Office support and secretarial

Company restructuring, to cope with the effects of the downturn, has made conditions interesting for the sector, as recruiters also adapt to the situation

Client cost-cutting has led to increased demand for highlyskilled office support personnel, while conversely pushing down placement numbers.

April McLean, operations director of commercial and industrial recruiter HML Personnel (a division of Gap Personnel), told Recruiter that companies have restructured because of the downturn, which has led to an increased diversity in job roles.

“For example, instead of having a sales team of four people, they would make everybody redundant and bring on a business developer
supported by admin positions which include marketing responsibilities.”

Office support and secretarial recruiters are evolving sourcing techniques to ensure they can attract these multi-skilled candidates. Jason Perry, director of multi-sector recruiter ASL Recruitment, told Recruiter the company has used its membership of recruitment network group TEAM (The Employment Agents Movement) to source candidates for permanent roles which “have been getting much more specialist and varied”.

Increased demand for high-level secretarial staff has been reflected in the number of jobs posted on office support job board in the £80k salary bracket. The number increased by 250% in December, compared to the average figure for the last six months.

Above inflation salary increases are rare. Crone Corkill’s Market Report and Salary Survey found that 58% of companies surveyed expected to increase pay in line with inflation or were unlikely to offer pay rises.

Tracy Durrant, managing director of office support recruiter Crone Corkill, told Recruiter the salaries for executive personal assistants have remained “largely unchanged”. Durrant added that its legal clients were no longer placing a premium on talent, reflecting general demand for
personnel in the sector (Recruiter, 12 November).

McLean told Recruiter that the company had not seen any candidates taking “significant” pay cuts.

However, some recruiters are reporting a willingness from candidates to take lower-paid roles, leading to a resultant drop in advertised salaries.

Perry told Recruiter there had been a lot of downward pressure on salaries. “The salaries are now being pushed down by the candidates expectations,” he said, adding that smaller companies which do not have clear policies on pay structure were looking at what rate “they could get away with today”.

Where it has happened, the acceptance of lower salaries by candidates has been caused by increased competition for jobs. To illustrate the trend, Perry gave an example of a candidate who was offered £21-£22k, only to be undercut by a candidate who was willing to accept £18k because they had been out of work for a number of months.

Joanna Bennetts, head of sales at, told Recruiter the site had experienced an increase in applications, with the week of 5-9 January having the highest number of candidates registering on the site since it launched.

The length of time it takes to place candidates is increasing, as clients become hesitant and candidates already in roles stay for increased job security. According to research by Crone Corkill, 44% of candidates were either hesitant or really hesitant to make a career move (although
these candidates had already made contact with a recruitment agency).

Perry said: “Candidates are very nervous. You get to the point where you have an offer but the candidate doesn’t want to take it because they think they may be safer where they are.”

Candidate and client caution marks a “big change” from the war for talent hitting the sector two years ago, according to Durrant. “There has been an increasing trend towards more lengthy hiring processes for both temporary and permanent business support and secretarial
staff,” she said.

However, even as the number of the candidates on the market increases, clients are continuing to rely on agencies to source staff. Crone Corkill’s research found 46% of clients found recruitment agencies to be the most affective method of sourcing staff.


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