You may have read about skills gaps and candidate shortages in the news recently, but what does it all actually mean? Well, if you’re an employer, it can put you in a tricky spot as it can be more difficult to find the talent you need to fill your vacancies and drive your business forward. However, if you are a job candidate the reverse can be true. This market can put you in a real position of power – particularly if you have the skills sets that these employers are looking for. 

Chicago is one city where there has been a serious shortage of candidates for many key roles. So, what exactly does this look like and what does it mean for you if you are looking for a job in this city?

The Post-COVID Market

The COVID-19 pandemic affected nearly every region and business. However, many industries and regions were already experiencing some level of talent shortage pre-pandemic. This was not the case in Chicago.

“A year ago today, it was a very client-driven market,” explains Clare Fairclough, a Michael Page Senior Recruitment Consultant specializing in Chicago construction. “There were not many jobs and there was a ton of people looking. Right now, we probably have 10 companies that need a project manager, and across our team, we maybe have two project managers.”  She says that this means candidates have room to be picky about who they apply to and interview with.

Nikki Nowak, one of our Managing Consultants, echoes this sentiment when talking about the manufacturing industry: “Post-COVID, every one of our clients is hiring. During COVID, they still needed people, but they were lean. They weren’t doing opportunistic hires, succession planning hires, or anything to build out the team … Now, what we’re seeing is candidates have their pick. They can get five offers and pick one.”

Another Managing Consultant of ours, Ross Hendry, says the same is true is the Supply Chain industry: “For the first time in about three years, it’s a candidate-driven market … It is a fantastic time to be a candidate looking for a job.” This is evidenced by the fact that businesses are raising salaries. Hendry explains further: “Entry-level candidates are making so much more money than they ever have before.” 

Michael Page Senior Practice Director Mitch Wilson agrees, saying that this has a ripple effect up the hierarchy as more senior people see that and want a bump in salary. This seems very much like a rising tide lifting all boats.

A Faster Hiring Process

One of the many benefits Chicago candidates are seeing right now is a quicker interview and hiring process. While candidates are sometimes left to wonder and wait for long periods of time, that is simply not happening anymore.

Hendry explains that employers know that candidates have multiple options and offers to juggle, so time if of the essence: “If your process is longer than two weeks, the candidate is gone.”

Wilson agrees, saying that the few candidates who enter the market get several offers in a matter of days and are off the market. This means that candidates can confidently enter the market right now, knowing that they’ll likely have a few offers in front of them quickly. They can also expect to be catered to a bit more.

“It’s more about candidate experience now,” Nowak explains. She says that she’s been encouraging virtual interviews to make the process even easier for candidates.

On top of an expedited hiring process, there’s so much more being offered to Chicago candidates right now. 

Candidate Have Negotiating Power in Chicago

Nowak says that everything seems to be on the table for candidates to negotiate right now, even job title. She’s even encouraging her clients who are not currently offering hybrid or flexible schedules to open up to the idea.

Another of our Managing Consultants, Tim Coonan, further explains the flexible working situation in the region: “The thing I run into every day is a business’s ability to be flexible working remote versus working in an office … (The market) is forcing a lot of companies to shift, and quickly, or else they’re missing out on talent.” This seems to be especially true in construction where the mentality tends to be rather traditional.

Fairclough and Wilson agree, saying that construction companies also have limited ability to offer remote or hybrid work. This is where a company’s pipeline comes into play. They explain that candidates are more concerned with diversity of work and project stability. Because they have the advantage in the process, they can more easily search for a job that meets their needs in this department. 

Similarly, Hendry is seeing flexibility depend on job function: “Mid-to-senior roles in operations around strategic sourcing have proven that they don’t actually need to be on-site. But then I have roles that are plant-based and there’s no way around it.” He also says that managers who oversee hourly direct reports need to be available on-site, too. 

Interested in These Benefits?

The Chicago area is one with a bounty of opportunity for its candidates, regardless of industry or seniority level. If you are interested in finding out more about your options in the region, please reach out to our team of expert consultants today. 

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