“The only reason the [talent market] is candidate-driven is
because the candidate pool is very weak of the top performing
individuals. Companies want the ‘Superstars’ today. Average
employees are not being hired,” said a recruiter responding to the
most recent MRINetwork Recruiter Sentiment
Study. According to the report, in the first half of 2013, 68
percent of recruiters characterized today’s labor market as
candidate-driven, up 12 points from a year ago. Strikingly, it has
become not uncommon for LinkedIn profiles to tell would-be
employers to go knock on someone else’s door.

“It’s a candidate-driven market [for those with] specialized
skills and [who] are viewed as on the way up in their career,” said
another MRINetwork recruiter. “It’s an
[employer]-driven market for commodity positions.”

While experienced professionals at the top of their game are,
almost by definition, few and far between, some recruiters noted a
new trend emerging. For example, early career professionals, those
with one to five years of experience, are becoming increasingly
difficult to find. The reason isn’t hard to figure out. Since many
employers have held back on filling entry-level positions for the
last five years, fewer people have had the opportunity to start
their careers over that time. The unemployment rate for those
between the ages of 20 and 24 years old is 13.7 percent, nearly
double the rate of those 25 to 54 years old (6.7 percent).

One survey respondent went so far as to say that, “Employers can
expect a candidate-driven market for the next ten years due to the
shortage of existing accomplished talent.” Perhaps the clearest
indication of the candidate-driven market is the growing prevalence
of candidates not just leaving their existing jobs, but turning
down job offers.

As one recruiter noted, “Hiring is always buying and selling for
all parties. [Employers] need to be reminded sometimes that it is
equally as important to vet a strong candidate as it is to sell
them on, ‘Why us.'” Today, top candidates have other opportunities
that they are either actively pursuing or know they could

According to the study, of candidates who rejected offers during
the last half of 2012, one-third accepted another job offer while
18 percent accepted a counteroffer. In 2012, counteroffers appeared
to grow in frequency and veracity, possibly because hiring
authorities, growing wise to the difficulty of finding top talent
in this marketplace, opt to provide generous counteroffers rather
than risk starting with someone new.

“Recently, we have had candidates receiving counteroffers. We
are dealing with top prospects here, but only lately have [they
appeared] good enough to be accepted. Prior to Q4 [2012], we hadn’t
seen a counteroffer worth accepting in four years. That has changed
now,” said one respondent.

The results from this study clearly do not represent the
employment market at large, but rather the management and
professional segment of the talent market for
which MRINetwork recruiters are normally
sought after to find top talent. However, even with the economy
growing at a snail’s pace, the competition for this level of talent
appears to be growing as the availability continues to

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