Written by Sally-Ann King | 11th October 2023

The recruitment landscape is ever-changing and with a shift towards a more technology-focused, candidate-driven market, businesses need to look for new ways to attract top talent.

Here Reality HR Recruitment Specialist, Sally-Ann King discusses the challenges businesses are facing and how to overcome them.

How has the UK recruitment landscape changed in the last six months?

There’s no doubt the recruitment market has become more ‘candidate driven’. There are more roles available and less accessible and suitable talent to fill those roles, which means candidates have more choice to be picky.

Candidates are also looking for a quick and easy process – they don’t want to fill out lengthy application forms or sit through four to five interviews.

How candidates find jobs is also changing. Many good candidates are deciding to engage with agencies, rather than trawl through the thousands of job roles on job boards. Hiring managers are only turning to agencies as a last resort when a role becomes particularly hard to fill.

Many businesses have reported struggles with recruitment – what are the biggest challenges you have seen and how can they overcome them?

Sometimes candidates can make it through the entire hiring process, attend rounds of interviews and accept the offer, then fail to join.

Rather than wait for the candidate to reach out, it helps to be proactive and keep communication going throughout the hiring process. From acknowledging CVs, keeping in contact after initial interview and regular communication with the candidate once the offer has been made, it shows candidates that you value them. It can help them feel that they are a part of the team, even before they join the company.

Similarly, ghosting can happen at all stages of the recruitment process. Many hiring managers have likely experienced setting aside time to meet with a candidate that does not show up for an interview or return calls on more than one occasion.

This is difficult to avoid because there aren’t always signs a candidate will ghost you. To keep them engaged, keep up with honest communication, be transparent about the process and set realistic expectations.

Counteroffers are another challenge and may lead a candidate to stay at their current employer. Unfortunately this isn’t always in your control as a hiring manager or employer, but you can sometimes gauge in the recruitment process whether they might be a flight risk and motivated to leave.

When interviewing it is worth asking why they want to leave their current role. If they say money, you can ask if they were offered more would they stay. If the answer is yes, you have some idea that they are likely to be a flight risk. If it is other reasons, for example lack of progression, ask again if they were offered more money would they stay. Depending on their answer, you can ask further questions around their motivation for the role you are interviewing for.

Another challenge we are seeing is a lack of talent available in specific disciplines or skills. With the skills gap widening, businesses are finding it increasingly challenging to fill vacancies with skilled workers who have the necessary knowledge and experience needed to succeed in their roles.

To overcome this you can invest in training and development programmes to help existing employees update their skills. And to fill the gaps, you could think about introducing apprenticeship schemes, where employees can learn critical skills and study for a professional qualification while working.

Are we in a candidate-driven market? How can businesses navigate it?

Candidates are definitely changing the way the market is driven. Now with so much choice, jobseekers can afford to be picky, and are looking for roles that give them everything they’re looking for.

We advise you take the time to understand your audience and be different in your approach. Ultimately, if you can’t offer candidates what they are looking for you’ll lose them to a competitor.

Speed is important in this market, as I mentioned previously, candidates want an easy application process, less interview stages and quick responses.

What are the top things candidates are looking for – what can employers offer to attract them?

As I mentioned above, employers need to adapt to stand out to candidates, and that means understanding their needs and preferences, to adapt what you offer in terms of pay, benefits, career development, culture, and ways of working to create an employee experience that puts you hight than other competing organisations.

Some of the things we have found mean more to candidates today are flexibility, hybrid working, private health care and salary as a result of the high cost of living.

Are recruits put off by rigid office hours or a requirement to come into the office?

Yes – it is really important for many candidates to have the flexibility to work hybrid or fully remote.

Some form of flexible hours, such as a nine-day fortnight (allowing employees to work their total number of hours over a shorter number of days) is important for a good work/life balance.

Flexible working worked perfectly well in lockdown and many candidates don’t understand why it can’t continue. Some hiring managers believe people don’t work as hard, but it is easy to see in the results they produce that this is not always the case.

Flexible working is still a hot topic – is this going to be a big part of the future of work?

Definitely. Flexible working has been found to help employees balance their work and home life, especially supporting those who have commitments or responsibilities such as caring for children.

Employees will be more likely to recommend you as an employer, stay loyal to your organisation, and go the extra mile if you offer flexible working. This is going to be a non-negotiable for many candidates.

The recent legislative changes under the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill – which increases the number of flexible working requests employees are allowed to make – will also put increasing pressure on organisations to be transparent about flexible working policies at an early stage.

Gen Z are becoming increasingly important in the job market – how can companies attract the best candidates from this generation?

Gen Z are expecting more from their employer – bigger salaries, more time off, the flexibility to work remotely, a greater focus on wellbeing and feeling appreciated, and they’re willing to walk away from a company if their needs aren’t met.

As an employer, you should think about your current retention and recruitment strategies and how they stack up against the wants and needs of this generation. For example, could you be more flexible, such as setting core working hours and allowing people to flex their start and finish times around this? Can you improve your maternity and paternity pay?

Whatever you offer, this needs to be clearly communicated to your existing employees and in your job descriptions.

Should businesses implement automation and AI into the recruitment process? What are the advantages and downsides of this?

Automation for the admin side of recruitment saves time and ultimately money and makes it easier to manage the candidates efficiently. However, introducing it into screening takes away subjectivity and the ‘personal touch’. You cannot build relationships with robots, nor can you portray the culture and values of a company.

AI also doesn’t have the gut instinct or subjectivity that humans do – a reason why we suggest AI is used to aid hiring managers and not replace them! When researching AI tools and platforms for recruitment, consider how this will work with your existing systems.

What should be anticipate the recruitment landscape to look like in 2024?

I think the recruitment landscape will be fairly static next year, given the current economic situation and potential General Election.

What should employers focus on in the next 12 months?

To attract the best candidates you need to place flexibility, honesty and transparency at the heart of your recruitment strategy.

Employers need to make recruitment a priority and not an inconvenience.

What can businesses do now to improve employee retention?

You need to live by their values. What I mean by this is taking the time to understand their needs and preferences, and what motivates and engages them.

Employees are placing increasing importance on equality, diversity and inclusion and mental health and wellbeing. This should not be seen as a box-ticking exercise, and you need to embed practices into your company culture.

You can start by talking with employees – day to day by having regular catch ups, appraisals, and if necessary, consider implementing a wellness action plan. Ensure you’re asking them about how well they believe both EDI and wellbeing is embraced in their teams and in the business as a whole. Armed with this knowledge, you can spot areas where improvement is needed, and form a plan that engages your people.

Another key point I often make to our clients is after promoting employees to management roles, make sure you give them the right training and tools to succeed.



If you have any questions or require recruitment support, please get in touch with Sally-Ann King at [email protected].