Top City recruiter Morgan McKinley yesterday said hiring in the Square Mile could grind to a halt if the coronavirus outbreak causes more businesses to close offices and make staff work from home.
Already financial services recruiters are noticing an increase in requests to reschedule face-to-face interviews between clients and candidates to be over telephone or video — if that trend continues it will affect the permanent hiring pipeline.
“There’s no way any of the Big Four are going to do permanent hire without an in-person panel interview,” said Morgan McKinley’s operations director Darren Burns.
Although the most recent data showed healthy growth for both permanent and temporary roles in the City, Burns said if the outbreak continues to spread hiring “will completely go off a cliff”.
The City recruiter predicted both permanent and temp hiring in the City will come off their highs and slow dramatically.
“If the City or Canary Wharf is all working from home: recruitment stops.”
Last week an entire floor of HSBC’s Canary Wharf headquarters was sent home after an employee returned from southeast Asia with coronavirus.
Waiting for the worst
For now, Burns said all eyes will be on the next set of jobs data for March, April and May.
“March might be OK, because there are still hires to be made. But we fear is right around the corner. We are worried about April and May…particularly if we go into lockdown mode”.
The City recruitment firm said professional services companies would adapt to changing public health advice in a pack-like mentality, looking to see what rivals do.
“Every COO [chief operations officer] in the Square Mile is braced. It takes only one of them to make the call, and then peer pressure may mean that they all enact work from home policies”