UK Businesses Must Step Up Their Recruitment Game To Win Top Talent

Written by: Mike Trollope
Published on: 17 Oct 2017

There is a national skills shortage across the UK, and the finance sector is no exception, especially at the senior end.  A reduction in hiring during the economic downturn contributed to a talent shortage that costs the UK economy a reported £10billion a year. Now, with the recession far behind us, a plethora of new businesses, from start-ups to FTSE 100 companies, have instigated a transformation of the labour market from one where employers had their pick of the UK’s top talent, to a firmly candidate-driven market. In fact, demand for good executive candidates is now at an all-time high.

In a complex set of circumstances, not only is there a skills gap and many vacancies to fill, but there is also a hesitancy amongst execs to move jobs amid job security fears due to Brexit uncertainty – and just to compound the situation there are budgetary restraints in place to ensure businesses exercise caution in these times. Unable to just throw salaries at the problem, UK business has to work smarter, harder and, most importantly, faster than ever before to bridge the skills gap.

How should business respond to the changing jobs market?

Historically, top finance candidates would be doing well to receive one or two offers to consider, but in today’s market cl they generally have four or five potential employers vying for them at the same time, meaning they have considerably more power than ever before. The recruitment process is no longer merely about candidates selling themselves at interview; employers must stand out and address the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor for the candidate in the employment relationship.

What will get your candidates’ attention?

Money talks.

Following almost a decade of stagnating wages, we are seeing a steady (albeit slow) inclination towards higher salaries in many of our markets. Part of the reason for the inertia we have been seeing in the jobs market has been a disparity between the salary expectations of clients and candidates. Employers must keep up with, and in certain cases exceed, this upward trend and ensure their offers are attractive. Good research and a strong idea of the salary bracket available for each position at the start of the recruitment process is essential, as well as open and frank communication about salary expectations with candidates. There is no point going through the recruitment process with someone who is ultimately too expensive.

Softly, softly.

When there’s no more room for manoeuvre with the remuneration package, thankfully there are other ways of tempting your candidate through the door, and you can use the ongoing trend for interest in more soft benefits to your advantage. From the sensible to the outlandish, what is universally notable in all the UK’s top businesses is their commitment to improving employee engagement. With nationwide talent contests securing the three finalists the opening act for a gig with Bruno Mars (Google, of course), giant slides and ball pits in offices, free food and all-expenses paid holidays on offer, the sky is the limit. But what employees really want are simple comforts – time to address the work-life balance with higher than average annual leave packages, enhanced parental leave and other family friendly policies, opportunities for professional and personal development and feeling valued. A word of caution though, make sure you know your market before you start selling your childcare voucher scheme to a candidate with no children – find out what makes your candidates tick.

Reputation, reputation, reputation.

If you want to attract the best exec talent, you need to be the best. You have an even better chance of getting your perfect candidate across the line if they already have a positive impression of your business before you have spoken. Top talent are quick to establish who has a poor reputation in the sector and if your business is forward-thinking and looks after its own this one should take care of itself. As highlighted above regarding perks and benefits, your business’s ethos, personality and culture are as important to potential employees as the amount of money it is willing to pay.

Time is of the essence.

In a candidate-driven market, I cannot stress strongly enough that if you have a fluffy recruiting structure you will not get the candidate you want. Candidates feel devalued and frustrated by an unduly lengthy recruitment process, and construe delays as doubts.

Act quickly. The key to an efficient talent acquisition strategy is streamlined processes, preparation and transparency. Prepare a list of must-haves and a wish list of skills and qualifications for your desired candidate and be decisive and, at times, ruthless to whittle down shortlists earlier on in the process and remove more candidates from the process earlier. Use telephone and Skype interviews to save time in the early stages. It may seem counterintuitive to meet fewer candidates face to face, but the interview process is time-consuming, and while the right candidate is waiting for you to complete your first stage interviews, they could be getting close to an offer stage elsewhere. Find out at the very first interview who your competition is and be prepared to move quickly and manage your candidates’ expectations. If it is going to take two days to come back with an offer, tell them that they are in the running and it will take two days to finalise, don’t just leave them hanging.

Learn from your mistakes.

If, at the end of your recruitment process, your ideal candidate ends up plumping for another role, or even accepting a counter-offer from their current employer, make sure you ask for feedback as to why they have rejected your offer. That way you can determine what you need to do differently and address those issues so your offer acceptance rate increases in the future.

Don’t be a sore loser.

Do not react with hostility. Just as we would always advise a senior level candidate never to burn their bridges, the same applies to our clients – candidates with multiple offers are faced with complex decisions, and whether they accept a counter offer from their current employer or a new role elsewhere, the chances are they could be mobile within the sector again soon - and you may have a second chance!

Mike Trollope – Associate Partner – Interim Finance Practice, Cedar Recruitment