Hiring Commercial talent in 2021 has been a challenge for any business, both the perm and interim market are seriously lacking in proactive job seekers and contractors. Before the pandemic hit in early 2020, the market was already candidate short, this situation has been amplified by the trading conditions over the last 20 months.

Permanent recruitment

For roles up to and including Commercial Manager, the market is fiercely competitive. The usual structural problems still exist; not enough businesses training new commercial people, too few grad schemes to support market demand. On top of this, flexible working has been adopted by almost all businesses, so whilst hirers will be able to hire across a wider geographical area, so can everyone else. Ironically in many circumstances, this makes it harder to attract people than it was pre-March 2020. It’s normal for active candidates at this level to receive 4 or 5 offers. Driven by this, salaries continue to rise at pace, 25% pay increases aren’t unheard of.

Senior Hires

This end of the market has really picked up over 2021, while it isn’t quite as intense as the junior market is still a highly competitive place to recruit. As more businesses offshore or centralise contract admin, it becomes more important to have senior customer-facing experts onshore. The challenges in the junior hiring market have also had an impact, the upward salary pressures on junior hires have significantly closed the gap between CM and SCM, for a relatively modest increase in budget you can often afford someone with a lot more experience. At all levels of seniority 3 months’ notice is becoming the norm and given the challenges in recruitment, employers are tending to hold people to their full notice period.

Flexible working

Most employees have derived a huge benefit from flexible working, allowing them to have a better work-life balance while still delivering at the level expected of them. You only need to spend a few minutes on LinkedIn to see how important this change is to many people. However, this change isn’t without challenges. The three biggest we have seen are:

  • More people accepting counter offers and staying with their current employer.

One of the biggest commitment tests is having to put smart clothes on, take a day off work and travel to an interview. We are not suggesting you need to go back to face to face interviews, in fact, it would put you at a competitive disadvantage, but you do need to work extra hard to stand out and engage over video.

  • More people leaving a role in the first few months following their appointment.

Integrating people remotely can work well. But it is easier to miss problems when you don’t have some face to face time with people. Creating that team dynamic and shared culture is hard when people don’t spend time together. A client who has great success in retaining new starters does the interview process virtually, offers 100% remote working, but they meet each new starter face to face in the office on day one and have a team get together during week 1. This really gets the relationship off on the right foot.

  • People ruling out remote roles out of hand.

This is particularly prevalent with more junior candidates who perhaps don’t have the facilities to work easily at home and want the social interaction and ability to learn that you can only get from face to face time. Giving people the ability to spend some in the office with senior management can be a real selling point.

Interim recruitment

We have seen huge demand for contractors in 2021. The challenges in the permanent recruitment world have seen hirers plug gaps with contractors and many projects that were delayed early in the pandemic have now come back online in addition to the normal project workload.


Rates have risen year on year by roughly 10%. This is driven by scarcity of contractors and more end hirers taking people on inside IR35 roles. The majority of our clients have in real terms blanket banned outside IR35 contractors, those who have been hirers who have been prepared to structure assignments so they fall outside of IR35, have benefited from access to a bigger pool of contractors.


In particular demand are SC cleared contractors, invariably we are able to find contractors a new assignment with no downtime between contracts. SC cleared contractors tend to command a premium given the demand for their services.

Medium-term outlook?

There is little to suggest that these conditions are going to change in the medium term so if you are looking to strengthen your team in the short to medium term our advice would be:

  • Act early, it could take as much as 6 months to get the right person in the seat.
  • Move quickly, the slicker and swifter your interview process the better.
  • Consider an interim, if your project is critical or you are doing two jobs then engaging an interim while the perm search takes place can ease the pain significantly.
  • Engage a specialist recruiter, they know the market and the people.
  • Think about the process, how can you best engage with the candidates and sell them the role, you don’t need to see them face to face but you do need to make sure your role stands out and that they are committed (your recruiter can help here).
  • Look after your new starters, it’s hard enough to bring people in right now, you don’t want to do it twice. Get them into the office as soon as possible, show them your brilliant culture, social initiatives are more important than ever.
  • Make sure flexible working works for everyone, while plenty of people are happy at home many others want (and need) office time.


If you want more information about hiring in the current market, contact us at info@arguilesearch.com to arrange a call with one of our team.