British industry is facing worsening recruitment challenges, particularly in manufacturing and the service sector, according to the latest BCC Quarterly Economic Survey.
The survey of 6000 companies across the UK gave several potential reasons for these difficulties.
In addition, employers are facing unprecedented difficulties as a result of uncertainty around Brexit and whether they will be able to recruit EU nationals in future.
But all employers are in the same situation and are trying to recruit in the same difficult market conditions. Yet some are managing better than others and it may be a good time to look at why this is.
If you are struggling to recruit, then maybe the first thing to do is to hold a mirror up to your business. There may be some pointers there which can help you to improve your success in dealing with your recruitment challenges.
They are looking through your window…
It is important to consider your online presence as a key recruitment tool as well as a marketing tool.
Statistics show that 90% of candidates, particularly the Millenial generation, consider an employer’s brand when applying for a job. But this is not something to consider at the last minute when you are about to advertise a vacancy. It is something which needs to be worked at and built up over time, so that the face you show the world is a genuine reflection of your Company.
Are you really clear about what you want?
The first recruitment challenge you face as an employer is to know what you are really looking for.
Are you asking for the right qualities? Have you worked out exactly what the job entails? Do you know what, if any, qualifications are actually a requirement of the job (rather than a “nice to have” option)? Can the job be done part-time, or by job share? Is it short-term, or longer term?
Ideally, you need to think about this when you produce your recruitment strategy, when you do your business planning and when you have a new vacancy. What you needed for the job in the past may not be the same thing you need now.
Have you looked at all the options?
Maybe the most important consideration is whether a current employee can do the job, with or without some training. It may well be more cost effective to train someone up than it is to recruit someone new. Again, this is something you can look at when you are looking at your recruitment strategy.
If you cannot redeploy an internal candidate, can you restructure how the work is organised? Can it be spread between several different people? Can all or some of the work be automated in some way? Does it need a permanent employee, or can you use someone in a work placement, or an intern, a contractor or an agency temp?
Does your advertisement describe the job properly?
This is where a well-written job description is critical. If you are not careful, the language you use in the job description can alienate half of your potential pool of candidates. It could prevent them from applying at all. Your language must be inclusive and avoid gender bias. Additionally, there is some belief that men will apply for a job when they only meet two thirds of the qualifications, whereas women will only apply where they meet 100 per cent.
Try to avoid being too picky. Does your job really require a first class honours degree? Is it really necessary to have experience in a similar role, or can someone be trained quickly?
I saw a post on LinkedIn recently from a job seeker who said it would be really helpful if employers included a salary band in the advertisement. I accept that his is a matter of some debate, particularly where an employer cannot afford to offer a high salary. On balance, I agree with the job seeker in question. It is a waste of everyone’s time if someone goes through the whole interview process and is offered the job, only to turn it down because their salary expectation was much higher than can be offered. This is also disappointing for all parties.
Are your interview skills the biggest recruitment challenge you face?
You are going to be the line manager of the new recruit and so you want to make sure you get the right person. But are you the best person to make that decision?
We all like to think that we are fair and make unbiased decisions, but unconscious bias is a trap for us all. We have evolved that way, so that our brains can quickly sort through information and come up with an answer. But the answer we come up with may be the product of years of conditioning.
No matter how open-minded you believe you are, you will have judged someone within seconds of meeting them, based on a whole range of subconscious issues. You may well be aware of the need to ignore first impressions, but we all judge people on gender, age, race, social class, wealth, political affiliation, accent, educational levels, physical attractiveness and a myriad other things.
How can you avoid this bias?
Where possible, it is helpful if you can involve other people in the recruitment process. Make sure applications have names, ages, gender and race obliterated when they are reviewed. Match them against a series of questions.
If possible, ask someone else to review the applications separately to you. Try to get someone else involved in the interview process with you. Then don’t compare notes until the whole process is complete. If you are the boss, let others give their views first so that they are not influenced by what they think you want them to say. They might spot something you don’t see.
Other hazards to avoid
I have discussed before the need to show off your business and the vacant role to their best advantage. If you were trying to sell your house for the best price possible, then you would spend some time and effort in preparing for the sale. It is the same with recruitment – you need to make sure the candidates see a place they want to work in and where they will feel welcome.
Finally,it is critical that you let people know your decision. Give a call, by all means, and make a verbal offer, but make sure you follow it up in writing, quickly. If the candidate is good, they will have their pick of jobs. You may find they have accepted another offer if they have to wait too long to hear from you.
Courtesy and common decency also says that you should contact the unsuccessful candidates and let them know why they were not the first choice. You want to keep them interested – you never know if they will one day prove to be the ideal candidate for a future job with you. It would be a shame if they don’t apply because they don’t like the way you treated them this time.
There is no quick fix for this problem and the approach required will depend on the sector and size of the organisation involved. Recruitment is not an overnight issue that only needs to be considered when you have a vacancy. But no matter what the size of your organisation, it is vital that you have a recruitment strategy and that you review and revise it regularly.