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How to survive a candidate drought

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How to survive a candidate drought


Another report about record unemployment is shared. You might be experiencing a candidate drought.

Whilst this can be a real challenge for recruiters, we’ve collected the top ten tips to get you through this barren spell and reach the oasis on the other side.


Identify the problem

The first step to solving any problem is to understand it, so you need to work out exactly why there are no candidates meeting your requirements. Is everyone with the skills you need reaching retirement age? Are you operating in an industry that rewards loyalty? Are you looking in the wrong places? If you fail to take the time to look at where the problem originates, you’re unlikely to find a good solution.

Understand your industry

Knowing how your industry - and the people inside it - work is key to gaining credibility with both your clients and your candidates. “You can only develop this through having longevity in a market and specialist recruiters covering niche verticals, so they can develop a deep understanding of the market,” explains Rob Johnson, Managing Director at Global Resourcing. “You need to be a specialist to succeed in the rapidly changing world of recruitment and advent of social connectivity.”



Stand out from the crowd

Other firms are probably experiencing the same sourcing problems you are, so make sure you’re highlighting why your offering is different. “Ensure you continue supplying excellent customer service,” says Steve Preston, Managing Director at Heat Recruitment. “Focus on providing clients with a small number of high quality candidates.” Don’t be tempted to send over any old candidate in desperation – your quality should set you apart.

Find passive jobseekers

“Reactive recruitment consultants are only able to reach a certain level of success,” warns Nicholas Crabbe-McVeigh, Director at construction recruitment specialists, BBR Services. “It’s therefore important to use proactive executive search methods and initiative to source candidates, especially within challenging markets.” You cannot just sit back and hope the right candidate sends their CV in. Get out there and talk to those already working in your industry – your job might be the perfect fit for someone who didn’t even realise they wanted it.



Expand your network

“Having a great network of connections will allow you to get in touch with those hard to find candidates,” says Preston. “However, this doesn’t mean having 5000+ LinkedIn connections; it means real life relationships with people who can recommend your service or refer great people.”

Rather than aimlessly adding people on social media, head out to industry events and conferences. Take a stack of business cards and get chatting to anyone who could be a promising lead. Don’t be afraid to ask them to pass information about your vacancy on to others, or even what could tempt them to apply for your role.

Ask similar candidates

“Asking ideal candidates who are not looking for a role if they can recommend someone similar to them is one of the oldest tricks of the headhunting trade,” says Susie Cummings, Founder and CEO at Nurole. “Most people love to be asked for their advice and like to help others.” Why not catch up with a candidate you’ve placed before for a coffee or a chat? They might have worked with the ideal person in the past or know a good community to widen your job search to.



Consider transferable skills

If the job is particularly niche, there might not be very many people with experience in the exact same position before. Think about other roles or other industries which might have similar skillsets. “All too often a candidate will have performed a task or have experience in an area that is not clearly highlighted in their CV,” says Jo Sellick, Managing Director at Sellick Partnership. “By taking the time to speak and get to know your candidates you can unearth hidden gems that your clients may not have usually considered.”

What can you offer?

Daniel Corner, co-Founder of online recruitment agency ThatRecruit.com, said there’s no shame in asking a client if they could change the benefits package or increase salaries in times of candidate shortages. “I think it’s our responsibility as a recruitment business to make clients aware that when they are recruiting for the best possible talent - they are always going to be competing,” he said. “The vast majority of clients will be receptive to suggestions as to how they be deemed more attractive to candidates.” Check what competitors are offering – if it’s higher, you have more leverage.




Sometimes, even the very best must admit defeat. It’s best to be honest with your client rather than string them along for months when there’s no hope for a good hire. “If you are struggling, let them know in plenty of time so they can consider alternative solutions to filling the role,” suggests Sellick. “By not being open you run the risk of damaging the relationship. A motto I always go by is never overpromise and under-deliver.”

Be prepared

The best cure is always prevention, and while it is unlikely you’ll be able to prevent a talent drought you can take some measures to protect yourself. For example, if you find you tend to hire lots of people from a certain country, keep an eye out for any proposed changes to immigration laws that could impact this. If UCAS figures show very few students are interested in the industry you recruit for, you could pass this on to your clients and suggest they take on an apprentice or two.

“You should be identifying candidates who have potential to further develop their career within the right environment and harnessing relationships at the very earliest stage,” adds Jonathan Abelson, co-Founder and Director at MERJE. “Continual conversations with candidates, even when they are not seeking opportunities, whilst being aware of medium- and long-term growth plans of our clients puts you in a strong position for the future.”