The roles focused on the core professional skills – valuations and asset management being the most popular. This was a common theme throughout 2009-2010 as the investment and development markets had shuddered to a halt and property owners looked to extract value through asset enhancement. There has, though, been a fundamental change in the last 6 months with what our French clients have been looking for and how they will consider recruiting.

Q1 2011 saw the growth in French GDP significantly exceed expectations at 1% – the largest increase since Q2 2006. With national office rental values increasing, a few speculative development schemes getting under way, more foreign capital in the market and values starting to correct it has felt like we are at the beginning of a new phase. As such French clients and candidates are behaving differently. The most important change in trends has been on the candidate side. Typically, through the recession high calibre professionals with relatively secure roles have kept their heads down. With a changing environment, though, we are starting to see the mid to senior level professional emerge and ask questions about opportunities in the market. The effect this has is important as such professionals create real opportunities for businesses to enhance and/or diversify their market share in a single hire, and so their presence can be a catalyst to business plans. A further effect is that the employers of the “high calibre professional” realise the increased value in the market of such an individual and, if able, react by increasing remuneration packages. We are seeing that the increase of potential candidates in the market is, ironically, creating a more candidate driven market.

Whilst there is still natural caution in the market, the trend is a noticeable one. Increasing numbers of opportunities have arisen in the last 6 months, and we have experienced a significant increase in the number of counter offers as employers desperately try to retain their valued personnel.

On a more specific note: there has also been a shift in what clients have been looking for. With a large number of moves in the core professional areas that are focused on making the most a portfolio; eyes are starting to move to the future and outside holdings. Researchers and Analysts have, therefore, become highly valuable individuals. The evidence, forecasting, modelling and projections that they produce for specific local markets is invaluable to those looking to broaden or grow portfolios.

Our clients have recognised the challenge in recruiting and the competition for certain individuals. This has seen a return of headhunting campaigns in France – ways of recruiting that were saved for the very highest level of professional over the course of the recession. These focused processes ensure that a market is thoroughly investigated in search of a particular professional and the recruiting organisation can be sure that they have made every effort to attract the right person. In turn, this process stirs the market as ‘passive’ candidates suddenly start considering their options due to the approach.

All encouraging in a market that is beginning to show real signs of life.

By Ben Ingram