As unemployment figures tumble and new vacancies rise at rates unseen since before the global financial crisis, recruitment experts are forecasting a war for talent will break out in the UK.

Last month, a boss for one of the country’s biggest employment agencies remarked that growth in the last three months of 2013 had led to the labour market “shifting in favour of the candidate more quickly than many expected”.

This was Tom Lovell, Reed’s managing director, who reported the agency’s research had found “an imbalance in terms of the confidence of individuals in their jobs and the increasing number of jobs available, and what employers are doing in terms of their staff retention”.

“Salaries are still not increasing and we’ve seen benefits reduced year on year in terms of training, bonuses and entertainment,” he warned. “That suggests the organisations that can respond to that imbalance quickly and effectively will win in what is becoming more or less a war for talent.”

Time and time again through the last few months, these points have been proved by data releases that show vacancies are on the rise, salaries are all too static and the number of candidates on the market is in freefall.

The most recent Report on Jobs from Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG, for instance, found the number of new jobs added by British businesses in January 2014 hit a 15-and-a-half-year high.

More evidence the nation is heading towards a candidate-driven market comes in the form of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) recent report that so-called ‘skills shortage vacancies’ – that is, positions that businesses struggle to fill – are growing at twice the rate of new jobs overall.

From a survey of more than 90,000 employers carried out between March and July last year, it found there were nearly 560,000 job vacancies in the UK – up 45 per cent on the same period in 2009. However, the number of posts that weren’t filled because they struggled to find the right talent almost doubled in the same timeframe, from around 63,000 to 125,000.

So what do these statistics tell us about the type of recruitment business that’ll succeed as a UK-wide war for talent gets underway? Putting aside the fact employers will need to up their game in terms of salary and staff retention, how will their intermediaries survive the squeeze when it comes to dealing with a candidate-driven market?

Here are a few steps you should be taking to make sure your business weathers the storm.

Don’t let your top talent drift away

Along with skills shortages, rising vacancies and declining candidate availability, one of the biggest indicators the labour market is tipping in employees’ favour is an increase in the number of people looking for new jobs – and according to a recent CareerBuilder survey, more than a quarter of the UK workforce plans such a move this year.

If you work with contractors, you’ll want to make sure your best people are happy and not looking for new opportunities off your radar.

Identify your best prospects

Canny recruiters should also work out which workers are worth most to their business, because the war for talent is likely to be bloodier in some sectors than others. The UKCES said skills shortages would be most prevalent in skilled trades and in health and social care, while other commentators have pointed to IT as one of the industries where workers are most likely to move around.

Don’t wait for new candidates to approach you

Looking back to the CareerBuilder survey, the figures might look encouraging for recruiters hoping to add some new names to their books. The website found 26 per cent of full-time employees planned to change career path at some point in 2014, while a further 23 per cent told researchers they hadn’t decided whether or not they’d be pursuing new opportunities over the next 12 months.

However, this doesn’t mean nearly half of the UK workforce is potentially about to get in touch with you about one of your job adverts. 12 months is a long time, so don’t wait for candidates to come to you – make sure you’re approaching passive prospects too, or a competitor could get there first.