Filling those hard-to-fill vacancies

Most companies have some roles that are particularly hard to fill creating three hidden costs. Every day the role remains vacant

  • results in lost productivity;
  • puts additional workload on other team members; and
  • results in HR and the hiring managers needing to spend time recruiting for it.

Whether the position requires a rare combination of skills and experience, or market demand for a skillset exceeds supply, recruitment consultants are often at an advantage over in-house teams for positions such as these.

Why using a recruitment consultant makes sense

For in-house recruitment teams, it is disproportionately time consuming to find candidates with a scarce skillset for a one-off role. However, a recruitment consultant may see an opportunity in mapping the market and approaching a broad range of candidates as surplus candidates may well subsequently generate fees at other organisations. As a result you will likely get a longer list of candidates to review.

Before you begin: prepare to be agile

Candidates with scarce skillsets are not only hard to find but also rarely stay on the market long so the ability to accelerate your traditional recruitment processes is critical to success. Before you start recruiting for the role ensure:

  • that budget is ring-fenced;
  • all stakeholders understand they may need to compromise on any skills and experience that are desirable as opposed to critical;
  • the job description / scope of the role is final; and
  • everyone who needs to interview the candidate understands how important it is to make themselves available at short notice.

Employers using video interviewing to avoid the logistical challenges of face to face interviews and/or who condense the process but minimising the number of interviews or running them back to back will see fewer candidates accept offers at competitors.

Make your candidate pool as big as possible

Impress on those involved in the hiring process that they need to be ruthless when defining which skills and experience are essential and which are discretionary or could be learned on the job. Being a little less prescriptive about the perfect candidate may enable you to consider people in different sectors and geographies beyond your, and your competitors’, core candidate pools making hiring dramatically easier.

One question you MUST be able to answer

Scarce candidates will typically be getting numerous approaches and offers. To distinguish your role you need to be able to answer clearly and concisely “Why should I be excited about working for you?”. Think about:

1) your organisation – are the vision, values, future ambition of the company clear?; and

2) the role – what is exciting about the work? the package? and the potential career progression or personal development?

If you can’t answer these questions it may be a worthwhile exercise to think about your “employer proposition” in more depth.

Why you should consider paying a retainer

A final thought. Good recruiters will always be working more roles than they can fill (much as you brief multiple agencies to find candidates for a single role). This enables them to focus their attention on the clients that offer the highest likelihood of a successful outcome. A retainer can be a very effective way to ensure a recruiter prioritises your role, resulting in it being filled faster, often with a better match of candidate.

Clare Wight is managing director of Clarity Appointments, a fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals a regional director for The Employment Agents Movement (TEAM). Her email is: