How to Recruit for Hard-to-Fill Vacancies

The CIPD’s recent Labour Market Outlook survey has confirmed what many UK employers already knew: recruitment difficulties are on the increase.

According to the survey, 47% of employers reported having hard-to-fill vacancies (from 39% in the previous report). 

With the number of UK job vacancies at a record high (the number surged to 1.17 million in the three months to October 2021), it isn’t surprising that those hard-to-fill positions have become even more difficult to recruit for. 

The survey shows that these positions are most prevalent in the construction and healthcare industries, closely followed by public administration and business services (a category that covers PR, law, consultancy, scientific and technical services).  Yet no industry escapes completely unscathed, since the list also includes information and communication, manufacturing, education, and finance.

Why are UK job vacancies at a record high?

Many factors have contributed to the current surge in UK job vacancies.  Employer-cited reasons include “a lack of qualified applicants, inability to afford an attractive pay package, and a reduced number of EU applicants”.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns have also led to a global phenomenon known as ‘The Great Resignation’, in which many workers used  enforced time at home to re-evaluate their choices and priorities (as we have stated previously, the volume of Google searches for “leave job” increased by 50% since the pandemic began).

The CIPD survey reports that, far from getting better, 58% of employers expect their recruitment difficulties to worsen over the next six months.

So, what – if anything – can employers do to successfully recruit for those hard-to-fill vacancies?

Is raising salaries the best option?

At 47%, raising wages is at the top of the CIPD’s published list of actions employers have taken to alleviate the issue of hard-to-fill vacancies.  Second is upskilling existing staff, followed by hiring more apprentices.

Yet if issues like the Great Resignation have taught the world of recruitment anything, it is that many employees favour greater flexibility and development opportunities over pure financial reward. 

A recent LinkedIn report on talent drivers bears this theory out, concluding that work-life balance and flexible work arrangements are at the top the list when it comes to candidate priorities.

However, one surprising fact uncovered by LinkedIn’s report is that even employees at remote-friendly companies are “32% more likely to struggle with work-life balance”.  This is due to the fact that remote working allows work “to creep into every moment and every place”.

Creating a culture that actively encourages work-life balance, rather than simply allowing employees to work remotely, can therefore offer a genuine advantage in the ongoing race for candidates.

Creative, personal recruitment

Recruiting for hard-to-fill vacancies may mean straying away from posting the usual advertisements, in favour of more creative and personalised strategies.

The employer review site Glassdoor recommends that organisations build strong social media networks, posting regular content that “show(s) prospective candidates what it is like to work at your company and highlight why your employees love coming to work every day”.

Other creative ideas include encouraging employee referrals, and inviting selected job seekers to an informal company meet-up, at which they can meet existing employees, ask questions, and find out more about organisational culture.

Focus on job quality

“Too many businesses say ‘people are our greatest asset’, but treat their workforce simply as a cost to be managed not as a key driver of value to be invested in”.  (CIPD viewpoint on job quality)

Focusing on job quality not only means ensuring work is fairly rewarded, but allows employees to feel a sense of security and fulfilment through their work. 

This may involve re-designing job descriptions, investing in training and development opportunities, and allowing employees a degree of autonomy to shape their careers within the organisation.

Clearly, many of these strategies will take a great deal of thought and planning, and  will not be implemented overnight.  However, the organisations that choose to focus on work-life balance, creative recruitment, and job quality are likely to be rewarded  with a strong reputation that means hard-to-fill vacancies are a thing of the past.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss recruitment in your organisation, please contact our expert team at Viridian HR. 

You can also download our free and informative guide to implementing a hybrid working strategy .





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