Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

These are two of the key findings in the first extensive survey of candidates, carried out by industry experts Drummond Read Recruitment and revealed exclusively here.

The survey, which includes the responses of 700 people currently looking for work through Drummond Read Recruitment, also highlights some significant differences in the views and salary levels between those working for dealers and auction houses.

Those questioned included not only candidates from the auction world and dealers/galleries but also those who are self-employed or in the media, restoration, insurance, IT and finance sectors. Only eight out of the 700 randomly questioned were unemployed or recent graduates/students. Salaries of those questioned ranged from £12,000-£86,000 per annum.

The survey showed that career progression was cited by 40 per cent of respondents as the reason for wanting to move and 26 per cent said that it was the most important factor in choosing their career.

Results also showed that the downturn in the art market has been felt most particularly by those in the auction world, who tended to be more pessimistic about the state of the market; 43 per cent said they thought the market was depressed, against 34 per cent working for dealers or galleries. Coincidentally, 43 per cent of those who were employed elsewhere in the art market thought it was a temporary blip. However, a small percentage of all those interviewed saw it as an opportunity for entrepreneurs.

Somewhat worryingly, 41 per cent of people across all categories said that they would seriously consider transferring to a different profession if they lost their job, and of these 66 per cent said they would move to a corporate organisation for the sake of having job security. “This is mainly due to family and financial commitments, rather than the urge to quit the business,” said Jill McAvoy, Recruitment Manager at Drummond Read. However, when asked about travelling to work in a new job, 61 per cent advised they would be prepared to commute for up to an hour a day, 15 per cent for two hours a day and 24 per cent would consider relocation.

Only 16 per cent of those questioned had been in their present job for six years or more, and 72 per cent had been there for less than three years, leaving 12 per cent of those polled in the three-to-six year category. Salary levels were also reflected in the length of time a candidate had been in their job; over half of those who had been in their current job for six or more years were earning £25,000 or more per annum. The salaries for the majority of those in the business were in the range of £15,000-£25,000 per annum.

Those within the auction world are generally paid less than those with comparable skills working for dealers and galleries. Managing director Colin Read FRICS, AREC explained that the main reason for this appears to be that the auction rooms are larger employers willing to take on trainees who are prepared to accept a lower salary, whereas dealers and galleries employ fewer people but generally require key personnel with pre-existing, multi-tasking skills and are prepared to pay a premium for it.

Drummond Read set up their service a year ago because they felt that various factors were creating difficulties for recruitment in the art and antiques business. Among these was the need for confidentiality on the part of both candidates and employers. By acting as a middleman, the recruitment service is able to provide this.

“In the relatively small world of art and antiques, confidentiality was cited by candidates as the principal reason for using us, said Colin Read, and this is something which our clients also stated.”

Mr Read said: “The auction and dealing business has changed dramatically over recent years and many employers are now realising that the right staff are vital in order for a business to operate smoothly and profitably. Simply to recruit from ‘the best of the bunch’ of applicants, in today’s competitive and difficult market, is just not enough, It is only when a pro-active search is taken that a precise match can be made.”

This realisation was the catalyst for the survey, which gave candidates the opportunity of talking openly about their views on the current market as well as about their own reasons for wanting to move, and their aspirations. Jill McAvoy revealed that a number of the candidates – 31% – were not looking actively for a change in direction but were keeping their options open. It is likely that the survey will now take place on an annual basis.