04/03/2013 11:15 GMT | Updated 03/05/2013 06:12 BST

Why Are Businesses Struggling With Recruitment?

February is one of the busiest times of the year for recruitment. But I am hearing time and again at the moment that businesses are struggling to recruit the right people.

Problems with Recruitment: Part 1

With almost 2.5m unemployed, why are businesses struggling with recruitment?

February is one of the busiest times of the year for recruitment. But I am hearing time and again at the moment that businesses are struggling to recruit the right people. With almost 2.5 million people unemployed looking for work, why is recruitment such an issue?

Unemployment fell again for the first time last quarter, but progress is slow as many businesses have been putting off recruiting staff until some degree of certainty returned to the economy. While some businesses have been pushed to the brink, others have used the recession to move into new markets and change their business model to adapt to the changing economic climate. Some of the most innovative have achieved great success in doing so. Now these businesses want to recruit, but are often finding the pool of candidates isn't as highly skilled and adaptable as they need. So some of the best jobs are being re-recruited for a number of times.

So why are businesses struggling to recruit talent? I believe there are a number of factors at play here.

"I'll stick with what I know"

One of the major issues is a lack of "churn". Fearful of instability in an unsettled economic climate, many people are choosing to stick with what they know and simply aren't moving jobs. As well as decreasing the candidate talent pool for recruiting organisations, this also has a "stale workforce" effect for some organisations. As the market is changing so rapidly, business models need to adapt to survive. As employees are staying put for a lot longer but their job roles are changing, there is a problem with mismatched skill sets for changing or increased demands. I predict training and development will therefore be a key issue for business leaders this year.

Graduates: Miserable and de-motivated or just plain lazy?

I also believe that all the doom and gloom in the media about the jobs market has had a knock-on effect for young people leaving school or higher education. They are so used to hearing that there are no jobs for them, many have lost hope and a belief in themselves as suitable candidates. Some have stopped trying and are simply going through the motions of applications, believing there is no point. This can come across as laziness or a lack of work ethic, but is it the students that are to blame, or the universities that have underprepared them for a tough job market?

A "spray and pray" application culture

I'm also hearing (and have experienced myself) about the vast increase in time now needed to recruit for a vacant position. For SMEs without large HR departments, this is a real burden on staff time. The reason? Huge numbers of unsuitable candidates applying for jobs, many of whom haven't even bothered to fill out the application form fully or match their skills to the job specification.

Is this to do with a tick box culture at the job centre, or is it that candidates just can't be bothered? It has always been my company policy to reply to every unsuccessful candidate with reasons why they haven't been invited for interview as we genuinely want to help them, but this is becoming a hugely time consuming task. And when, as happened the other week, a candidate replies to complain that we are "arrogant" as we hadn't seen beyond his sparsely populated and incomplete application form to "give him a chance", I wonder if it is worth our investment in time!

So what is to be done? It is possible to achieve great success if you are prepared to take an innovative approach to recruitment and re-think the sales pitch.

Part two of my blog looks in detail at how SMEs are uniquely placed to sell themselves when recruiting for vacancies. It contains advice for all businesses on how to recruit and retain talented candidates by adopting a flexible and innovative approach.