what to do in a candidate scarce market?

Posted: July 18, 2019

Having worked in the PR and social media industry for a while now, I have seen the skilled candidate market shrink further and further. So, what has always been a challenging market has become officially candidate scarce. 
Some of my clients have experienced drops in client service and loss of revenue as a result of not being able to find the right person at the right time. We can’t afford to wait for a gap to appear before we talk about recruitment.
Good candidates are few and far between. The ones that are looking for a new role are not active for long as they are often in multiple processes and are snapped up quickly.
So, how can you mitigate the risks of candidates’ scarcity? Here are my top tips.  
  1. Don’t wait for a role to become vacant
    When a client calls me with a brief the role is usually urgent. They have had a team member hand their notice in and have 4 weeks to find a replacement, review CV’s, arrange 2 stage interview processes, offer the role and then when they think it is all tied up they have a 4 weeks (sometimes longer) notice period to contend with. The recruitment process then becomes a chore, seen as stressful and causes additional pressures that can be avoided. 

    Bringing on new talent should be an enjoyable process; you are talking to potential candidates about your incredible agency and are in a position where you can secure some top talent to join the team who will then become a real asset. It is such an exciting time; you should be able to enjoy it!!

    It is more important than ever to talk to good candidates as and when they are available and thinking about their next move. We can work together to create a talent pool of potential candidates so that when the time comes, and you do have a need, there are a handful of good candidates who you have previously spoken with.
  2. Invest in junior talent
    The pool of good candidates is shrinking and will continue to shrink if we, as an industry, are not replenishing the market. Often agencies want to take on ‘ready-made’ candidates who can join the team and hit the ground running. However, there are only so many candidates who are ‘ready-made’. We are advising our clients to invest in junior members of the team. We work with some exceptional graduates who are sparky and eager to develop their career. Taking a chance on a junior and giving them the tools to grow and develop is so valuable to the future of your team.
  3. Upskill the team
    Our 2019 candidate research demonstrated that one of the most important things to candidates is the training and development that they receive. 

    Bear in mind your agency strategy and develop a skills gap analysis to match. Training plans don’t have to be complex, starting with a skills matrix you can identify areas for development and growth. There are many effective ways to drive continuous learning across your team through training courses, knowledge sharing and work experience.   
  4. Employer brand & reputation 
    Interviews are very much a 2-way process, you may be assessing a candidate for their suitability for your team, but they are also assessing you to see if they would like to be part of your agency and culture. Future employees are looking at your website in a similar way to a client. If they don’t find relevant content, they will quickly lose interest and move onto a competitor. 

    People are increasingly making decisions based upon matched values; take some time to make sure your brand values are clear and correctly represented across your web and social channels.

    Consider the impact of your company reputation on candidate attraction. The awards you win, the clients you work with but also the experience of your own team – with glassdoor operating as insider knowledge you can’t afford to ignore internal feedback. 

    The PR Agency marketplace, being small (but perfectly formed!), is a likely place for candidates to talk and swap stories about their experiences. 
  5. Candidate experience
    IBM research stated that 38% candidates are more likely to accept a job offer when they’ve enjoyed the process and 58% who had a negative experience would not apply again in the future. 

    This is particularly difficult in a small marketplace of natural communicators. When you provide an experience that doesn’t match with your publicised values and culture, it will easily be spotted and quickly shared across the market. 

    In my experience, it isn’t uncommon when talking to candidates about opportunities for them to turn down being sent to a client, purely based on what someone has said about them and their experience with the agency.
​The candidate pool is scarce but that doesn’t mean that the candidates don’t exist, we just have to work together earlier to find them. Let us work really closely with you, sending you our best candidates and ensuring that when you do have a need in the team, we are one step ahead. Let us help make the recruitment process the exciting time that it should be! 
What do you think? What attraction techniques are working for you? How are you dealing with skills gaps in your organisation?


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