How to secure the best talent in a vacancy rich market

If you are a hiring manager, you’ve probably been struggling to find suitable candidates in the current vacancy rich market. But finding them is only part of the process - you need to convince them that, out of all the options they’ll probably have, your role is the one they should take.

You are certainly not alone.  We are hearing first-hand how challenging it can be.  For this reason, we’ve put together a number of tips to help.  Let’s start with some numbers to explain the current market challenges.

There are two factors coming into play here – more jobs and less people applying.  The UK currently has a record number of job vacancies, but with a much lower rate of candidates unemployed or looking for new job opportunities.  Even during the pandemic, there was an average of 1.25 million vacancies across October to December 2021, which is 109% higher than a year earlier.

To put this into context, data from the Office for National Statistics shows the number of unemployed people per vacancy fell to 1.2 in October last year which is the lowest on record.  So essentially, for every role you want to fill, there is only 1 person looking to fill it. 

There are several reasons for this, all combining to make the problem even more challenging.  Brexit and migration have had a big impact causing worker shortages across the whole economy.  A lot of young people are staying in education instead of entering the labour market and many of those nearing retirement are taking the opportunity to retire early, taking experienced older workers out of the market.

So, given the complexity of the hiring landscape, how can we respond?

The difference between recruitment success or failure is often down to the planning process, and particularly now. While this may sound an obvious point to make, it’s the small details that can cause problems in the process. For example, you may have a start date in mind and a candidate lined up to interview, but is the recruiter or hiring manager going to be available to review CVs, interview and make a decision in time? If the answer is no, even by 24 hours, your candidate may well go elsewhere.

You might make a verbal offer to a great candidate, but if there’s a delay in sending out the formal offer, and your candidate also had another offer confirmed, you may lose them.  You also need to consider the turnaround time needed by your HR department to process and send a job offer.

Our tips for recruitment planning include:

  1. Always start with the end in mind and work backwards.
  2. Think about when you need the role to start? This will dictate how quickly you need to review CVs and book interviews.
  3. Think about who needs to be involved in the recruitment process and if anyone has any holidays coming up? Who will be reviewing CVs and involved in the interviews and providing feedback? Who has final sign off or sends contracts out and what information do they need and by when?
  4. Consider the practicalities of IT set up and desk space. Make sure you are speaking with IT to let them know you are recruiting and expecting a new starter and checking what information they will need from you to avoid any delays.


A well-planned process is going to give your candidates a better experience and ultimately a greater first impression of your organisation as a whole. In such a competitive market, this could be the difference between a candidate you want, accepting or declining your job offer.

We have already covered the risks involved with a 24-hour delay. It might not seem so long for an employer, but it is for a candidate with several job offers to consider. Don’t lose out because of a slow recruitment process – which is why planning is so important.

If you have a timescale in mind, and particularly if you’ve mentioned it to your candidate, don’t confuse things with a last-minute change, such as an extra interview which will only add time to the process.

Our tips for recruitment speed include:

  1. Set deadlines for every stage of the interview process.
  2. Block time out for every stage from reviewing CVs, giving CV feedback and scheduling interviews.
  3. Speak with any particularly experienced candidates to see if they could meet sooner. Flexibility with Teams and Zoom could help bring this forward.
  4. Think about your interview process and the number of stages you have and reducing this to one stage only where possible.

When you are picturing your ideal candidate, what could you be flexible on?  By having written down what is essential vs. nice to have, will enable you to consider other candidates from the start of the process.

For example, are you looking for skills experience or sector experience?  Would someone from a different sector, but with the right skills be just as good a fit?  Consider what skills are important to you, what are transferable and this in in turn will make your process very inclusive.

Likewise, what can be trained?  Do you need someone with specific experience whether it be a qualification, a specific CRM etc, or can this be trained?  Knowing this from the start will prevent you from missing out on candidates you may not have previously considered.

One of the positives from the pandemic is that more people are looking for things other than just salary.  If you are strong on work-life balance or just have a great set of perks on offer, this could be more important to your candidate than you might think – so make sure you work out what these are and cover them.  It’s also nice to talk about why you are recruiting, especially if that’s due to a promotion which sends out a positive message of growth and future career prospects.  And check with HR, you may be offering more holiday than your competitors.  

Which brings us to our final tip…

You don’t want to lose a candidate to a competitor because you didn’t know what they might be offering.  So, research your competition so you are aware of what other opportunities your candidates might have. You can research your competitors by looking at their job ads, what roles are available, what is the pay and benefits on offer?  And what rates of pay are being offered for the skills you want?  Is a company in a different sector, who may be open to transferable skills, offering more which may influence the candidate?  And don’t forget that recruitment consultants are very experienced in understanding different sectors – so talk to us – we are here to help!

In conclusion

While there are fewer candidates applying for your roles, using a few simple tweaks and tips will make sure you don’t miss out on your favorite candidate.  Remember that as much as you are making a decision about candidates, they are making them about you too.  Now, more than ever, it is important to think about how your employer brand is perceived and put together a slick and well-planned recruitment process that sets you apart from your competition.  If there is really only one candidate available per vacancy, make sure it’s you they choose.

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