a supply chain talent deficit before the pandemic, and we’re still experiencing one now. And companies that fail to recognize a candidate’s market are adding risk to their hiring process.

So how do you adapt?

We tend to offer our clients a few key pieces of advice. Some of it is useful in any market, but especially so when the top candidates are fielding multiple offers: move fast. Avoid letting lengthy approvals processes, extra interview processes, hiring managers’ vacations, or other internal factors slow down your recruit.

A candidate’s market is not for the faint of heart. Unless you’re ready to pull the trigger on the right candidate, it makes the most sense to avoid diving into a search. If you take a few weeks off a search, there’s no guarantee that a candidate will still be on the market when you re-engage.

Supply Chain hiring is robust across the industry, and candidates of all stripes are in high demand. But for our money, these are a few of the particularly hot areas:

  • Demand Planning. Earlier in the pandemic, we wrote about how forecasting demand is still the biggest supply chain question mark, especially for companies in industries like Retail, Consumer Goods, Pharmaceutical, or Food Production. Consumer behaviour is evolving rapidly, and companies are investing considerable resources to upskill their Demand Planning, forecasting, and Sales & Operations Planning functions.
  • Process improvement. Many manufacturing companies in this market are looking to invest in capital equipment and process improvements to help control costs and improve efficiency. People skilled with Six Sigma, Industrial Engineering, Business Process Improvements and related disciplines are in very high demand – especially in Food Production and adjacent industries.
  • Inventory Management. Companies are looking for candidates who can develop and execute changing inventory strategies, as well as front-line staff to maintain stock at the right level – especially now that many organizations are shifting from just-in-time to a more resilient inventory approach.

If you’re hiring for these functions especially, you need to be aware that it’s a candidate’s market, and adjust your hiring accordingly.

As always, we need to provide the caveat that just because it’s a candidate’s market, doesn’t mean all candidates are having an easy time getting a job. Different geographic areas, disciplines, and individual skillsets have different levels of demand – and there are other reasons why candidates might have trouble securing a job (and if you are one of those candidates, reach out to us!). But big picture, companies can’t afford to treat their hiring process like it’s still mid-2020.

2021 is a completely different story.

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