What’s going on with recruitment?

Recruitment has often been seen as a bellwether for the state of the industry as a whole, but despite reports of redundancies and job losses, why are some retailers and brands still struggling to fill their vacant roles? To find out, we asked Peter Jones, from specialist KBB recruitment agency Foyne Jones.

Q: What’s the current state of recruitment in the KBB industry?

Peter Jones, Founder and MD of Foyne Jones

A: There are a lot of misconceptions. Jobseekers feel that there’s a lack of immediate opportunities, and job security is more important than ever because things like the weekly food shop are costing more. However, employers and hiring managers are coming up against candidates accepting interviews then vanishing off the face of the earth, and retailers are finding that the post-Covid boom is slowing down dramatically, so they’re more apprehensive about taking chances on job seekers that aren’t fitting their perfect description.

Q: Are there fewer vacancies, or are there as many people recruiting as ever?

A: Without a doubt, there are fewer vacancies coming on to the market right now than there were this time last year. Interestingly, the data suggests there are fewer people actively looking for work, so the passive jobseeker has become even more in demand. Businesses are also wanting to add one or two more stages to the hiring process, so we’re seeing jobseekers potentially lose interest and stop responding to employers.

It’s frustrating for both sides, so if I had a message today, to both businesses that are hiring and jobseekers that are applying for jobs, it would be: do the right thing and treat others how they would like to be treated. For every person that doesn’t turn up for an interview, there are people that would crawl over broken glass for that opportunity.

Q: What steps can retailers take to recruit their perfect candidate?

A: That varies from business to business. One thing that doesn’t change is knowing what ‘good’ looks like for your business – that gives you a starting point, and then you can measure potential candidates against that description. Once you’ve found that, you’ve got to think about how you’ll reach them and how to attract them. Along with posting ads on job boards like Indeed, word of mouth referrals are also a really important pathway, and they’re vital – along with networking and building your brand – when you arrive at your shortlist of suitable candidates for a vacancy.

Q: Do you think companies are doing enough to sell themselves to applicants?

A: I definitely believe that hiring managers can sell themselves better. There’s a misconception still that an interview should be like a scene from The Apprentice, but if you make someone feel uncomfortable and intimidated, you won’t see the best in them. It also comes down to how adverts are worded. I see middle-management area sales positions offering things like company cars and phones, when really today’s applicant wants things like health care, support, and a guaranteed work/life balance. The biggest frustration is when companies don’t list the salary on the advert, because they’re turning away about 75% of people who might otherwise be interested in that job.

Q: On the flip side, what are some of the things that candidates are doing that are frustrating to hiring managers right now?

A: Since about May onwards, this has been the most horrific period for interview attendance I’ve seen in my entire career. Candidates are either giving excuses for not attending on the day, or just ‘ghosting’ hiring managers entirely. If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to attend an interview, I’ve usually got three other people that would love that opportunity, so just drop me a text back and say “not interested.” Some people use job or interview offers to take a counter-offer from their current employer, or I think sometimes they just get nervous and change their minds.

That’s all fine, but if for whatever reason you can’t accept a job or attend an interview, do the right thing and let someone know, don’t just vanish. That can really damage your reputation as a professional, and as we all know, the KBB world is actually quite small and that can come back to haunt you.

Q: Do you think the recruitment process has changed since Covid?

A: The jobseeker coming out of the pandemic has had a taste of work/life balance, and I think it reminded us all that spending time with family and friends can be a really good thing. For the younger applicant especially – the uni and college leavers – they’re looking at what’s in it for them. They don’t want to do their 25 years and then get a watch. They’re looking for different things, they want to travel, or work wherever they can. The industry needs to wake up to that.

On the other hand, on-boarding, training and managing remotely can be very difficult, and showrooms are very physical places, so not every business can offer that kind of flexibility. Sometimes we see candidates that are head and shoulders above the rest of the field, but an employer can’t offer them the position because they can’t meet the applicant’s flexibility needs.

Q: What do you think is going to happen next, and where do you think the recruitment market is going to go in the next 12 months?

A: From our perspective, we’re seeing more new enquiries from businesses and hiring managers than at any other time this year. Due to realignments and redundancies taking place, we’ll see an overwhelming number of new applicants coming on to the market too. We all know the market’s tough at the moment, and good workers are becoming even more precious.

If you’re a retailer with good staff, look after them, manage them, celebrate them and support them – hang on to your good people. If you’re looking to attract good people, you need to change what you’re doing to stand out, and try to become an employer of choice in the industry.

You can listen to the full discussion on episode nine of season nine of The kbbreview Podcast

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