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Talent acquisition: the perfect storm

Written by: Natasha Hilton-Keane is Director of Recruitment at Osborne Thomas.
Published on: 31 Mar 2022

With the recruitment sector currently busier than ever all organisations – public and private – are facing intense pressure to fill critical positions within tight timeframes. Yet this is set against a backdrop of the global pandemic, the ‘great resignation’ and candidates who are faced with more choice than ever.

A question we’re now being asked by candidates is ‘why?’; why this role, why this organisation and why would they choose this employer over another.

In a market unlike any other we’ve experienced before we have been reviewing what more local authorities are doing – or could be doing – to tackle these challenges, whether that be further enhancement of their employer brands, the way in which they manage and care for prospective candidates through their own recruitment processes, or how they use insight and data to recruit the best.

Ultimately what can organisations do to set themselves apart from the rest?

We asked our local authority clients about their top priorities for this year; 48% identified improving overall recruitment efficiencies, 44% cited finding more candidates, 40% finding candidates faster, 35% wanting to make more use of candidate data and insight to improve their decision-making processes, and 30% because they know they are unable to achieve the aforementioned intentions are hiring and retaining external recruiters. Happy days for all of us recruiters out there.

To put some context around the priorities; to date many local authorities have prioritised attraction (employer branding, recruitment marketing, and sourcing) to achieve their recruitment goals. But by focusing on these early stages of talent acquisition, they have neglected the processes during the actual recruitment stages, ie, the screening, assessment and interviewing processes. A negative recruitment process can be devastating to the employer brand, candidate experience, and ultimately the quality of recruit.

Encouragingly talent acquisition appears to be in a state of transformation. Local authorities are telling us that recruiting methodology and specifically screening, assessment and interviewing are now their key areas of focus. These elements being fully supported by the findings of Aptitude Research’s 2021-2022 recruitment survey: 24% of candidates drop out at the screening stage, 22% at the application stage, 18% at assessment, 25% at interview and quite shockingly 9% at interview/offer stage.

So, what specific elements need addressing?

Screening: Although it’s generally considered a tactical area of recruitment, screening can have a dramatic impact on any overall recruitment strategy. Some local authorities are making a strategic investment in integrated technology screening solutions to enhance their brand, improve the overall candidate experience and strengthen the quality of hires.

Using artificial intelligence (AI) that does things automatically using algorithms and machine learning automates some of the volume recruitment processes and reduces administrative tasks; AI can source potential candidates, select them from their CVs, communicate with them – and provide invaluable data and insight to feed into the overall recruitment process.

Assessment: Pre-recruiting assessments encompass the tools and technology that enable local authorities to evaluate if a candidate has the right skills and behaviours to perform a job. These assessments are typically a combination of subjective and objective tests used to determine the accuracy of recruitment decisions.

Today, best practice local authorities of every size are providing objectivity to the recruiting process by leveraging a variety of pre-recruitment assessments throughout their organisations, from executive-level positions to front-line workers.

Gone are the one-size-fits-all time consuming, manual tests that are so easily disposable; it’s now about multifaceted insights to skills, fit and potential and using different assessments at different points in the recruiting process, and for different roles, based on the fundamental needs of the authority, and carrying the subsequent findings and insight into the interview process to help guide interview questions.

Interviewing: A staple of any talent acquisition process and often the deciding factor for recruiting a candidate. Surprisingly, few recruiters and managers are trained on how to conduct a good interview. Additionally, few local authorities have a standard approach for how interviewing is conducted. When recruiters and managers have the right tools and best practices, interviewing can be a powerful process that determines the best fit candidates for them.

Gone are the approaches to ad hoc and sometimes multiple interviews and going with a ‘gut feeling’; now is about standardising interviews that are consistent across a local authority, including assessments in the interview process and leveraging digital platforms where multiple interviewers can participate.

When used together, these three critical stages represent a holistic approach to strategic talent acquisition that includes specific technology, processes and metrics. And these approaches are only to become more crucial when we know that 41% of the clients we spoke to tell us that recruitment is going to be even busier as 2022 progresses. 

Natasha Hilton-Keane is Director of Recruitment at Osborne Thomas.