By Oliver Watson, Managing Director, PageGroup

As the economic outlook begins to look brighter and employer confidence improves, the recruitment of white collar professionals is embarking on a period of rapid growth.

While this is good news for those on both sides of the interview table, employers must now ready themselves for an increase in job activity which will require an even greater change in approach than that seen during the market decline in 2008/09. This requires investment in ensuring the recruitment process is engaging, agile and efficient enough to meet the demands of the modern candidate.

What’s next?
With a change in the pace of recruitment, employers must refresh their attitudes to the whole recruitment process and acknowledge the need for bigger changes to attract the best talent for roles. This won’t be as easy as it seems - while demand for talent is increasing, there are still large gaps in the number of skilled candidates available to meet this need.

In accountancy for example, consider the fact that the most significant minority of high calibre accountants are still trained by the ‘Big 4’ and then take a look at the graduate trainee hiring these firms did between 2008 and 2011, relative to levels before (or since). This is replicated across much of UK plc, and most of our disciplines in PageGroup are currently reporting skill shortages.

Sourcing the best candidates
So what additional tactics can employers use to seek out the best candidates? One advantage that today’s employer has is the opportunity to search online for the top talent - online properties now play a huge role in attracting talent and candidate selection strategy. Job boards and social media outlets, such as LinkedIn, have revolutionised the process, but many employers aren’t properly prepared to react when these networks become less effective for pulling in the best talent.

What employers often fail to understand is that recruitment is a two way process, and employers need to sell themselves just as much as the candidates involved. High calibre candidates are increasingly looking for employers to come to them and moving forwards, employers really need to think about how they can win the war for talent. Even if that initial sell which draws a candidate in is persuasive, most employers’ recruitment processes are reminiscent of a recessionary mentality and have the bureaucracy to match. Extensive use of lengthy assessment centres and making lowball offers is no longer fit for purpose.

UK employers need to be quicker, more decisive and more flexible if they want to get the best candidates on board. Success here requires agility. It’s much better to focus on the one superb candidate and put them in front of the CEO after a first meeting, rather than gear up expectations, both internal and external, to a lengthy ‘robust’ process with many interview stages and paperwork only to obtain a mediocre hire at the end of it.

Candidates are now looking to engage with their employer in a different way than we’ve previously been used to and now expect a personal, flexible and equal relationship from start to finish. The recruitment process now requires better senior sponsorship, and I believe this will become, if it isn’t already, a significant KPI for all senior managers. In part, this will arise from the overheating market, but also reflects the changing needs and expectations of the next generation of candidates.

The latest technology, seamless processes and slick advertising campaigns will help to renew this process. However, to ultimately benefit as the market heats up employers must take stock and identify how they can really engage with potential employees, to foster the right relationships and secure the best talent.