South African Recruitment Trends 2019

Written by Alison Hassan on Mar 27, 2019


According to PWC’s 20th CEO Survey, the two main priorities for a business are attracting the right talent and finding the appropriate technology solutions for the company. While finding the right talent is indeed a constant challenge in the general recruitment space, this is particularly valid for the executive recruitment arena in South Africa.

In 2018, we saw a number of key themes in executive recruitment in South Africa and I believe that we will see these continue into 2019.

Skills shortage

In 2018, we experienced a massive skills shortage at a senior management and executive level. Brain drain being in my opinion a key factor, some of which is politically and economically driven forcing people to leave South Africa in a “blink”.  The rest is attributed to certain affirmative action requirements and the shortage of skilled talent relative to demand at this level is even bigger therefore making it cumbersome, lengthy and costly to fill roles for the positions that needed to be filled. This made the pool of available candidates extremely small as there are not that many people who fit the necessary AA criteria and have the required skills. In addition, those who do meet these criteria often prefer to go the entrepreneur route and start their own businesses, which takes them out of the job market.

Until suitably qualified candidates attain more experience in order to qualify them for an executive role, this situation will continue into 2020 unless clients are willing to be more flexible in their recruitment strategies, adopting best fit for the role around skills and experience across the board and maybe more innovative ways by utilising more Interim Management talent options.

Internal hires

As a result of internal decisions, companies are increasingly making the decision to hire internally with respect to their executive positions. While this decision is good for succession planning and general staff morale, we are finding that often these hiring decisions do not work out and we are approached – at the 11th hour – to source suitable executive candidates when the first appointments do not work out.

Internal recruitment will never disappear. However, to make sure that it works it is necessary for HR to be adequately trained in how to place the correct person in the right position so that they don’t find that after the probation period that the candidate is not suitable for the position.


Social media – particularly LinkedIn – continues to be an invaluable tool in searching for executive talent. Job boards still play their part; however, the beauty of LinkedIn is that it gives you a more holistic view of the candidate that merely a CV and a covering letter do not portray. For example, you can see what articles the candidate likes, shares, comments on and writes and this will give you a good insight into the candidate’s personality as well as whether or not he or she would be able to fit in well with the organisation.

Engaging with passive candidates

Closely related to the issue of headhunting on LinkedIn is the notion of engaging with passive candidates. People who are not actively looking for new employment are very often just the people that you are looking for. Given the shrinking pool for executive talent, this makes it even more important for executive recruiters to engage with passive candidates.


alisonhassan Alison Hassan
EO South Africa
Managing Partner



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