Widening traditional criteria to open up talent pools
Alexa Bradbury

3 minutes

Widening traditional criteria to open up talent pools

The skills crisis the UK is currently facing needs no introduction: never before have there been so few candidates available across so many sectors. The reasons behind today’s talent drought are complex. An exodus of EU workers post-Brexit, and the fact that many professionals retrained or switched sectors to find work during the pandemic, and insufficient talent pipelines have all helped to contribute to the current crisis.

However, many businesses are also struggling to source staff because they are fishing for talent in the same small pond as their competitors.

We’re playing a zero-sum game: there are simply not enough quality candidates to go around and, unless we think creatively, accessing sufficient skills will become increasingly challenging. There is an acute need to broaden our horizons to find resources in this environment.

In order to do things in a better way, organisations must explore the potential of untapped talent pools and relax traditional selection criteria to open themselves up to a wealth of previously unexplored talent.

But how?

1) Widen talent pools by embracing diverse talent

While businesses across the UK scramble for talent in skills-scarce silos, there are entire groups of people who, for one reason or another, completely rule out certain career paths or find it difficult to access employment altogether. Archaic recruitment processes, outdated job specs, and even the channels used to communicate opportunities can all act as a barrier to applicants.

Specific sectors can unintentionally deter jobseekers depending on their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Meanwhile, disabled talent, former military personnel, ex-offenders, individuals returning to work after a career break, older professionals, and care leavers are just some of the groups who, statistically, find it more challenging to secure a role.

Actively seeking out individuals from these underrepresented groups will not only have a positive impact on the volume of jobseekers available, but also on the breadth, depth, and quality of your talent pools.

Unnecessary role requirements, your ability to upskill and retrain applicants, use of language and imagery on your landing page, and job ad placement all need to be reviewed and reconsidered. Get it right, and your reward will be access to a whole new world of quality candidates.

An experienced MSP or RPO provider is perfectly placed to support businesses in exploring and engaging with the whole array of diverse talent available as they reach beyond their conventional, ‘go to’ candidate personas.

2) Forget go-to candidate personas

It’s all too easy to become wedded to the idea of an ‘ideal’ candidate, and then relentlessly pursue individuals who fit this mould. However, this practice always brings the risk of discounting great talent, while simultaneously limiting inclusion – and that is before the national skills crisis is taken into account.

Back in 2017, when the Very Group was known as Shop Direct, Guidant was responsible for its ‘All we need is you!’ recruitment campaign, which was centred on candidate personas. We researched the previous peak workforce to establish four key target audiences. Three of these reflected existing worker trends: Daytime Dave, Nightshift Nick, and Weekend Wasim.

The fourth persona, Female Farah, was designed to target a potential gap in applicant demographic and increase the number of female workers by challenging stereotype perceptions of a warehouse environment – and in turn, increase diversity. It worked: applications, and applications from females specifically, increased significantly.

3) Relax non-essential criteria

Relaxing non-essential criteria is just one way that hirers can engage diverse talent and create opportunities for individuals who would otherwise face unnecessary barriers to work. For example, depending on the role, it may be suitable and practical to remove pre-employment screening for drug, education and employment checks; or a search for criminal convictions if it does not apply to the work being performed.

Similarly, many job ads still require applicants to have a ‘full, clean, UK driving licence’ as standard – but this may automatically discount individuals with certain disabilities, or those who have moved from overseas.

Reviewing – and potentially removing – standard screening processes doesn’t just widen talent pools, it also provides a more succinct screening and onboarding process for all applicants, improving the candidate experience in the process.

Similarly, during the recruitment process, a stronger focus on transferable skills and traits can pay dividends. When people who can prove they have done the job are in short supply, why not search instead for those whose adaptability, proactivity, curiosity, or empathy suggests they could do the job?

Talent pipeline building for the future

Beyond filling gaps in the short term, talent acquisition professionals should also use the current skills crisis as an impetus to explore how their organisation will access and develop talent in the long term. It is important to ask, ‘who would be interested in working for us?’ rather than ‘who’s ‘perfectly’ qualified right now?’ as the need to move beyond job-ready hiring increases.

A recent McKinsey survey of approximately 300 global executives found a majority of respondents said they’ll need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce by 2023. Separate research by Gartner, meanwhile, found that a third of the skills that were sought by employers in 2017 aren’t required now. With this in mind, talent leaders would be wise to consider hiring for core competencies such as resilience and innovation – and then upskilling their people accordingly – in order to be prepared for future shortages.

As Henry Ford famously said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” With a finite number of quality candidates in the talent pool, chasing the same individuals as your competitors is unlikely to be an effective way to secure much-needed skills.

However, by taking a fresh look at what you really need from your people – and widening talent pools as a result – you will be able to access a rich source of previously untapped talent.



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