Challenging times

It has never been easy to find the right candidates. Skills shortages, scarcity of talent, the impact of social media on online recruiting and continuing cost pressures mean this is still a challenging time for hiring in the UK, even though the economy appears to have recovered from the worst effects of the post-2008 recession.

According to the latest Labour Market Outlook, the proportion of employers planning to hire staff increased from 65% to 71%, and near- term employment prospects remain buoyant, particularly due to growth in the south.

But despite record employment levels driven by more part-time and self-employment, the UK’s ‘employment paradox’ continues: a record number of vacancies but unemployment levels still relatively high at 1.85 million at the end of May 2015 compared to 1.6m in 2008.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) talks of a “looming jobs crisis” as the number of posted vacancies increases despite rises in numbers finding permanent jobs, with 40% of UK recruiters ! reporting falling candidate availability. The situation is further complicated by reports that nearly four in ten employees plan to leave their current jobs this year (up from one in five last year) thus creating more vacancies to fill from an apparently emptying recruitment pool.

The authoritative UKCES Employer Skills Survey also reports a sharp rise in skills shortages, with too many organisations finding it hard to recruit the right people. Seeking new sources of applicants as traditional recruitment pools become drained might mean considering upskilling people who already have the softer skills required; people returning to work, perhaps preferring to work more flexibly; or investing in apprenticeships.

Recruiting through social media

Social media has clearly arrived: more than half UK organisations make some use of it and the majority of those not using it believe it would benefit them. Its main use (86%) is in attracting candidates, and the CIPD reports that 80% of those using social media say it has boosted their employer brand and increased the potential selection pool, while 75% say it has reduced resourcing costs.

Social media is having a major impact on how and where candidates are recruited. Many candidates register their details on social media and recruiters may initially use social media in their search for new talent. Note the average age of the UK’s Facebook users is over 40 and over half of Twitter’s users are over 35: social media is far from solely something the kids do. The 2015 Randstad Award report reveals 39% of UK jobseekers use social networking sites to find a job, with Facebook the most popular site (used by 61%), followed by LinkedIn (47%), Twitter (30%), Google+ (25%), YouTube (17%), and Instagram (9%).

LinkedIn is the site most favoured by managers and office workers, Facebook the most used social network among production workers. According to one survey, 90% of candidates are happy to be solicited for jobs via LinkedIn, and 80% would apply for a relevant job that appears in their profile feed.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters’ (AGR) latest survey shows employers spend around £2,000 per hire on marketing, with 93.3% of its member employers using online activities, including social media and job boards, due to their cost effectiveness.

Some AGR members no longer use print, believing that social media, coupled with advertising on university portals, reaches graduates more effectively. As one construction sector employer said: “Graduates may not pay too much attention to printed directories anymore. They might flick through them, but they do not capture as large an audience as online.”

Although LinkedIn and Twitter are the top two sites used by organisations, some high profile organisations – Accenture, the Royal Navy and CERN, for example – have made great use of Facebook in their recruiting campaigns.

Candidates see a clear distinction between personal and professional social media networks – and use them for different purposes. For example, Facebook, where 74% of professionals maintain a profile, is used mainly for personal connections. Twitter is also hugely popular, with newer networks such as YouTube, Google+ and Instagram taking a smaller share of the market.

With social media an important tool for candidates researching the market, an organisation’s social media presence has a significant impact on applicants in shaping impressions of a potential employer.

Content, content, content

But using professional networks to post vacancies is not enough. Employers must maintain high-quality content on company culture, employee opportunities and plans. Participation in online groups specific to a particular sector or industry is also important.

Having clearly established the value of social media, employers should not replace established practices to assess candidates. Over reliance on social media could exclude or even deter good candidates. So employers must:

• understand what different social networks can do for the organisation and use social media that is most effective in recruitment

• use a targeted approach on social media used by potential employees they would most like to recruit

• remember that a well-managed professional social media profile is just one route for attracting candidates

• use social media to reinforce corporate values as it is normal for job seekers to investigate a potential employer through professional networks

• ensure that information on corporate social media profiles is informative, concise and easy to follow

• make sensible use of social media when considering prospective candidates. Personal profiles may not reveal a candidate’s professional abilities.

Passive candidates

Reaching and engaging proactively with non-active or ‘passive’ candidates is becoming increasingly important. Passive candidates are those not looking for a new job, but who would be interested in the right opportunity and prepared to consider attractive offers. While there is little consensus about the proportion of passives (estimates vary from 40% to 85%) a LinkedIn survey found 41% of employees describe themselves so, compared to 46% actively seeking jobs and 9% as unwilling to change employers.

Passive candidates therefore make up a significant part of the potential total recruitment pool – perhaps half – and relying solely on traditional recruitment methods, e.g. responses to advertised vacancies, means missing out on this large number of potential employees. Broadly ! speaking, passives can be targeted through content and information useful and relevant to their current role and career plans, but which invites them to consider you as a future employer.

There is no one single best way to attract applicants, but any and all methods must result in a sufficient number of suitably-qualified candidates from which to select.

Resourcing strategies, remuneration, and procedures therefore have to be right from the start: you don’t want too many or too few suitable candidates. Job descriptions, competency frameworks and person specifications must be accurate and realistic, and ideally reflect your employer brand and employee value proposition (EVP), as described in chapter 3.

Jump on the brand wagon 

Employee value propositions (EVPs) are becoming critical to ensure
an organisation is attractive to potential employees, and vital in ! highlighting the advantages of working for you rather than a
competitor. A good employer brand and well-articulated employer
EVP sends signals to potential recruits about the experience of working
for a particular company, alerting them to factors likely to make them
want to join, and conversely ‘warning off’ those who would not be the
right fit. 

Organisations are now looking for softer skills and cultural fit as well as job-related skills, but the following basic recruitment steps remain the same: define the role, determine the pay and benefits, highlight career development and other attractions, and source a suitable candidate pool for interview and final selection.