Let’s go back in time to January 2020 when the country enjoyed record low numbers of unemployment and it was a commonly known fact that many industries were struggling to recruit new talent into their organisations.

Some parts of the country, including my home county of Somerset, were even seeing below nation levels of unemployment making our struggle to find candidates even more real! Not to mention the B word – yes Brexit!  This was seeking to compound the problem in certain areas.

This presented us all, recruitment agents included, with recruitment challenges of how we are going to entice the people we want and made us become experts in creating talent acquisition solutions.

Whilst we have been somewhat distracted by the C word (Coronavirus of course) Brexit is still looming and a threat to the hiring landscape for many.

So fast forward and bring on a global pandemic, an unprecedented set of circumstances, with job loss numbers not seen since the 2008 financial crash.  Surely this has meant that all recruitment challenges are solved as there are an abundance of people available. But has it?

In this blog, we explore what recruitment challenges have existed and still exist and how you can seek to overcome them to ensure your continued growth and success.


What are the typical recruitment challenges?


Whilst certain industries have made huge numbers of redundancies, this has not solved the nations recruitment problems.

There remains a number of challenges hirers face and these include:

  • Not enough of the right applicants
  • Weak Employer Brand
  • Too many applicants
  • Making hiring mistakes
  • Socially distanced interviewing
  • Not a big enough candidate reach through a lack of channels
  • Poor candidate experience

Please don’t despair; whilst I appreciate that this is a fairly long list, nothing is impossible and there are ways to overcome every single problem listed above.

Let’s explore the issues and potential solutions.


Not enough of the right applicants


In the industries requiring people with professional qualifications or experience, it remains difficult to attract a volume of quality candidates.   Despite the challenges, some sectors have been incredibly resilient, maintaining growth throughout.  As well as them being in high demand due to competition, companies are also working very hard to retain top talent.   This is further compounded by a nervousness on the part of the candidate to move during what is perceived to be an unsettled time.   What I have also seen are people choosing now as the right time to bow out and retire, meaning further shortages in their respective professions.

To combat this you need to ensure that you maintain and develop a strong employer brand, get better at working on passive candidates, including your Linked In strategy and ensure that you adopt multiple channels for recruitment.  More on those things below.

Weak Employer brand


An Employer Brand exists for all companies whether they realise this or not.  It is basically the term used to define how you are perceived by those who may consider you as a place to work or on the flip side, be those who you may want to work for you.   You can use this perception to stand tall against your hiring competition and attract the best possible applicants.  Equally if this is not nurtured, it can work against you.

Your Employer Brand should represent the values of the business and the message should be consistent, inside and out, from the people you already employ and beyond.

It makes sense to ensure that you fully understand your company values and that they are documented and communicated within.

Unrest within an establishment always finds its way of rippling out to the wider world as people talk, and the people they tell talk to more people and so on and so forth.  Before you know it, you could have a nasty reputation in the region within which you wish to recruit, and this can act as a huge barrier.

Naturally, you want to have your house in order and let’s not bury our heads in the sand; let’s invite feedback in from the staff you already employ as a fantastic starting point.  Employee surveys are a perfect way to uncover a general feeling amongst your team and highlight any areas of improvement.

When you start to work on any internal issues and resolve them effectively, you will automatically find that you are making a start on improving your Employer Brand.

Other tips to improve your Employer Brand are:

  • Fully identify how you are rated among the competition (focus groups, surveys, agency partners)
  • Create a standard “tone of voice” as a brand and use it consistently across all touch points
  • Nurture culture internally addressing any pain points and ensure you hire based on cultural fit
  • Allow your employees freedom in sharing their work life experiences on social media – builds trust
  • Ensure your recruitment process is always seamless for candidates and consistent – embrace technology or use partner
  • Use story telling in job descriptions and bring the role to life


Too many applicants


Having looked at the problem of not having enough, it may seem contradictory to discuss the opposite issue of having too much!  These are the crazy times we live in and it is fair to say that some roles receive an absolute abundance of candidates.  For example, we recruit for Receptionist roles within a particular sector and it is not unheard of to receive more than 700 applicants!  Recently we placed an advert for an administrative role in Bristol and within 5 hours we had received 200 candidates!  This presents challenges in itself; you must view every CV in order to be certain you have left no stone unturned.  Doing that job thoroughly takes a lot of time and the ability to make a quick decision on whether someone is right or wrong.  For more tips on how to quickly and effectively sift CV’s see our blog on this topic; www.elitestaffingsolutions.co.uk/distinguishing-an-elite-cv-from-an-obsolete-cv/

Sadly some people are just desperate to work and apply for jobs they know aren’t suitable so it is always the case that you will have candidates in your inbox who just won’t fit the bill of what you are actually looking for.

You need to ensure that you respond to every candidate in a professional and timely manner as this will reinforce your solid employer brand and reputation and treat people fairly.  Again, this can be a very time-consuming process.

There are ways you can minimise the impact of this and here are some ideas:

  • Many job boards will allow you to set questions which ascertain suitability and then show these responses/scores along with the application. This helps to flag those that are highly unsuitable.
  • You could invest in the services of an agency partner who will take away all of this hassle and should present you with a shortlist of vetted and suitable candidates. With the contingent approach you only pay for a successful candidate so makes sense to try it.
  • If you recruit frequently you could look at investing in an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) which will automate some of the process of response and arranging interviews. It also enables a very consistent and professional approach and helps to effectively build a talent pool for future.
  • Ensure the adverts you place for the job are clear about what you are looking for in your perfect candidate. List the experience and qualifications you want to have in your next hire so people can rule themselves in or out.


Making hiring mistakes


Are you finding yourself in a situation where you keep taking people on and they only stay a short period of time and leave?  Or you may feel that after a few weeks the people you hire just aren’t what you expected or wanted.

Yes, this has a lot to do with the candidate, but I must tell you that it also has a lot to do with you!  The hiring process could be missing vital elements and I’m not just talking about whether you use an agency or not, I’m talking about the process you use to ensure that the person you offer the role to is exactly what you’re wanting for the long term.  Equally, if you have suffered the first situation on several occasions, the process needs to ensure that you are what they are looking for.

These hiring mistakes can be incredibly costly; it can cost thousands to recruit, bags of time in interviewing and training, only to have to start again so it is a no brainer to spend some time getting clear on your process.

Here are some simple steps to hiring correctly:

  • The first step is to get incredibly clear on what you want in your next hire and what you don’t want. If you are at all vague or unsure it is highly likely that you won’t find what you want
  • Once you have sifted, have an initial telephone or zoom first stage interview to establish immediate suitability. Include set questions to ascertain that they practically fit the bill for your role (find out more on interviewing in our blog; https://www.elitestaffingsolutions.co.uk/face-to-face-interview-techniques-for-employers/ )
  • Next have a face to face / virtual interview which involves competency questioning and ideally involve more than one interviewer in the process
  • Consider how you will test their practice abilities i.e skills test, roleplay, presentation etc and put a task together so you can establish that they do have the skill set that you need
  • Within the interview process, include questioning that draws out their values – make sure what matters to you, matters to them and vice versa
  • You can take this a step further to be really sure and ask them to complete a personality profile to fully establish their fit with your culture and identify whether their potential manager would suit how they like to be managed
  • Introduce to the wider team and ensure that they all gel and could work together
  • Check references – this step can often be missed or not followed up and it remains an integral part of the process to ensure you know everything you need to


Socially distanced hiring


Particularly in the first lockdown, not being able to physically interview or induct in person caused many companies to halt their search altogether.  This delay can be incredibly costly for a business when you consider the revenue that your potential hire will make or the customers you are potentially losing through not servicing them properly.   What’s more, in markets where talent is scarce, if you take your foot of the pedal you may miss out on your perfect employee.

But what we have seen are many clients adapting their processes and some hire completely through the means of virtual interviewing.  Who would have thought we would have all become expert “zoomers” within such a short space of time and no one thinks anything of being invited to a “Teams” any more.   There are many companies that do want to meet to be totally sure so when they are certain they have the right person, they bring them into the business for a socially distanced tour, ensuring Covid security.

Taking this a step further, certain businesses have even been able to induct staff starting from home through the same means as above and using technology further to record training videos to help their new starters learn the ropes.


Not a big enough candidate reach and a lack of multiple channels


On this point it is useful to consider recruiting in the same way as you would think about marketing and it is essential that you have several funnels or channels for your potential candidates to come through.  I would imagine that your business no longer just relies upon direct mail for leads, but that you are streaming potential income through social media, outbound sales, advertising, website and more. Similarly relying on one method alone will potentially leave you short of suitable candidates and not allow as great a reach to people that you want to apply for your roles.  The key is to get as many talented individuals into your pipeline as possible and shortlisting down to the ideal candidate.

So what funnels are available and of these how many do you use?

  • Company website
  • Social media pages
  • Recommend a friend scheme
  • Job boards
  • Agency partner
  • Linked In
  • Industry press

Something worth considering is the reach of each channel; if you rely on social media but your followers are largely made up of clients, this is where your applications will come from.  Consider the impact from clients applying and then not being selected for the role.  Equally if you share posts on Linked In but only have a limited number of followers/connections, the impact will be minimal.  Working to build these networks is essential as the wider they are the better the reach for candidate attraction.  This is where you must remain focused on the building of your Employer Brand and remain consistent with your message and tone whilst expanding the networks.

Recommend a friend schemes are also very powerful as those who are already successful within your business are likely to “hang out” with people possessing similar traits and possibly experiences.  Motivating them with a generous scheme can ensure that they are tuned in and rewarded accordingly for tapping into their own networks on your behalf.  Be mindful though not to “over milk the cow” as one of my former bosses used to say, having too much of a good thing where everyone is friends or family can get complicated at times and your culture can be deemed exclusive rather than inclusive.

Agency partners can also add huge amounts of value when it comes not just to sourcing you candidates to consider but valuable market advice and insights.  They can help you to understand your position within the market and can also help you with vetting and improving that part of your process.  With rebates offered by many, the risks are also underwritten to some extent so you should weigh up having that back up when you are thinking about paying a fee.

In summary here, I believe that in order to have the best possible reach you should have every funnel in place and working effectively so you can rest easy that you are not missing out on any potential talent for your business.


Poor candidate experience


You may be making strides forward with your Employer Brand, have built your network, implemented successful channels to bring candidates into your net but have you made sure that you are not falling at the final hurdle.

Poor candidate experience could not only be detrimental to your hiring success but also be losing you potential customers if you are fishing in the same pond.  If someone is having a negative experience during their interaction with you over an application, they may not just pull out themselves but put others off even trying! A Linked In survey in 2019 found that 27% of candidates who had a negative experience would actively discourage other applying.


Here’s how you can ensure that you win rave reviews from your applicants:


  • Have an accurate and up to date careers page

There is nothing more frustrating for people than showing an interest in a role listed on your website, only to find out that it is not live.  Whilst you may keep one active whilst onboarding a recent hire as a precaution, having roles that are not genuinely available can be misleading.  Invite speculative applications from potential employees to ensure that you are not missing out.


  • Make the process simple

Try and make sure that it is relatively easy for people to make their initial application.  If it is over complicated and detailed people may just abandon their efforts and go for something more straightforward.  Whilst this may be a chosen tactic to only receive applications from those who really want it, don’t be surprised if this means you have less people to choose from.


  • Respond

This may seem like a basic point, but we do hear frequently how candidates have made applications into companies only not to hear anything back at all.   As the adage goes, manners cost nothing but the damage caused by upsetting your public could go on to be rather expensive when you consider the above numbers.  Set up straightforward acknowledgements so that it is clear their submissions have been received and then make a note to go back again with the result of the application.


  • Interview process

The format of an interview process can differ greatly from company to company but if you do have one with multiple layers, it would be worth managing expectations early on and inform your applicants of what would be expected of them throughout.  If you are asking people to give presentations or complete tests and profiles, explain this early on so as not to spring any nasty surprises on people late in the day.

If you know you are hiring, it would be well recommended to book slots in your key stakeholders diaries at the outset and you could even inform people of when the interviews are taking place which allows people to get organised.  It would also be advisable to consider some late or early slots for those who are working and find it difficult to get the time off, the more flexible you can be the better.  Try and avoid asking people to come in the next day, this doesn’t allow people much time to prepare and as this can be very nerve wracking it won’t give those who prefer time in advance to give their best performance, putting them at a disadvantage.

If you do have several stages, make sure you keep in touch and keep the stages moving quickly so as not to keep people waiting for too long between first stage interview and final decision.  Contrary to popular belief, in certain sectors the job market is still buoyant and you may lose the one you want if you keep them hanging on.


  • Give feedback

It may be hard to give every applicant detailed feedback, especially if you are swamped but if you have taken someone’s time and interviewed them, it is absolutely essential that you provide constructive feedback as to why they were not successful.   Depending on when you last experienced interviewing yourself, you may not remember but it can be a very daunting situation – in fact only equal in stress levels to that of a first date.  When you are really keen on a role and don’t get it the feeling of disappointment can be overwhelming and at least if someone can try to understand the reason why and use it to improve their chances in the future, it may help to make sense of the feeling.


  • Onboarding

Arguably this starts even before the moment a candidate accepts your offer and onboarding employees effectively is crucial in how they will eventually go on to settle and perform.  As with every other part of the process, the messaging and reinforcement of your values should remain consistent and they must receive a confirmation, offer letter and contract in a timely fashion. This goes a long way in providing assurances that they have made the right decision.  As your next employee, you only get one chance to make a first impression and it goes back to managing expectations; it could be useful to make them aware of what their induction will entail so as to remove the feelings of anxiety that build prior to starting a new role.  Consider the importance of nurturing them into the company and the social development aspects.   Get this vital step wrong and you may find yourself back at square one.


We have covered many recruitment challenges in this blog and hopefully as well as demonstrating that you can’t take anything for granted, despite the current climate, all of these things are surmountable with effort and planning.


We work with many clients of all shapes and sizes either managing their recruitment entirely or as a vital funnel.  If you want to know more about choosing an agency why not get in touch or download our buyers guide here https://www.elitestaffingsolutions.co.uk/buyers-guide/