What are the challenges of recruiting in the current environment and how are companies overcoming them?

At times like this, particularly for specialist roles, taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to recruitment is almost guaranteed to cause problems. Typically you need to step back and adopt a tailored approach for the role you are focusing on (whether hiring or looking for a new position).  Working with people who really know the market and what is happening at any given time can help you design a strategy that will help overcome these problems.

Here at Edbury Daley we are happy to discuss some of the options available to you that will help improve your chances of success.  These are based on what we’ve been doing with our customers and candidates dating back to the start of the pandemic.  Here are some of the subjects we’ve seen the in market in the past six months:


One of the key challenges is that it is harder to actually assess and interview candidates remotely. Many organisations are now recruiting online but many have made the mistake of simply duplicating their old process, not appreciating that video interviewing is actually a whole different ball game. 

Is your company using a video interviewing tool that is fit for purpose and aids the process? You need to be careful that your candidate may not be familiar with your video conferencing platform which may cause problems, both technical and how they perform in an unfamiliar environment.

How do you fully assess someone when you aren’t actually meeting them – are you missing those subtle non-verbal cues? Many of the usual normal non-verbal clues can be completely missed on video. Furthermore, how can you fully assess candidates and ensure they are not just desperate for a job or one of the poor performers your competitors happily cast off?

Like most things in life, experience counts but in this area people need to learn quickly to avoid expensive mistakes.  We’ve learnt a lot from observing clients get it right and occasionally wrong in recent months and are now using this knowledge to improve success rates.

Candidate attraction

In this market you must ensure whoever is doing your recruiting (internally or third party) is a fantastic ambassador for your company and can effectively convey your job proposition to a prospective candidate, thus maximising the chances of them getting interested and wanting to take it further at a time when they may feel staying in their current role is a safer option.

Ensure the list of candidate targets is long enough to give you a strong chance of finding those who are willing to take the risk of a job move. Yes, for some roles it’s partially a numbers game and a real test of thoroughness, but if you know the best candidates in the market for any skill set you gain a major advantage which is why specialist knowledge is critical.  It’s worth noting that talent pooling or mapping can be very effective if done correctly to support a long term hiring plan.

Finally, start pipelining candidates before you are ready to hire. In other words, reach out to candidates who look like they could be a fit for your organisation and start a dialogue. Be transparent about when you are hoping to hire and view this as investing in a relationship via regular, meaningful contact.

Candidate Experience

Managing your candidate experience might not seem like a top priority at a time when many companies are cutting heads or freezing hiring. But in a market when this aspect of recruitment typically deteriorates, then how you treat candidates really impacts your talent brand now and in the long run and may make it harder to attract candidates when you’re ready to start hiring again. 

Nearly 46% of hiring professionals said the outbreak has negatively affected the candidate experience at their company, according to our recent survey. 

Whether you’re putting things on ice, crafting a totally remote candidate experience, or continuing business as usual, it’s critical to keep candidates updated in such a rapidly changing situation.

You need to proactively reach out and let them know what to expect or risk bad PR.

Again if you are stretched internally right now how can you do this?

What opportunities exist that smart companies can embrace?

Remote Talent

One option to give some thought to is where do your people need to be located now?

The shift to more homeworking is likely to become permanent for at least a few days a week for many then roles that were recruited locally now can be recruited regionally, nationally or even internationally? Many people unhappy to commute 3-4 days a week into London for example may be perfectly happy with travelling in for a couple?

Organisations who can  take advantage of this and are open to longer distance remote working may find it could help them build the team they have always wanted; with the right talent for the right job.

However this is difficult to do if your HR and talent people are too busy or have limited market knowledge or don’t know who the good people are regionally or interims who would consider a perm role but are not prepared to relocate.

Talent Pool

Many organisations have talked about this over the last few years but very few in our experience have really made it work. Many organisations really only have list of targets or the availability of skill sets in certain locations, not real talent pools of identified potential hires who are engaged for future opportunities and know what you could offer them.

HR typically don’t have the time to do this right now (some would argue this was the norm previously)  but now is the time to really focus on this so you can get in the best people to either protect or grow your business.

What are your key roles and what are the risks of key people leaving right now. How would you replace them and what do you need? 

If you don’t have this in house you need to consider how you can act and quickly and we can advise on the best way to do this particularly if you are likely to hire in a few months time not immediately.

Get a head start on these challenges and use a specialist to help

A true specialist recruiter will know the market both in the UK and internationally and will have a pre-existing reputation and brand that will give them credibility with people who might not typically respond to adverts or head hunting approaches from people they don’t know.

Many of the top performers and good candidates in that market will be connections and often will have spoken to them before. They will be well networked and know who to talk to and critically who the good performers are. Key candidates will take the call and will listen and typically trust their advice more.

A true specialist knows the market and who the best people in it are, and they will be known to them either personally or by reputation. It may seem obvious but this awareness makes a big difference to people as against a ‘cold approach’ and the percentage who will respond positively to the approach significantly increases.

Ultimately a tailored and well thought through approach by a recruiter who knows the market and has a positive market reputation is more important than ever right now if your business really needs the best top performing people. 

If your role is business critical, can you really afford not to get a headstart in terms of candidate attraction talent pooling and assessment?  When you look at the situation that way, it becomes clearer that not paying for the right professional advice is a false economy.

Of course this article has covered a wide range of issues affecting the market today.  If any of these resonate with you we may be able to help so if you are hiring in our specialist areas of procurement technology, spend management, finance and payments tech’, analytics, procurement or supply chain then please do get in touch.

We are also happy to help if you need general guidance on how to recruit outside our specialist areas.

Peter Brophy

Associate Director


Peter Brophy is a CIPD qualified HR professional with significant experience of leading in-house Talent Attraction teams particularly in the Consulting sector before he joined Edbury Daley.

The dynamics of professional recruitment markets – how are they changing?

In this article, Peter Brophy examines a number of critical factors affecting hiring in the current climate including:

  • Professional recruitment activity has been severely disrupted by C19.
  • Capacity in the recruitment sector is drastically reduced.
  • Top performers can perceive job moves as risky.
  • People think recruiting has become easier but making great hires can be harder than ever.
  • What are your options when hiring for a key role?
  • Recruitment models will take time to adapt.

One of Edbury Daley’s most popular and most read articles over the past couple of years was on the subject of the various different Recruitment Models that are used by large organisations. It discussed how recruitment actually worked in reality, and was written to help our clients and candidates get some insight into the sector, so they could improve their own hiring or job search strategies.

Similar to many other professions, these recruitment models were evolving as recruiters embraced new trends in social media and increasingly adopted the use of AI and Digital solutions. However the recruitment market has been severely disrupted by C19 in ways that were never anticipated. At the height of the pandemic the recruitment industry reported drops of up to 80% in permanent recruitment and 50% in temporary markets. 

All bets were off and Internal Recruitment and Talent teams were suddenly faced with headcount freezes and hiring blocks on all but critical roles.

This has several affected capacity in both internal recruitment teams and external suppliers.

The market has bounced back to a degree since then but is still some way short of pre-pandemic levels.  In many sectors it’s recovering slowly as this report from KPMG and the REC shows. 

We don’t actually know yet what the ‘new normal’ will be but we do know that many of the potential changes and pre-existing trends to adopting new technology or ways of working have been amplified, so some of these changes have accelerated.

In tandem with the crash in recruitment volumes many organisations and external recruiters had to furlough a significant proportion of their people.  Many face the real prospect of redundancy before the year is over. As the UK furlough scheme comes to an end, anecdotal evidence indicates that many will take advantage of the Chancellors new Job Support Scheme meaning many recruiters will be working reduced hours or not at all. This has big implications for recruitment and the way it works.

Another major impact is that with increasing redundancies there are unfortunately more people looking for jobs, just at a time when there are fewer recruiters to deal with the impact of this e.g. huge advert responses often made up of largely unsuitable candidates.

So It should get easier to find good, available people right?

As we all know many organisations furloughed staff and as we reach the end of the scheme we are seeing a wave of redundancies particularly in the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

That should mean if you are hiring you will get plenty of good candidates right?

Well, actually not necessarily, no!

There are some big issues to challenge this assumption.

Recruitment actually gets a lot harder in a recession, not easier as recruitment models and behaviours change, particularly if you really need to find the best candidates, not just anyone to fill a seat, and that is the case in professional recruitment where head count is limited and leaders need the right person to fit the team, achieve targets engage customers, suppliers or stakeholders.

If your business is up against it in terms of pressure to deliver, then it may seem counterintuitive but recruiting directly for the ‘first’ people who apply could be the most expensive mistake you make.

The big challenges to overcome when recruiting right now

This ultimately is related to quality versus quantity and the impact on internal recruiters / HR.

Yes the volume of available candidates has increased and many people have lost jobs through no fault of their own, particularly in the badly affected sectors.

However most organisations are looking closely at their headcount costs as they try to remain profitable against often unpredictable demand. We know that many are using this as an opportunity to lose the poorer performers, often the ‘bottom’ 5 or 10% of their workforce or those in ‘non-core’ departments.

It is rarely admitted but few organisations will allow their better performers to go or lose their best people unless absolutely necessary for business survival. Think of your own business and how much you need your best people right now.

Equally important is the psychology of those remaining who feel relatively ‘safe’. Would you risk a move right now if your job appears ‘safe and you are performing well? There is also the old ‘last in first out’ adage and many feel moving to a new employer is a risk unless it is in a strongly performing business or sector. 

The reality is that most top performers in any profession or sector are sitting tight and making sure they are safe right now and do not want to take the risk of joining a new ‘unknown’ company unless they face redundancy themselves

Therefore the reality right now is that typically the volume of applicants to any given job is often higher, but critically the quality or relevance of those candidates may actually go down.

Another critical factor to consider is that due to the economy many people are desperate for a job so they will apply for anything, so are they really after your job or just any?  Will they take the first job they are offered and then resign as soon as a good job in their sector or preferred environment comes back? That risk is actually very high so when you think of the total cost per hire, the time wasted in the process, the problem of finding replacements etc it makes sense to tread cautiously.

So think carefully – yes you’ll get lots of applicants and potentially fill a role quickly but are the vast majority of the newly available and relatively inexpensive candidates really the people you want to hire?

Don’t you owe it to yourself and your business to think a bit more strategically and carefully about how you recruit right now?

The impact on internal recruitment / HR

Often internal recruitment teams are one of the first hit by cost-cutting and are typically very vulnerable in a recession. In the financial crisis of 2008 many were severely cut and it took a year or two before they bounced back. We have seen many being badly affected already in this Covid crisis. In fact, RPO and Outsourced Recruitment arrangements seem particularly badly affected as they are often linked to a flexible demand based resourcing model.

HR often have to deal with recruitment as well, but the function has been swamped by a number of conflicting priorities at the same time such as working from home, health and safety, mental health, furloughing staff and redundancies along with restructuring etc.  These issues are ongoing for them and unlikely to disappear any time soon, so this impacts on their capacity across the board.

So are you surprised that resourcing or recruitment may not top of mind for your HR colleagues right now? Or that it is one of many priorities they are struggling to juggle?

What are my options if I’m hiring for a key role?

So if your Recruitment and HR functions are constrained by limited capacity and you have a business critical hire what are your options?

Sorting through your own advert response will be time consuming, particularly in the current market with job seekers adopting a “nothing ventured nothing gained” mentality which is only exacerbated by the ability to apply to an advert in a handful of clicks.

Spending money on recruitment fees is a sensitive subject for many organisations who are scrutinising costs more than ever, but it can be money well spent if a credible, specialist recruiter is able to bring strong candidates into the process swiftly.  Particularly if their knowledge and network enables them to identify risk averse candidates who wouldn’t apply to job adverts, but could be interested in quality opportunities if engaged in the correct way.

Also bear in mind that with the recruitment sector facing its own commercial challenges, there has never been a better time to negotiate reductions in fees and maximise your value from the process.

The value of a good, specialist recruiter is emphasised when the job market displays extreme criteria, whether that be acute skills shortages, too many candidates or overcoming issues like job security fears, yet many people don’t realise that side of what they offer.

What does this mean if you are looking for a role?

Organisation’s HR people or in house recruiters are typically either feeling overworked or dealing with many priorities and are swamped. In some organisations the recruitment team will be much reduced or gone altogether.

Specialist in house team recruiters often suffer the worst headcount reductions as the business focuses on its core roles, so specialist knowledge in the team is often lost (such as procurement, sales and other commercially focused roles) and the generalist recruiters are retained to focus on core operational roles.

Many recruitment agencies (particularly broad generalist ones) face similar challenges as they focus on core areas and with reduced fees often focus only on those (clients and candidates) likely to make them a fee.

What does that mean for the candidate experience? Well typically the impact is a negative one with much slower response times, often a lack of feedback, or just poor communication generally leading to a feeling of wasted time and effort.

In some sectors there has been a deluge of applicants and when compounded by there  being fewer recruiters it has inevitably meant that candidate experience has significantly  declined. 

We know that many people are not hearing back from adverts or applications and are rarely getting feedback. Many candidates tell us they fear their CV has gone into a big black hole and of being lost amongst many applicants, particularly when they have applied online or via social media sites or even company websites.

The companies are subject to increased volume of applicants often sometimes, irrelevant or of low quality or from those just desperate for any job at any salary…..

Internal managers may need to recruit a replacement but may struggle to get budget or headcount sign off or find that HR are too busy with other things or the internal recruitment team or RPO is focusing on core roles or simply can’t give each role the specific attention it needs.

What this means for candidates is that it can be a bit of a lottery unless you have a direct contact in the business or you have someone specifically interested in what happens to your CV and is talking to people at the right level so your application does get considered. 

Consider your chances of being noticed – is it best applying via a portal or job site or sending a speculative CV?   Or is it better being represented by a specialist agency where the outcome really matters to them?  They  are often more likely to be talking to someone in a senior position who needs to hire.

Of course this article has covered a wide range of issues affecting the market today.  If any of these resonate with you we maybe able to help so if you are hiring in our specialist areas of procurement technology, spend management, finance and payments tech’, analytics, procurement or supply chain then please do get in touch.

We are also happy to help if you need general guidance on how to recruit outside our specialist areas.  You can contact me via peter@edburydaley.com

Want more information?  Why not read our follow up article – What are the challenges of recruiting in the current environment and how are companies overcoming them?

Peter Brophy

Associate Director

Peter Brophy is a CIPD qualified HR professional with significant experience of leading in-house Talent Attraction teams particularly in the Consulting sector before he joined Edbury Daley.

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