29 Nov 2013

The North South Divide...

It's quite common for many Northerners head off to The Big Smoke at some point in their career.  Usually it's post university and it feels like this is almost a rite of passage, an opportunity to live and work in London, to work hard and to play hard and then, typically, after five years, to return back to their hometown in order to buy a house, start a family, be close to relatives & get help with childcare etc etc.  Currently, there must be something in the air because there is a real influx of candidates trying to get out of London and back to the North.

I for one am certainly not complaining about this, I love candidates coming out of London, they add fresh blood to the regional pool of candidates, different client experiences, different agency experiences and as such, they're very placeable.  Which is all great.  However, one area which is proving to be a real sticking point is managing a relocating candidates salary expectations.  I've had five different conversations this week on this topic and every candidate has gone away to review their decision - hence the blog!

The fact is that salaries in London are high, a lot higher, in fact, than in the North (I'm writing this with particular reference to agency salaries rather than in-house but the same is undoubtedly true).  It is also true that salaries in the North generally hit a ceiling around the £50k mark - there are very few roles for £50k plus candidates.  So, the upshot is that most candidates who are relocating from London to the North, are going to have to take a salary cut.  And not many of them realise this.  Or at least the extent to which they will have to take a cut.

This week, a London Account Director who has been seeking to return to the North for 2 years declined an interview for a role in Manchester.  It's a great role, with a great agency, with great clients.  It comes with a salary maximum of £50k.  The client will not pay more, they don't need to - there are plenty of North West based Account Directors all looking for new opportunities and they'll consider that a good salary.  But, for a London based candidate on £75k, they just weren't able to consider that salary.  So Stalemate.

Similarly, a Senior Account Manager on £45k in London....in the North West, their CV equates to a £30k role that I'm working on currently. A London based Account Manager with 2 years experience looking for £30k....you get the idea.

For my clients, to an extent, they will pay a higher salary relative to specific skills, experiences and length of time in the industry.  So there are some exceptions, however, we're still seeing a lot of caution with clients, people are still being made redundant, and there is a candidate heavy market - salaries are not decreasing but they are certainly not increasing.

There is no real answer to this.  There is a very clear salary differential for the North vs South so relocators must simply weigh up the difference that the reduced cost of living will make, the chance to live near work, not to be commuting for hours on the Tube, the benefits of being near family and ultimately, how much they don't want to be in London.  In summary, as a recruiter, I'll try and place candidates on as high a salary as possible - it's not in my interest to persuade people to take a lower salary, however, I've got to be realistic about the market and the agencies we have in the North and the salaries they will pay. Relocating candidates need to lower their expectations, or stay put!