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Recruitment Process Outsourcing in a Candidate-Driven Market


Last week, the REC and KMPG reported on the strength of the UK labour market and forecasted continued business optimism for 2014. This, amongst other research, affirms what was already being anticipated in the latter part of last year; with more temporary and permanent appointments being made, hiring optimism should be well and truly on the rise. We are re-entering a candidate-driven market where the demand for talented people far outstrips the supply. Opportunities are in abundance, and both passive and active jobseekers are able to bargain harder to secure a more attractive package. As a result, unprepared or ill-equipped businesses that feel that they are falling short of the mark may look to outsourced recruitment and HR solutions to support and develop their current processes. So how exactly can a Recruitment Process Outsourcing provider help to attract the right people to a business when the war for Talent is at its most fierce and candidates are in relatively short supply? We explore the three key elements to consider.

Making your business an ‘employer of choice’

The sad reality is that some businesses, often multinational consumer organisations, can afford not to invest in their recruitment process because of the sheer power of their branding; candidates will simply be drawn to work for them regardless of the length or lack of structure of the selection process because of their consumer brand and subsequent presence in the market. Although these businesses typically lose a substantial proportion of the initial candidate pool they attract through disjointed processes, there are likely to be a remaining proportion of candidates whose desire to be appointed into the business will remain resolute irrespective of their recruitment experiences. Most SME’s, however, do not have this luxury.

With the shift in power falling from employers to candidates, it is in the interest of every business, big or small, to develop and manage an effective Employer Brand. How and what your brand communicates to existing staff and potential hires will either set you apart from rival organisations, or simply mean you become part of the noise – and there is a lot of noise out there. Have branded social media channels been set-up to engage with your customers, associates and potential Talent? If so, is content consistent, targeted and relevant? Harnessing the power of digital platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to engage with your target audience is now seen to be a critical step to establishing presence within your sector.

Utilising the expertise of an RPO to help develop your Employer Brand and EVP further could be a worthy investment if your recruitment marketing strategy has previously taken a backseat. You know your business better than anyone else, so enter into discussions with an RPO about what makes you a desirable employer, and be transparent with both yourself and the RPO account manager what type of people you want to attract. They should be able to provide you with a consultation for free, and during this initial meeting you will be able to outline how they can improve upon your current functions to communicate that message to active and passive jobseekers alike. Another solution to consider could be Talent Mapping, a process that seeks to identify where talented people within your sector are now, whether they are likely to want to join your business and what you can do to convert them as passive jobseekers into engaged candidates. This kind of forecasting allows you to anticipate gaps in your workforce, and will ensure you can accommodate changes without disrupting your existing practices. Most RPO’s will also offer HR based services, such as Employee Engagement strategies, that work towards nurturing the Talent which is already in your business to ensure that you keep attrition rates down and employee satisfaction up.

Maximising the candidate experience

The candidate experience starts from the moment an individual chooses to actively engage with your business as an applicant rather than just as a consumer, and that decision would have been made consciously because of either your business’s recruitment marketing, employer brand, brand reputation or as a result of their experiences as a customer. The next few stages are then often make or break, yet many up-and-coming businesses struggle to keep on top of processes involved in recruitment because people and resources are stretched. Failure to recognise, or indeed address, a poor recruitment infrastructure is becoming ever-more pivotal in the quest for an optimised workforce and maximised productivity.

There are a number of things to consider when addressing the candidate experience that go beyond the realms of communicating with consistency and clarity; for example, how easy is it to find and navigate around your careers page or portal? How comprehensive is the live vacancy brief? Relatively simple, and fixable, factors such as ambiguous job descriptions or even the omission of salary details can be seen as frustrating blockades to candidates that were otherwise engaged with your business and keen to progress their application. Candidates also regularly cite lack of feedback, poor representation of the role and business and an impersonal experience as flaws in the process that businesses should be seeking to address. It’s important to remember that people applying to work within your business are at the very least individuals that have invested time engaging with your business - some of whom may even be valued customers. You would be surprised at how many candidates are grateful for hearing the “unfortunately on this occasion” line; some feedback, received sooner rather than later, really is better than none at all.

RPO’s specialise in delivering effective recruitment solutions – or at least most claim to. They should not only be familiar with what is best practice, but they should be able to help you implement a system that improves functionality and subsequently reduces your time to hire. An account handler within an RPO firm is also likely to have developed a relationship with the client that allows them access to information about the business and allows them to give the candidate a more comprehensive and accurate overview of the job role, the business holistically and, most crucially, its culture. This level of insight will help to add value to a part of the process where agency recruiters often lack knowledge about the business they are recruiting for.

Righting the wrongs of recruitment ethics

It’s fairly safe to assume that people tend not to look favourably on recruiters. Unfortunately with most traditional agencies, it’s simply a numbers game, where break-neck targets and monetary rewards are the driving force behind the team’s motivation; establishing relationships with clients and candidates based on honesty and respect simply doesn’t pay, so it is often neglected.
With the sting of the recession still fresh on many people’s minds, candidates are now approaching opportunities and recruiters with caution. They are more likely to do their research, and will make informed decisions not to apply to businesses based on the negative experiences of others – hence why aspects such as employer brand and candidate experience are so important. Candidates are also far more likely to be clued-up on (and far less tolerant of) any discriminative practices that take place within the process, passive or otherwise. Businesses that may have made selective hires based around very particular criteria in the past will have to tread very carefully as we enter into this vacancy-rich landscape.

It is important to recognise that first and foremost, an RPO firm isn’t an agency – and shouldn’t resemble one. They should be able and willing to advise you on the most appropriate choices based around your existing business strategy and culture, and should be confident at flagging up any procedures that could be considered a risk to your business. As many RPO account handlers have the flexibility to work in-house or on site, they have the ability to be truly consultative and can offer objective, strategic solutions that will have both short and long-term impact.

We hear about it time and time again – great people make great businesses. But without effective recruitment and HR measures in place, said great people will go elsewhere. Given the changing nature of the market, the shelf life of candidate tolerance towards poorly structured recruitment and selection processes may be running out. We predict that businesses who once made the conscious decision not to invest in their recruitment in the past will now struggle to attract quality candidates. Patience is indeed a virtue, but with the breadth of choice available in this changing climate, keeping internal or external Talent waiting for results won’t stand you in good stead in 2014.