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Recruitment challenges and how to overcome them

Stuart Buglass, Partner, HR Advisory

Recruitment continues to be a problem for the Technology sector. It’s no surprise that candidates are in short supply given a widening skills gap coupled with the lowest rate of unemployment in 50 years.

What employers are beginning to appreciate is that there is no silver bullet and addressing the issue takes a truly holistic approach.

In order to get ahead, you will need to consider most or all of the following areas we have outlined.

Maximise your candidate pool

Most businesses won’t satisfy their recruitment needs with domestic candidates alone. Employing overseas talent will require a Sponsorship Licence – if you don’t already have one you won’t be able to issue work visas quick enough to secure your candidate.

However, to truly tap into overseas talent you should also consider employing candidates in their home country. What many businesses fail to appreciate is that in most cases you don’t need to establish a local company. Most EU countries will allow a UK company to establish a simple ‘payroll only’ registration which will allow you to operate as a local employer but avoid burdensome compliance.

You also need to cast your net wide enough to catch the most diverse range of applicants. For most businesses this will mean fishing in new talent pools and taking a closer look at your agencies and adverts to ensure that they can target new sources. For example, GCHQ have identified the benefits that neurodivergent individuals can offer (better attention to detail, faster pattern recognition, greater accuracy) and have recently launched a recruitment campaign that specifically targets women with autism, ADHD and dyslexia.

It’s not enough to simply cleanse your adverts of any bias, you also need to look closely at the jargon. Stock phrases such as ‘must be a good communicator’ are open to interpretation. Neurodivergent candidates, and also other underrepresented groups, often and wrongly assume that they are weak in these areas. Long and wordy adverts should be broken down into bullet points to ease understanding, and consideration should be made to adapting the interview process. The Harvard Business Review comments in their article Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage that, “Although neurodiverse people may excel in important areas, many don’t interview well. For example, autistic people often don’t make good eye contact, are prone to conversational tangents, and can be overly honest about their weaknesses”. Employers should consider sending interview questions to candidates ahead of the interview, to replacing panel interviews with a one to one format, and to adapt any scoring process so that it doesn’t rely too heavily on social cues such as body language and eye contact in order to avoid unwittingly rejecting top talent.

Be attractive

According to Glassdoor, 77% of employees consider a company culture before applying for a job and 56% consider it more important than a salary when it comes to job satisfaction. Candidates now place much greater emphasis on ensuring there is a good fit between their values and yours. Does your culture match that of your candidates and what exactly are candidates looking for ?

Many businesses are still playing catch up to address the preferences of the Millennials (1981-1996) and more recently Generation Z (1997-2012). Candidates from these groups are looking for employers that can provide learning, collaboration with management, employment with a deeper purpose and transparent corporate responsibility.

However, to get a true sense of what candidates are looking for why don’t you ask them? It should be part of your recruitment process. Most businesses have embraced exit interviews for leavers so why not systematically gather intelligence from your candidates also?

Once you have established what candidates want from an employer its essential that your ‘employer brand’ promotes this. Therefore, candidates should feel a match when looking at the content on your website, your recruitment materials and other marketing collateral. It’s important that this isn’t simply a window dressing exercise and you actually make cultural change within your business before you go to air. Hiring candidates based on misaligned and misrepresented values will simply add to your attrition problems

Succession Planning, reskilling and upskilling

When career paths are mapped, it not only helps to fill vacancies, but more importantly can also ensure your employees stay with you. Every employee should have a career path. The career path should include skills training and ‘on the job’ assignments that are similar to the next role and which are timetabled ahead of the jump. A career path should not be confined to vertical progression but also accommodate horizontal moves. This avoids the problem of ‘dead man’s/women’s shoes’ and creates more opportunities for personal growth, organisational agility, and better resilience to change.

Early careers – if talent isn’t available, create it

You can no longer operate as a talent consumer. You will never be able satisfy your resourcing needs operating in a purely passive capacity. Adapt your selection criteria to target bright individuals with the personal strengths required to learn. Develop an internship programme to create networks with schools, colleges and universities, offering developmental opportunities to local communities and enhancing your company brand to boot. Working with local groups can improve social mobility and diversity by generating a professional network that otherwise would not be available to large sections of the community.

Competency based interviews rely on prior experiences, strength-based interviews attempt to identify intrinsic strengths that can be applied in the future. For early careers recruitment, especially for candidates from underrepresented groups that lack relevant experiences, you should avoid competency-based selection and use strength-based instead.


You need to keep hold of your current employees, and a key part to this is talking to them. Staff satisfaction surveys and local focus groups can help you monitor employee mood. What you will find is that unlimited holiday, all day food stations, duvet days, pool tables etc., are becoming less compelling and increasingly viewed as shallow offerings, when compared to the investment in an employee’s career. The key to operating a staff survey is to act on the data and address the trends. If you delay, you could lose a large cohort of your workforce.

Better onboarding

The first 90 days of employment are make or break. Studies show that one in five new hires will leave their job within the first 90 days. Effective onboarding is essential in crystallising the psychological contract with your employee. Get off to a bad start and its incredibly difficult to get back on track. Effective onboarding involves a high degree of manager involvement. Talent pipelines are two-way. Managers look for certain attributes in their candidates, however employees also look for attributes in their managers. It is essential that a manager is able to display those attributes. One critical attribute is the ability to connect and create psychological safety, a place where a new employee can feel safe to ask questions, share ideas and volunteer opinions. However, successful onboarding should extend beyond line management, your new starter should have opportunities to meet people from different departments and engage on companywide initiatives. While remote working can be attractive, it can make for a difficult onboarding experience and it’s even more important that they are given work tasks that require team interaction and engagement across the organisation.

Finding time

Organisations will side-track the above initiatives because resource isn’t available. For an organisation to free up resource it needs to invest in data that helps identify process roadblocks, task inefficiencies, productivity drains, unclear planning, and misaligned resource allocation. All of these drain resource, but more importantly they also generate team friction, unhappy employees and management burn-out which ultimately fuels attrition. Addressing these issues will create more resource to tackle the above initiatives, but it may also reduce the need to recruit in the first place.

How Crowe can help

If you are considering your approach to recruitment and would like more detailed advice on the areas covered in this article, please get in touch with Stuart Buglass or your usual Crowe contact.


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