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Recruitment and HR Blog

It’s a candidate-driven market right now so how can you attract the best applicants?

8th July 2021

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Cast your mind back a few months and you’ll probably recall the expectation that the UK was moving into an employer-led recruitment market, with high numbers of (sometimes over-qualified) people chasing very few jobs. But it’s moved in a different direction. We had seen the signs early on in 2021; even then we’d identified that some sectors were struggling to find the calibre of candidate they needed.

But that situation is now affecting virtually every sector across the UK and it’s borne out almost daily in the conversations we’re having with the companies who are now turning to us for help. The number of vacancies is outweighing the number of people searching for employment. As a result, the market is highly competitive with companies battling to attract and recruit the best candidates out there.  Many employers are surprised to discover they are not getting anywhere near the number of applications they would have done a year or two ago. And it’s not simply about the number of applications being received either; it’s about the candidate quality too. So where does that leave you if you are an employer in that situation? There are a number of things you can do to make sure your job opportunities are being seen by and attracting the ideal candidates.

1. Review the salary and package you’re offering, and make sure it’s advertised  

At the moment salaries in general are on the increase. The latest ONS figures estimate growth in average total pay (including bonuses) and regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 5.6% for February to April 2021. It’s estimated there was an 8.4% total pay and 7.3% regular pay growth rate in April this year relative to April 2020.

There are several variables at play. April 2020 was of course the first full month where the pandemic was being felt in terms of earnings, so that’s had an impact on the relative growth rate. Some of the issue is also connected to Brexit; estimates vary but most seem to indicate that over a million foreign nationals left the UK in the space of a year. And inevitably a shrinking pool of labour has an impact on salary rates.

Employers need to review what they are offering when it comes to both salary and package so they have something that attracts the best candidates out there. And most importantly, employers need to make sure the salary and package are stated clearly on the job advert. On average, online job adverts that include salary information receive 41% more applications compared to job adverts without any salary indication. If you don’t include a salary in your job advert you run the risk of potentially eliminating a lot of candidates, as it’s a vital piece of information they want to know before even applying for the role.



2. Articulate your employer brand

Put yourself in the candidates’ shoes for a moment. If you were applying for a vacancy, what would attract you? Would it be the advert that says ‘Our client is looking for…’ or would it be the one that told you who the company was? In most cases, people want to know who it is they are applying to and what it is the company stands for. The impact of your employer brand is significant. People don’t just apply to do a specific job; they apply because they are also attracted to the prospect of being part of a particular company with a particular culture. Unless there are specific reasons why you can’t, we would always advise a company to be up front about who it is candidates are applying to.

3. Be honest with yourself about what’s genuinely essential

When an employer is about to advertise a vacancy, they must identify the requirements for that role. And it’s surprisingly easy for the list of essential requirements to drift by not just focusing on what is genuinely key but by starting to stray into a wish list of what else the candidate will have to offer in an ideal world. And unfortunately, that will screen more people out for no valid reason. Employers must challenge themselves when it comes to pinning down the essential requirements and be honest about what’s really vital and what isn’t. It’s not about lowering standards; it’s about casting the net as widely as possible to include anyone who could ultimately turn out to be a great prospect.

4. Highlight flexible working opportunities

Many of today’s candidates are looking for positions that offer a degree of flexibility. That might be in the form of greater flexibility over their location or it might be connected to the hours they work.

The more flexible you can be as an employer, the greater the number of people who’ll be attracted to your vacancy and who will be able to consider themselves for it. If you are in a position to offer flexibility then make sure you’re promoting that clearly in your job advert and throughout all other related communications. Not only will it increase the chances of finding the ideal candidate; a more flexible approach can support workplace diversity too. And the flexibility of your opportunity could be the deciding factor between a candidate accepting your role over another employer’s offer.

5. Get the job title right

Do job titles really matter? An unequivocal yes. The job title is highly likely to be the first thing that catches a prospective applicant’s eye. It’s the hook that will draw them in to clicking through and reading the advert. So it must resonate with them.

Titles need to be pitched to reflect the external market, giving candidates a realistic feel for what the role is and the level at which candidates will need to operate. There’s no place for company specific jargon here. If the title is vague or misleading, the wrong people will immediately screen themselves out and the wrong candidates may well count themselves in too. You want as many suitable candidates as possible to be curious and take a look, even those who might not be actively hunting. Make sure the right keywords are in there too so the job adverts will be found by suitable applicants on the job boards and job alert emails. 

6. Get your job advert in front of the right people

Your advert needs to be seen by as many suitable candidates as possible. That requires getting it out to as many relevant places as you can to ensure the vacancy gets extensive exposure. With so many job boards out there it can be time consuming (we use a network of over 200 leading regional and specialist sites) but it’s time well invested as it will substantially increase the chances of you finding the right candidates.


7. Deal promptly with applications

The moment a candidate submits their application to you, they’ll be hoping for feedback sooner rather than later. Be respectful towards them by reviewing their applications promptly and getting back to them quickly. Create a good impression of yourself as a considerate employer who doesn’t want to leave them hanging on.

It’s very much in your best interests to deal quickly with applications. Those candidates are likely to be applying for other vacancies too. If you take your time before you start to review the applications, or before you contact candidates you have shortlisted, you are at serious risk of losing them. The jobs market is moving so fast that if you are slow to respond, the chances are another employer will snap them up in the meantime. At the moment, candidates are not short of options and employers need to react accordingly.

Do you need support with attracting the best candidates for your roles?

We offer specialist support to companies seeking to attract the perfect candidate in this competitive marketplace. From writing a stand-out job advert to increasing its exposure and assessing the applications that follow, we can support your organisation with finding the talent you need. We can even provide you with a part or fully managed recruitment campaign, lifting all aspects of the administrative and co-ordination burden off your shoulders and enabling you to fully concentrate on the selection stage.

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about our extensive range of cost-effective job advertising and recruitment support services.

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