The recruitment software firm Bullhorn has released new research indicating that recruiters in the UK and Europe more broadly are facing a major shortfall in skilled candidates in 2013.

195 recruiters were polled for the study. 36% of the respondents identified a shortage of suitably skilled candidates as their primary challenge this year, while 23% named economic uncertainty and 17% identified unrealistic expectations from clients.

Bullhorn’s international MD, Peter Linas, linked the shortage of skilled candidates to a historically low UK unemployment rate. More recruiters than ever before, he added, are turning to new methods of finding candidates, such as social media, and are using all the tools they can to identify suitable applicants.

If skills shortages remain the biggest challenge for recruiters, social media was named as their biggest opportunity; recruiters believe that this tool helps them to reach passive candidates before other firms headhunt them. There is little doubt, however, that the skills shortfall is driving fierce competition amongst recruiters.

Many are snapping up cutting-edge software solutions to locate passive candidates on social networks, which include Bullhorn’s own Bullhorn Reach social recruiting software. This software identifies passive candidates before they have submitted a CV by tracking their social profiles and pinpointing small changes. Mr Linas added: “Social networks are a serious weapon in a recruiter’s armoury and new features like Facebook’s graph search will only make them more useful.”

While the research does not specifically address the European contracting community, it seems reasonable to infer that highly skilled Umbrella Company Employees can expect to find themselves in heightened demand this year, as recruiters battle to identify much-needed talent.

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