Taken at face value, there’s no shortage of people that you can employ. Headlines regularly bombard unsuspecting readers with statistics that suggest the UK is facing high unemployment rates and you would be forgiven for thinking that this means employers can very easily pick and chose who they recruit with very little effort.

I’ve seen intelligent and respectable business owners writing off the unemployed as lazy when they’ve seen their vacancies for highly specialised roles unanswered for long periods of time, but the truth of the matter is that you might actually have a much smaller pool of people you can draw from than you might expect. The roles you are trying to fill may be more of a niche than you think and there has always been a shortage of skilled and experienced workers. Our modern climate is no real exception.

Here are a few things that you can do to fight against the skilled worker shortage:

1. Give People the Chance to Prove Themselves

There will be people out there that will be revolutionary at the job you’re advertising but you will be reluctant to give them a chance because they either lack the recommended qualifications for the role or more likely they lack that coveted five years of prior experience that you’re demanding.

Speaking as someone who has been on the wrong side of the experience equation, there are people who would be more than capable of doing your advertised role, but you need to give them a break. There’s a risk that you’ll get someone incompetent or inappropriate, but essentially there’s the same risk when only accepting the most experienced candidates. You never really know what someone will be like until you give them a try for a week or two, so don’t be afraid of taking the occasional risk if you’re struggling.

2. Demand Less

It’s tempting to demand a lot from your applicants. Requiring extensive prior experience and lots of qualifications tends to be a safer bet on paper, but many job listings end up with outrageous demands that are far in excess of what is actually needed. I was nearly put off applying for a very straight forward administration role several years ago that demanded an extensive knowledge of Microsoft Access, but the role only really needed you to be able to recognise the program’s icon on the desktop.

If you are recruiting in a field where there might be a smaller talent pool, then downgrading some of the things on your list from requirements to “nice to haves” might yield a greater response. You might be surprised by what some people consider themselves to be not very good at when it comes to their skills and you might find yourself with an absolute genius that simply lacks confidence. Before you snap back with a declaration that you want people with confidence, just remember that confidence does not always equal competence. A few more humble employees might in actual fact be exactly what you need and high demands will attract an equal number of blaggards as it will ideal applicants.

3. Search in Similar Industries

Think about asking for applicants in fields that are similar to yours and for people who might have transferable skills and may not even be looking for you in particular. Unless you have a big brand name behind your company, not many people will know you exist and there will be people appropriate for your vacant role working in industries that you don’t operate in that might be interested.

In our modern age, people jump careers all the time and transfer from role to role on a regular basis. Some transitions might seem outrageous in principle, but the skills might be the same. It might also be that people simply want a change and have a completely justifiable skill set to do so.

This almost goes back to the prior experience example – just because someone hasn’t had five plus years experience in your particular industry, it doesn’t mean they’ll be clueless morons driving your company into the ground.

4. Plan Ahead

It pays to keep a very close eye on who is out there and employable at all times if you might struggle to fill any of your roles. I’ve heard rumours that a lot of companies that are recruiting at any one time don’t actually have any roles to fill and are just trying to find out who might be available at any one point, although this sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy theory passed around the frustrated and unemployed.

You might not have the resources or budget to do anything as extravagant as this, but you can still keep an eye on the job market to see if similar roles to the ones you might need are coming up and being filled on a regular basis.

Your staff can announce that they are leaving at any time. Although some roles might have a longer notice period than others, losing a key member of staff in a key area can be a nightmare if you’re unprepared.


Good employees can be hard to find, but there are plenty of smart adaptable people out there looking for work, either with jobs already or unattached to any other company. Maybe set your sights a little lower and have a little more faith in the talent pool, but whatever you do don’t give up hope – the ideal applicant for you does exist.

David Hing is the blog editor of YOUR Insurance – a broker specialising in public liability insurance for small businesses.

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