When speaking with clients, there is one question I am repeatedly asked: Why are we struggling to recruit?
It’s an ongoing challenge, and a topic for a good, honest conversation but, in the past month or two it has moved higher up the agenda as businesses seek to understand why they are not attracting the right candidates and more importantly, what we can do to find solutions.
Right now, there simply aren’t enough quality people to go around and, when your company is hiring, that means you can often find yourself sharing what you believe is an attractive opportunity, but you can’t seem to find the right person.
When recruitment is an add-on to your role and you’re struggling to fill a vacancy, it can be difficult to work out why, so I’ve pulled together my thoughts on the most common issues, and what you can do if you are in a similar position.
I cannot stress the importance of speed enough when recruiting. Not only does it create a good impression about how your business operates, but it also shows you are interested in the candidate and decisive. This means you are less likely to lose out to another firm. The only potential drawback is if you move too fast without understanding how far along the “changing jobs” journey someone is, however, this can be overcome with some sensitivity.
When someone attends an interview, if they don’t warm up to the host, it doesn’t matter how good your company or the opportunity is. If people don’t like who they meet – and have options – they will not take the job. You need the first point of contact to be an enthusiastic advocate for your business. Someone who will put people at ease, can sell the opportunity and workplace well, and is confident, friendly and a good communicator.
This extends to the interview format and what works best. Consider how many people meet the candidate. You shouldn’t need more than two, as it makes the meeting less appealing for the candidate to open up and harder to create a personal connection.
Tests to quantify values or competency need careful consideration in terms of timing. If personality is key, you may want to assess it before the interview. A technical test alongside an interview will unnerve many applicants, so is best managed carefully; with the reasons for the test explained.
Be Flexible with Experience
With the absence of the ideal candidate, my advice is to be flexible in the experience you consider. Have an open outlook toward training in some areas if you find a person who is the right fit culturally or has needs that require a certain level of flexibility on your part. As a guideline, I’d recommend you don’t dismiss a CV if it includes more than 60% of what it is you need.
What exactly are you offering people and, perhaps more importantly, does it align with what they see as an attractive work-life integration? The answer may well depend upon your age and outlook. What was once typical is no longer desirable for many. If you want someone in the office 9 to 5, five days a week, you will struggle to fill your vacancy. Again, flexibility is key, as you may need to consider different working patterns just to measure up to your competitors.
You may note that salary has not been mentioned. It goes without saying that you need to be competitive and know what the market rate is, as, if you do, money is rarely the reason a candidate will turn a good opportunity down.
In a difficult market, with technical shortages that aren’t going away, you have to be realistic and open to changing your approach. Whilst there is no silver bullet to solve your staffing problems overnight, these key areas should certainly help.
Inspiration can arise from anywhere. It could be a place you visit, someone you meet or, more recently for me, a movie I watched.
Hopefully, Top Gun: Maverick needs no introduction but, without wanting to highlight my age too clearly, it is a famous quote from the 1986 film that led me to think about how “the need for speed” is vital if you want to become the best Navy fighter pilot in the US, but it is equally important in the (slightly less glamourous) world of recruitment.
And, while it is not a death-defying mission into the unknown, presently, competition to attract talent is as fierce as I can recall in over 20 years of practising recruitment in the North East.
Businesses’ intention to bring new people in has soared well above pre-pandemic levels and continues to head skyward, but the severe shortage of quality candidates brings a serious challenge, even if you have a wide network of people at your fingertips.
A sentiment supported by the CIPD’s most recent Labour Market Report, spring’s most popular response to hiring difficulties was to raise starting salaries. An obvious but short-term fix, the approach comes with a warning as there is a limit on how far you can go before negatively affecting the morale of your existing team.
Encouragingly, the firms I am advising are also looking at other approaches to tackle the challenges. Upskilling the existing workforce, more flexible methods of operating, and a focus on improving job quality are ways used to influence decision-making but, from a recruiter’s perspective, the speed you engage and take decisions often correlates directly with the rate of success.
You see, generally speaking, the best person for a role is unlikely to be actively looking for new openings in the job market. The perfect people always have options, and it is often only through existing relationships that they can be enticed to explore a new opportunity.
Now, more than ever, the relationship between business and recruitment consultants is key. If you can find the right partner, it will allow you to exploit their market knowledge, access their network, and capitalise on their expertise, reputation, and ability to generate interest in your vacancy in the right circles. From your side, you need to be comfortable trusting the advice you receive, as you may need to be flexible on the final solution, which is not always as bad as it sounds.
Once you choose to engage in a candidate-driven market, you need to be prepared to give time to the process and make fast decisions. As recruiters, we realise you are busy and that hiring is often an addition to your core responsibilities, but the more time and importance you place on the process, the better long-term results you will see.
When an impressive candidate’s curiosity is piqued, it is important to move through the stages of recruitment with speed, not haste. This might require breaking the rules a little to streamline more traditional, drawn-out recruitment processes and protocols but, right now, slow hiring means only the average will remain in your race and making fast decisions reflects a dynamic corporate culture that will endear the best talent to you even more.
So, if you like someone and want to stay ahead of your competitors, my advice is to “feel the need for speed”. Act fast and invite them in for an interview and, if it goes well, don’t delay in making them an offer. After all, your company is only as good as the people it employs.
Your company is only as good as the people it employs and speed is of the essence in today’s recruitment market.