Where are all the candidates? Why there are fewer applicants for some roles

It’s few short months since we were concerned that there would be a mass unemployment problem because of the pandemic, and we would be inundated with candidates. Well, not only has that not happened, but the opposite is currently the case. Maybe that will change, and perhaps the can has just been kicked down the road. Who knows? Speculation and guesswork are all well and good, but for the short term, there is a situation developing that needs to be addressed. The question we are being asked a lot is ‘Where have all the candidates gone?’

The shortage of candidates is because of a variety of factors

We have all started to see reports in the mainstream press that echo our own experience. The bottom line is that there are currently shortages of applicants in some areas because of a variety of factors. Coming out of the pandemic is one of them. Perhaps, after all the uncertainty, there is a reluctance to risk a change. Added to this is the post Brexit change to the free movement policy reducing the applicant pool. The churn of staff due to migrant workers returning to their home countries, changing jobs, being promoted and so on means that as a job role opens, there are fewer workers to fill it. The new visa system is still embedding, and it may even be that the UK is starting to look a little hostile to migrant workers these days. Another factor is that the end of the furlough scheme is yet to have the full impact. Whatever the reasons, if you are an employer looking for new team members in some industries, the pool is a little shallower than usual.

What can employers do to attract new workers?

As is often the case, the media may be being a little dramatic at times. Our experience of the situation is that there are applicants out there; you just need to attract them.

Review your offer

The world may have felt like it stopped during Covid, but salary levels and the cost of living didn’t. Potential employers need to make sure that their offer is current and attractive. Money isn’t everything, and often it isn’t the real motivation behind an application, but it is still must be enough to attract the candidate in the first place. Sorry, but you may need to up the wage a little to compete.

Be ready for the counteroffer

We are seeing a lot more counteroffers than we used to. Candidates are being tempted back after handing in their notices by increases in salary and benefits. Be prepared to reconsider the terms of your offer of employment. We never suggest getting into a bidding war, but you may need to tip the balance a little more for key staff.

Up the stakes with your employer branding

Candidates are often taking multiple interviews because there is room in the market to do so. Basically, they are shopping around and finding a strong employer brand that seems a good fit for them holds a lot of sway at the moment. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing the perfect candidate not accepting the perfect position for them because another employer sold themselves better.

How much training can you offer?

A shortage of candidates is often intimately linked to a particular skill set requirement. One way to bridge a skills gap is to offer to upskill rather than look for fully skilled workers initially. Are there people with skills in related areas that you could easily and quickly retrain? Could you widen the criteria of your selection process? If you can, then you will almost automatically attract a bigger candidate pool.

The final piece of advice must be this. As unique as the recruitment market is, it has one thing in common with every other market. When things get difficult, you will do better with an expert by your side. With a good recruitment partner, you will have the advantage of experience, industry knowledge and, of course, their contacts, which will help you find the right person. Not only that, but we will be able to hone your offer to make sure you attract the right candidates in the first place.

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