Competing in a candidate-driven market


By Rachel Empson

With vacancies still escalating across most industries, according to the ONS UK Labour Market Overview (October 2021), we’re operating in a candidate-driven market. This is exacerbating the demand for scarce skills talent, as well as making even more mainstream roles difficult to recruit for.

Particularly given the added challenge of increasing salaries.

UK companies, from retailers to construction firms, are struggling to fill gaps in their workforce after Brexit cut immigration from the EU and the pandemic prompted workers to seek more secure jobs. Starting salaries in the UK surged at the fastest pace in at least 24 years in July 2021 as employers try desperately to attract their share of a shrinking pool of candidates (Bloomberg, KPMG, REC, IHS Markit). And competition for experienced professionals has led to higher salary packages and the provision of more flexible working conditions, eroding USP’s in this area.

So as an employer, it’s not just about finding the talent you need, but standing out against your competition to engage your potential candidates and meet your hiring demand.

How to find them

At SMRS, we work with a number of research sources and tools to find the hard to find – geographically and down to individual organisations. Whether it’s by job titles or specific skills, we can pinpoint where to find the right people. That could be within a radius of a specific location, by region or we can look at areas of high penetration of potential talent across the UK as a whole and beyond. Establishing areas of opportunity to target geographically.

How to stand out

Hygiene factors, such as salaries and benefits, are undoubtedly important to us all. But where do they rank? The pandemic has prompted many of us to re-evaluate what’s important, both personally and from our work. As employers trying to attract to scarce skills roles, or simply ‘hard to recruit for’ roles, we need to understand the varied motivations of our audiences. And we need to treat them as people, not ‘workers’.

How can you do this?

  • By clarifying, communicating and living your values. Candidates look for employers whose values align to their own. And ensure that employees’ wellbeing is central.
  • Be transparent about job duties, benefits and salary.
  • Expand your candidate pool by broadening the channels you use to reach them, and by considering people from non-traditional backgrounds. Hire for skills and for what that individual can become.
  • Maintain a robust hiring process but make it as efficient as possible, so you don’t lose great candidates simply as a result of time.
  • Most importantly, speak to your prospective candidates as ‘people’ and individuals. Take the time to find out what motivates them in their work and what constitutes their view of an ideal workplace – directly through interviews and focus groups, and also via surveys for more quantitative feedback. Uncover what they’re looking for in the next stage of their career, so that when you speak to them, you appeal directly to their needs and wants.

With this in mind, we’re currently working with clients to attract Software Developers to tackle work that improves daily lives in the UK and far beyond, to attract Physicists to work with some of the best facilities and brightest scientists in the world and to attract Engineers to shape the world of tomorrow as well as their career. We’re showing them the impact they can make that stretches beyond the organisation and making it impossible for them not to jump at the opportunity.