Exploring the mindset of recruiting

Tuesday, 3rd March 2020

Blog by pro-manchester Chief Exec Sam Booth

On Wednesday 26th February pro-manchester gathered together a selected group of Manchester’s leading professionals to discuss the mindset of recruiting.

Participating in the discussion was Matt Jones – Tech Returners, Louise Barker – Slalom, Darren Topping – Lorien Resourcing, Clare Alderson – Squire Patton Boggs, Charlotte Beeley and Claire Carlo – JMW, Graham Jackson – MMU, Georgia Fitzgerald – Juice Academy, Neil Davis – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Sam Booth – pro-manchester. The session was chaired by Alison Loveday – Kennedy’s.

The discussion covered a lot of ground and explored a range of areas such as diversity and inclusion within recruitment, upskilling and transferable skills, new and innovative methods of recruitment, big data and the future of the workplace.

The discussion began with a debate around the skills gap. Alison asked the group if they actually thought there was a skills gap or whether they believed it is just a perception that has been built up? Opinion was divided.

Matt Jones jumped in first with an unequivocal no, he did not believe there to be skills gap. Matt argued that there is enough available talent out there, ready to work, it is just a matter of changing the approach and the mindset of the businesses to access them.

Claire Alderson from Squire Patton Boggs disagreed, arguing that there is definitely a gap with within the legal sector. Claire added that she believed that the recession back in 2007/08 created less demand in certain market areas and as a consequence less need for advisors and this created gaps in certain practices. She did however argue that fundamentally it is quite often about managing the expectations of the partners within firms.

Darren Topping from Lorien believes it is a bit of both. The talent is there but it is about managing the expectations and taking a different approach to acquiring the skills needed – bridging the gap between expectation and skill.

The group were all in agreement that a cross over between the training and development teams and recruitment teams is the most logical approach and essential to accessing the right skills needed for business. Often the talent may already be within the firm, it is just a matter of co-ordinating and providing the right training and development opportunities.

Graham Jackson added that operational changes are also required when attracting the right talent. He urged employers to put themselves in the applicants shoes and approach the process from a different angle. The group agreed that it is becoming more and more apparent that businesses need to work harder to attract the best talent. Candidates are becoming more choosey and demanding about the businesses they work for and therefore business need to adapt and sell themselves and the benefits within the business better. They need to stand out and place more emphasis on the culture, values, ethics of the business. These are the attributes that will attract the best talent.

Louise from Slalom said that during a new recent exercise at Slalom, interviewees who had been offered but declined roles were asked why? Louise reported that the results were really impactful and highlighted a need to consider the process from both sides, the recruiter and the candidate. It was apparent that if you want to attract the best talent, consideration needs to be given to the process and how candidates would like to be interviewed.

This raised a discussion around job descriptions and the importance of removing any gender tone or unconscious bias from advertised roles.

Claire talked about the success of ‘blind’ recruiting to remove any unconscious bias but warned that it can cause friction. To adopt such strategies, buy in from the leaders of the business is essential for it to work effectively.

Returning back to the topic of businesses selling themselves better, the power of the employee brand became a hot topic. Members of the group argued that current employees can be your best selling tool to attracting new talent. Graham suggested surveying your employees to understand what is working, what is not and if not, why not? Is the business living up to its values? What do external reviews say about your business? What does your website say about your business?

There was a lot of ground covered in this session, perhaps enough for a second write up but in essence it seems,  that to be the business that people want to work for and in order to attract the best talent, businesses need to stand proud and shout about their culture and their values. They must audit, evaluate and learn to sell themselves better. They must look at different approaches to recruiting and explore avenues that have perhaps been overlooked.

The world of recruiting is ever changing and businesses need to adapt, and quickly to keep up.