Candidate mobility – Beware!

Article by Godefroy de la Bourdonnaye, International Director & Consultant of the French member of InterSearch Worldwide (Grant Alexander) and Global leader of Industrial Practice Group of InterSearch Worldwide.

After the euphoria of the post-Covid period, when many executives were looking to move and were putting themselves on the job market by flaunting their mobility, the situation is now very different. Many of us, recruiters in recruitment agencies and in companies, have recently noticed a persistent tension in the executive job market, reflected in a high level of volatility. In a position of strength in a market where recruitment difficulties persist (see Apec’s 3rd quarter economic report), executives who enter this market have more and more choice. But the attractiveness of the job is no longer the main criteria, and more personal criteria are now being considered: the balance between work and personal life is now a major factor. And in this search for a better balance, geographical mobility has become a stumbling block, generating high volatility and recruitments with uncertain outcomes. Here are a few keys to understanding the phenomenon.


Firstly, many executives have realised that it is no longer necessary to change employer to change region. Telecommuting, generalized from 2021, has led many executives to question their plans to change jobs, preferring to keep their benefits and seniority, even if it means spending 2/3 days a week in Paris. The immediate effect (in the space of a year) has been a drop in the number of applicants for jobs in the regions, and an explosion in property prices in many towns located 2 hours from Paris.

Two key rules follow from these reminders.


By the summer of 2022, things have calmed down. Gone are the days of ultra-mobility among executives, who no longer leave their employer on a whim and start thinking twice before changing jobs, and three times if it means moving their family. The international context is not very positive either (inflation, war in Ukraine…), so managers have become harder to attract, asking for much more information than before to reassure themselves before embarking on a recruitment process. As a result, companies have started to struggle to fill their vacancies, finding themselves forced to rethink their processes and their employer brand.


As a result, executives found themselves increasingly in demand, sometimes with 2-3 opportunities at one time. But at the same time, property lending rates have soared, and banks have tightened their lending conditions. It’s impossible to consider moving in this context: you can’t be sure that you’ll be able to find a new home in your destination town, even if you’ve managed to sell your property properly. Nor would renting be a solution: the supply is insufficient or exorbitant.


So, it seems that it is the tension of the executive job market, combined with the property crisis, that is leading to unprecedented volatility: many recruitments are being restarted after a profile has been withdrawn. And when we look in detail, geographical mobility is often the reason given. It’s tempting, when you’re approached several times, to accept an offer for the 1st position that’s successful, even if it means moving house. At least, “you’ve already got that”, and there’s nothing to stop you seeing what happens with the other offers, which take longer to sort out. And if one of them is also favourable but avoids the need to move, you can withdraw from the 1st project. And too bad if you’ve signed a letter of employment on this 1st project, after all “it’s an offer you can’t refuse”. This sends out a disastrous message to the market: in order to preserve their chances and make the most of the market that is favourable to them, candidates end up reneging on their sense of commitment and their word of honour. And recruiters are dismayed, especially when the phenomenon becomes frequent and affects all job levels, right up to management level…


There can be no question here of discriminating based on geography. But until the job market turns around, and to avoid being repeatedly turned down, recruiters will have to be particularly vigilant, and validate the real motivations of the profile that expresses mobility in principle, right from the first exchanges.

Once recruitment has been finalised, nothing is set in stone and anything can still happen! We advise our clients to keep a close eye on the future employee during the notice period, before he or she takes up the post: the employer can always buy him or her out, as can the appearance of the famous “offer you can’t refuse”! A few phone calls at regular intervals to check in or discuss administrative matters, a meeting with future colleagues in an informal setting… These are all good reasons to stay in touch and keep motivation high.

It’s vital that the new employee feels welcome, and that the induction process is perfectly organised. The more he or she feels expected, the more important it will be for him or her to integrate successfully and to plan ahead…

As recruiters will have realised, this profound change in the job market requires us to adapt our practices, to be agile and creative. In the same way, our role at Grant Alexander has become more than ever an advisory one. As well as finding the right profile, our job now is to explain, make our clients aware of the issues and support them.

For candidates who are entering the market with plans to move (to follow their spouse, bring in their family…), the aim will be to reassure potential recruiters by explaining the reasons for this mobility as early as possible. While companies are wary of a mobile profile “on principle”, they will be particularly interested in a profile whose mobility is justified and targeted.

In addition to this “mobility” aspect, it’s worth highlighting the resurgence of the value of “reliability” in the eyes of recruiters: honouring commitments, taking responsibility, being transparent… these are all qualities that will make the difference in the recruitment process!