Hays, Britain's biggest publicly listed recruiter, said the year ended June 30 began in "arguably the toughest macroeconomic backdrop" it ever faced as hiring slowed because of the COVID-19 crisis, but that recruitment began to pick up from the second half.
"Overall, the strength of the recovery has been dramatic," Chief Executive Alistair Cox said in a statement. "We now see a clear route back to, and then exceeding, pre-pandemic levels of profit, faster than we envisaged even six months ago."
The upbeat outlook is underpinned by a gradual reopening and healthy pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in many economies, and reflects similar forecasts from other UK recruiters PageGroup and Robert Walters.
The FTSE 250 group, which largely focuses on white-collar hiring across its 33 markets, said it would resume core and special dividends and pay shareholders a total of 10.15 pence per share in November.
Hays' shares were up about 2% as of 0937 GMT.
Hays is benefiting from "being able to charge top dollar for finding good candidates" especially in the backdrop of a shortage of skilled staff, analysts at A.J. Bell said via email.
The new possibilities created by remote work are spurring many companies to scout for talent outside their home countries, Cox said in an interview.
"Many organisations were already tapping into global talent, but many more were not doing so. They either didn't have the opportunity or their eyes were not open to what might be possible," he said.
Hays said operating profit in the year to June 30 slumped 30% to 95.1 million pounds ($130.7 million) as net fees fell, largely in line with what analysts were expecting on average.
($1 = 0.7279 pounds)
(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V, Sachin Ravikumar and Kim Coghill)
By Aby Jose Koilparambil