An employer’s guide: How to ace recruitment when market is tight

Published on: 21/02/2022


Job vacancies in the UK rose by 127,800 in the period from October to December 2021, reaching a new record of 1,247,000 vacancies. This equates to a record ratio of 4 job vacancies for every 100 employee jobs that exist.

Numerous surveys of business leaders confirm the reality of these statistics on the ground. Across a range of industry sectors, significant majorities of business leaders are reporting that recruitment is “extremely or very challenging.” These record vacancy levels are being driven by a range of factors including demographics, the ending of Freedom of Movement and a mismatch of skills, which means that, barring a significant economic downturn, this situation is unlikely to be abated anytime soon.

Even where employers feel that they do not have current recruitment problems, they need to be wary. In a tight labour market one organisation’s recruitment solution soon becomes another organisation’s turnover or wage levels problem.

What then should employers be doing now to respond to this long-haul recruitment challenge? In the immediate term, employers should be responding tactically to fill vacancies where they can, but to achieve a sustainable solution, a much more strategic approach to Human Resources Management is required.

This will require a systematic and integrated response to the challenge. The first place to start is with Resource Planning. As can be seen with the latest discussions around the NHS, many organisations lack a comprehensive workforce plan. The Resource or Workforce Plan should take a long, hard look at what organisational capability needs to be in place over the short, medium and long-term to deliver on the organisation’s objectives going forward.

The formulation of such a plan can have outputs which temper the need for external recruitment. It might highlight that it is worthwhile to invest in technological solutions or efficiencies rather than hire people; it might decide that outsourcing or offshoring activity is preferential to constantly struggling to recruit or retain certain competences; it might decide that the best solution is to invest in and develop internal talent.

Alongside this precising of future staffing requirements the organisation needs to decide how it will connect with external talent pools. Many organisations go to the labour market late and in a very restricted manner, fishing in the same small pools that all their competitors are fishing in.

Employers need to think about how connections can be made with diverse talent pools and diverse talent. They also need to consider investing in connecting with those talent pools long before they actually need to recruit.

Employers also need to consider their Employment Brand. This is not their organisational brand alone or their product brand. It is a distinct branding of the organisation as an employer, which is, of course, linked to the organisational brand. This employer brand is centred around the question, what image do we have in the labour market amongst the type of people we might want to hire, and how can we enhance that image?

Employment brands are becoming more and more important for scarce talent. Such talent is seeking to build their own personal brand through employment with a series of strong employer brands.

Coupled with the issue of branding is that of the Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Employers need to be clear on what their EVP is - alternatively put, what is it that the organisation offers which would make talent want to join it? The EVP needs to be much more than compensation.

There is increasing evidence that talent wants to work for organisations which offer a sense of purpose and demonstrate strong values. They are attracted to organisations which have positive organisational cultures, where they can be authentic, which offer flexible working arrangements and provide good opportunities for development and progression.

Organisations then need to take a hard look at the question - why would talent want to work for us, what is our EVP? Of course, if the assessment is that the EVP is lacking, then this needs to be fixed through organisational development. The solution is not to present the organisation as something it is not. That will likely lead to high turnover of new recruits, a waste of resources and a deterioration in the employer brand.

When it comes to the actual process of recruitment it is critical to identify what the key things are that the organisation is looking for. More and more, organisations are realising that over and above the technical capabilities to do the job, they need to recruit employees with the right attitudes and behaviours. Individuals who are a good fit in terms of the teams they will join and who will make a positive contribution towards the evolution of the desired organisational culture. Any recruitment process of course also needs to be objective, fair and transparent.

Today in a tight labour market it is not just about organisations selecting talent, it is also about talent selecting employers too. The recruitment process is likely the first touch point between talent and an organisation. If it is bureaucratic, amateurish or portraying outdated styles of leadership or behaviour, it is probable that offers will be declined by the best talent.

If promises are made in the process which cannot be delivered, this is also likely to trigger an immediate breakdown of trust and feed a turnover problem for the future. It should also be remembered that in days of rampant social media activity, employer brands can take a hit amongst defined talent pools, if missteps occur. 

If there is a successful hiring, it should be remembered that the courtship has not ended with the acceptance of an offer. In tight labour markets, talent has choices. If talent becomes disengaged, then it can easily walk out of the door. Information gleaned on talent through the recruitment process should be used as the basis for a personal development plan and as the start of a very person-centric relationship between the organisation and that valuable employee.

In summary, short-term tactical responses to immediate vacancies will not deliver good outcomes in such a challenging environment. Organisations need to pursue an integrated and strategic approach towards talent acquisition, development and retention to stay ahead of the competition.

If you require any external support with HR Strategy, HR processes or related Employment Law matters, please contact one of our Forbury People consultants.


This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking professional and legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.