Recruitment Challenges – Getting the Job Done

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.

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Successful Recruitment – Can you heave a sigh of relief?

It was a successful recruitment exercise. You have filled your vacancy and have a new employee starting in your organisation.  You breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the normal workload, which has been building up while you have been going through the recruitment exercise.

Measuring Successful Recruitment

Beware though – getting the person through the door and into the vacant role is only the first measure of a successful recruitment programme.

As part of your recruitment strategy, you defined what successful recruitment looks like and how you measure it.  There is no standard answer to this question, but some of the considerations are:

  • Is the hiring manager happy with the recruit?
  • How long did the process take?
  • Was it a positive experience for the candidates, even those who were unsuccessful?
  • How long should the new employee take until they are productive in their new role?
  • How long do they actually take until they are productive?
  • Do they fit in with the rest of the team, or has the recruitment solved one problem only to bring another in its wake?
  • How long does the person stay in their role?  If it is less than one year and you have to go through the whole process again in a few months, then is that a successful recruitment?
  • Is the customer happy?

Nurturing Successful Recruitment

You might want to consider what you can do, or if there is anything you can provide for the new recruit to settle quickly and be happy in their role. What steps can you take to give your recruitment process a better chance of success?  Is there any equipment, information or training which would enable them to pick up  their job more quickly and easily?

Analysing the Data

If you want to measure the success of your recruitment strategy, then you need to keep some data to analyse.  As a part of the recruitment strategy planning, you need to consider what measures you will want to use and how they can be analysed.  For example, you may need to think about how long it is likely for an averagely able person to be productive in any given role.  Is the role customer facing?  Are there skills you would expect any candidate to have, or do you need a training plan for new people into the role?

Next Steps

Initially,  you need to  consider how you can help the new employee to fit into your organisation quickly.  Is there any information you need to give them on Day 1 – and if so, how is that given to them?  Do you need to allocate a “buddy” or mentor for your new employees?  Is there any specific training that is needed for their role, or for the work place in general.  For example, what is the fire drill process? Where is the first aid kit? Are there any specific health and safety rules?

But now we are moving away from recruitment and stepping into the world of retention and how to keep your workforce happy, engaged and motivated.   We will be delving deeper in future, but for now I am staying with recruitment  as there is more to share in later posts.

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The Art Of Conducting An Employment Interview

You may think you are good at interviewing people.  After all, you usually manage to recruit someone suitable and you have always enjoyed the interview process. 

But do you know what questions you should avoid asking?  Some things are inappropriate, others could potentially be illegal to ask about. 

Avoiding complaints – or even legal action

Jobseekers have some of the same protections at interview as employees do at work. For example, you cannot ask someone if they are pregnant or are planning to start or increase their family.  If a woman is evidently pregnant, or mentions that she is, then you must not discriminate against her. 

Many employers believe that it is OK to ask about pregnancy.  They also believe a woman should disclose the fact she is pregnant, or trying for a family.  It is not OK.  It is potentially against the law and you cannot take pregnancy – or potential pregnancy – into account when considering whether or not someone is the best candidate.  There is no obligation on a woman to disclose her situation or plans.

Beware discriminating against somebody in interviews

Additionally, you need to guard against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion.  The important thing is the skills, experience, aptitude and enthusiasm to do the job.  Why is the colour of their skin, or their accent or their religious practice something which you would want to take into consideration? Those are not things which you should be asking about in interview (or at all).  Of course, you may need to check that someone has a right to work in UK, but that check should not be part of the interview.  The question should be asked of every candidate, regardless of the colour of their skin or their accent.   Guidance on this check is available on the UK Government web site.

What about aptitude tests and skills assessments?

If your budget allows for it, you may want to run aptitude tests and skills assessments.  A variety of these are available in the recruitment market.  It is true they can be a useful pointer, but remember that they are only ever a snapshot of that particular moment in time and the same questions to the same candidate would probably get different results on a different day. 

Candidates are already nervous and some are intimidated by these kind of tests.  Many people cannot see the point of them and, as a result, some don’t take them seriously.  External events can affect the way a candidate will answer a question.  If they have had a difficult time with a previous employer, then that can affect how they will answer. 

So is there any point in running these tests during the interview process?

The real benefit of these tests is for you to run them prior to the interview and then use the results to inform your interview questions.  So if an assessment brings up an area of concern for you, then ask questions around that area of concern to try and get to the truth of whether it is a real block for the candidate or just a temporary diversion from their normal reactions.

Softer skills

As well as checking out the candidates’ ability to do the role you are offering, it would be wise to use the interview process to check out their “soft skills”.  Do they have emotional intelligence?  Are they able to relate to other people? Are they able to react in a professional manner to a difficult situation? The answers to these questions will help you decide who will fit best into your team and who will be most comfortable with your company’s culture.

Making the decision

If there is a candidate who is clearly a good fit for your role, then the choice is an easy one.  More often there are two or three “possibles” who each bring a particularly useful skill or who have the right personality. But there is also often something about each one which is not quite what you had hoped for.  This, of course, is your perception and may not be the reality. 

It may be that you are still searching for that perfect candidate who doesn’t exist.  My best advice in this situation is to choose one of the candidates and make an offer as quickly as possible.   If you take too long to make a decision, then you risk all of the suitable candidates accepting an offer from another employer.   There is nothing more offputting for a candidate than to be kept “hanging” without a firm decision either way.  That is not very good for your reputation as an employer. 

Giving timely feedback after the interview

Finally, if a candidate has made the time and effort to come to an interview, then the very least you can do for them is to give them speedy and honest feedback from the interview.  If they are a definite “no”, then tell them and tell them why (honestly).  If you felt someone else had skills or experience that were a better fit, then tell the unsuccessful people why.  It is not very helpful to be told that you are “not the best fit” without being told what it is that you need to work on for another time.

Once the successful candidate has started in the job, then you need to look at the best way to retain their interest and enthusiasm.  But that is for future  articles.  If you want to be sure of getting that help when the time comes, then please sign up to our mailing list.  

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Attracting The Right Candidates

You want to attract the right candidates to apply for your vacancies, so that you have a choice of suitable people to fill vacant roles.  But there is a very high rate of employment and the recruitment market has got more and more difficult.

You have spent time producing a recruitment strategy and you have up-to-date job descriptions for your roles, so you are all set to start recruiting whenever the need arises.  But how can you make sure you attract the right people to apply?

Your online presence

We would find it difficult to operate without the internet in all aspects of our lives these days .  Much of our shopping is done online and we find our life partners, book our holidays, download our entertainment, all online.   We read the news, make appointments, market our products.  It appears that there is no aspect of life which is untouched by the internet.  This includes business, and recruitment.

The first place people go when they are job hunting is the internet.  Firstly – and obviously – we check out what vacancies are out there and find out who is recruiting and how to apply.  But we also do our research about employers online.  This means that employers need to have a strong and compelling presence online to be sure of attracting candidates. They will want to understand who you are and what you do.  They will want to gauge your culture and the treatment you give to your clients and employees.  So your website is a key recruitment tool, as well as a marketing tool.

Employee advocacy

Another key to successful recruitment is your employer reputation.  Your current and previous employees are your best advocates.  You can be sure they will tell the world about you, whether you are good or bad to your employees.  There are websites where people can tell the world which are good employers and who are the ones to avoid (and why).  Your Company may not have featured yet, but you should always remain aware that it could do so. 

In any event, employees use social media to tell the world all about their lives and some do not seem to avoid telling the most intimate details.  So you can be sure that they will be praising or destroying you online. They may not even intend to give you bad press, but the wrong impression given can potentially cost you the chance to employ someone who would be an ideal fit.

Social conscience

You may not have given much thought to your company’s social conscience.  If you are only a small venture, then you may not have the resources available to make a big splash in the charitable sector.  I get it – you are busy and spend all your time running your business.  You haven’t got time to get involved in charitable causes as well.

But this is an area where potential employees are more and more likely to judge whether or not they want to work for you.  And as a bonus, your clients are likely to be interested too…

So your online presence probably needs to include some reference to your sustainable credentials, your impact on the environment, or your contribution to the social fabric of society. 

Every company, however small, can reduce their water or electricity consumption, save postage stamps and give them to a charity, or have a charity collection box.  If you don’t have anything in place, then you might want to ask your employees for ideas and input and then write an item about it for your website.  But my advice is to make a genuine effort.  Your employees, clients and candidates alike will see through any attempt to pay lip service to having a social conscience.  If you can show that you love the world and want to do your bit (however small) to help improve it, then your employees will love you.  It will also enhance your reputation with your clients.  

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