How to recruit in a challenging labour market

Oct 20, 2021

A regular complaint from businesses at the moment is how difficult it is to attract and recruit new staff.

What can you do as an employer to triumph in a difficult labour market?

There are various elements that prospective employees will take into account when deciding if they want to come and work for you.

We have talked elsewhere about value proposition as an employer and the benefits that staff find attractive.

However, there are also actions you can take when recruiting that means you are more likely to be able to find the best candidate.

Be clear about what you are offering

This applies to the content of the job itself, and the terms and conditions around it.  Remember you are trying to find a good fit for the job, and providing as much information as possible allows people to effectively self-select.

Of course you want to show yourself in a good light but it is important to be realistic, otherwise you will face problems further down the road!

With regards to the content of the job, offer plenty of information – what will the individual need to do? What responsibilities will they have? If there are less attractive aspects of the role, don’t conceal them as the person will find out anyway!

What skills or experience do they need to have? Think carefully about what is essential and what is desirable on your person specification – for example, do they need to have that qualification when they come to you, or would you be prepared to support them in training towards it?

Terms and conditions are important not just because they are the basis of your contract but because every applicant has their own personal circumstances that they need to consider.  I have heard stories recently from individuals who are frustrated to have applied for a job only to hear to that the salary quoted was actually only applicable after a lengthy probationary period, or that the number of hours offered wasn’t the same as in the advert.

Keep Communicating

Aim to keep in regular communication with applicants, even if you do not have any fresh information to give them – this way they know that you are still actively recruiting to the post and you are still considering them.

Of course it may not be possible to respond to every enquiry individually, and it is perfectly fine to say at the first stage to say that if applicants have not heard by a certain date they should consider their application has not been successful on this occasion.

But once you have found some potential employees, don’t risk losing them because they weren’t sure what was happening.  Once you have invited someone to an interview it is good practice to let them know the outcome.  Remember even if you don’t want to appoint them to this job, you may want them to consider applying again in the future.  And you also want to give a favourable impression of your organisation.  Which leads us onto our final point…

Think about what your existing employees say about you

There are two aspects to this:

  • What reputation do you have as an employer? If someone knows one of your employees, what sort of stories will they hear them tell about work – positive or negative?
  • What image of your organisation do applicants receive from those they come into contact with during the recruitment process? Are people helpful and responsive when they get in touch?  Or are they rushed, dismissive, unapproachable?


If an individual is in the fortunate position of having more than one job to choose from, how they feel about their experience during recruitment can become a deciding factor.

It can be helpful to think of your potential employees as customers – be clear about what you are asking them to “buy” (your job) and provide excellent customer service, and you are more likely to make a sale (hire).

This can be hard to accept when you feel you should be in the position of being the customer, but in a tight labour market sometimes the power can swing the other way, and businesses need to be prepared to adjust to operate well.

The quality of staff you recruit will have a huge impact on your business so it is worth taking the trouble of finding the best employees you can.