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People power

As the market turns towards recovery, competition for candidates with BIM and Revit experience will get tough. Lindsay Urquhart of Bespoke Careers sees a job market where practices will have to work harder to get – and keep – the best people

The majority of those reading this will be busier than they were this time last year, so I’ll cut to the chase: what can a potential employee expect in 2013? Unlike this time last year, when the Euro crisis effectively put a hold on all hiring until the New Year, the past few months have been really busy for our London team. What is particularly encouraging is that the number of permanent introductions is set to be 25 per cent higher than in Q4 in 2011.

In architecture, demand has been highest for people with high-end residential and office experience; for interior design, candidates with luxury retail and workplace experience are most sought after. As you would expect in a recovering market, our admin support team has seen a move away from business developers to marketeers and bid managers, with demand for general office support gradually increasing as business owners and directors seek to invest in fee-generating activities rather than administrative ones.

In spite of the steady recovery, I don’t foresee any dramatic salary increases. In isolated instances where a practice has counter-offered an employee in order not to lose them, we’ve seen some pretty healthy raises, but this is far from common. Salaries remain much as they have been for the past couple of years. The exception to this is Revit specialists; for Revit managers, implementers and co-ordinators demand outstrips supply and strong candidates can expect to earn at least 10 per cent more when they make a move.

Similarly, Part 2 and Part 3 architects with a solid understanding of BIM, particularly those who have this experience on large, complex projects, will find it much easier to get offers, although this won’t necessarily mean higher pay. Strategic, £60,000+ senior appointments that have been slow in recent years have also increased in number over the past six months. In summary, so long as the trend we’re seeing in Q4 continues into next year, those looking for work, whether Part 2/3 graduates or director-level specialists, will have an easier time than they did in 2012.

To the flipside of the coin: what can those looking to hire in 2013 expect? While signs of recovery are great news for the bottom line, more vacancies means candidates with more choice. Over the past few years many in our industry have become accustomed to around 90 per cent of offers made being accepted, but if the trend we’re seeing continues then employers will have to adjust their expectations.

Some practices are still under the misconception that there are hundreds of talented architects and designers pounding the pavements looking for work. This is not the case and those looking to secure the very best candidates next year would be wise to think long and hard about whom they get to lead interviews. Those with the highest acceptance rate understand the need to ‘sell’ the practice and explain the opportunity to potential employees.

The increase in ‘candidate-power’ means savvy practices will be even more intent on keeping the people they already have. As such, I expect there to be an increase in the number of candidates that receive counter-offers from their current employer when it becomes evident they’re intent on leaving. While this can be frustrating at the end of a recruitment process in which you’ve invested a lot of time and energy, be prepared for it from the outset, and be open to altering what you’re offering in turn. Contrary to you one might imagine, money is very rarely the main driver and almost never the reason people make a decision to move (or not).

As I’ve mentioned, competition for candidates with BIM experience is likely to get tough, so potential employees will need to adjust their expectations. In the latter half of 2012 we’ve seen a move away from considering on-the-ground experience of, say, Revit a necessity, to an understanding that any level of BIM awareness is a plus. There simply aren’t enough architects that have used tools like Revit in practice, so flexibility is a must.

If 2013 continues in the way 2012 ended, candidates will find more vacancies to choose from, which means competition for good candidates will be tougher. Employers may not need to pay more, but they’ll definitely have to try harder – or make life easy and call Bespoke.

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