There’s been a lot of media buzz about the skills gap in recent weeks, with the Open University warning of a skills gap that costs companies more than £2bn a year. Meanwhile, The Week saw Brexit as a major factor in the overall gap, and The Recruitment & Employment Confederation suggested temps will be used to plug the gap for now.
The question is, how can recruiters deal with the skills gap and keep matching candidates to roles, without losing momentum or credibility?
1. Don’t use a scatter-gun approach with candidates
It’s one thing reaching active jobseekers, but how do you enthuse the highly skilled ones who need an incentive to leave their current employer? Show you see them as a fully rounded person behind their CV. Really personalise your messages and reflect on the specific qualities you think they could bring to a role.
Nobody wants to feel they’re on a conveyor belt of candidates. Besides this, your perfect candidate may have been burned by bad recruitment strategies in the past, leaving them wary (see Ask the Headhunter’s insight on bogus recruiters asking for references).
Sending a generic email or Voicemail message isn’t going to win sceptical candidates over. Be specific: what skills on their CV stood out for you as ideal for a certain role? What experience do they have that you could leverage into a range of jobs? Sometimes, people settled in work don’t see their skills as truly valuable – particularly if their current role is underpaid – until someone else tells them.
2. Encourage candidates with potential to upskill quickly
Ever handled a candidate whose enthusiasm can’t hide their missing skills? If they’re willing to set aside some free time, an intensive practical short course – which can sometimes take as little as one day or a weekend – might nudge them ahead of the competition.
For example, short courses in HTML coding, podcasting and video production and editing are now in high demand for creative industries, marketing and media sectors. Most reputable courses will offer accreditation, so your candidate’s new skill stands out on their CV.
Whilst these courses don’t come for free, the cost is often offset by the higher salary they can command with these skills. Of course, it’s easier to encourage active jobseekers to set aside time for courses, but passive jobseekers may have been considering a short course already, and that final push will inspire them to work with you for the added career and financial prospects.
3. Challenge employers’ must-have and desired requirements
If there’s one statistic to remember, it’s this: according to The Ladders, a candidate spends an average of 49 seconds reading a job description before dismissing it as unsuitable. Alarm bells can ring for many reasons: an endless list of qualities and responsibilities, a vague job description or a negative tone could all dissuade the most skilled candidates.
As a recruiter, you have the power to look beyond those words and talk to the employer directly. Are they making your candidate’s potential dream job sound dull or restrictive? Are they adding entry-level duties to a mid-level vacancy? If it’s a recurring problem, you’ll know why jobseekers are steering clear.
The candidate with the right skills might simply be put off by a bad first impression, or a never-ending list of ‘essential’ skills that aren’t essential to the role at all. Talk to the employer about what’s truly needed every day, and what can be learned on the job or even set aside for the right person.
4. Look for employer flexibility and individuality
If you’re dealing with a highly skilled candidate who can’t find the right opportunity, look towards forward-thinking companies with flexible working policies, stand-out incentives and a more person-centred workplace. Someone whose skills really do bridge the gap may have recruiters contacting them left, right and centre, with similar-sounding vacancies.
What better way to win them over than with a tolerant workplace that sees employees as people, not robots? In 2015, the Telegraph reported that the average worker will clock up 9,024 hours of unpaid overtime in their working life. It shouldn’t be surprising that in-demand candidates might want to buy extra days’ leave, or work summer hours, to compensate for sacrifices made at other times.
Placing that candidate in the right environment can lead to further opportunities – they might recommend you to friends and family, or to former colleagues, and they’ll feel valued as they move through their probation period. Having a greater work-life balance, and a happier workplace, is a huge consideration for many job hunters, so use it to your advantage when dealing with skilled candidates.
Now you’ve worked out how to deal with the skills gap at all levels, you’ll be able to tackle even the biggest recruitment challenges.
About the author: Polly Allen writes for Inspiring Interns, which recruits graduates and interns across multiple industries. It also provides the latest careers advice to inspire jobseekers.