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10 secrets for reducing your recruitment costs.

Adrian McDonagh

Hiring new staff for your business can be a fun, rewarding process, but it can also burn a hole in your pocket.

Hiring new staff for your business can be a fun, rewarding process, but it can also burn a hole in your pocket. Not only do you need to take time out of your employees’ busy schedules for screening, interviews, and training, but it can take a few months before your new hire is fully up to speed.

The average turnover cost per employee at SMEs is reported to be around £12,000 - the exact figure changes depending on what you choose to read, but it’s clear that we should all be looking for ways to cut it down as much as we can.

Here, we’re sharing 10 of our deepest, darkest secrets to help you reduce your recruitment costs. Everything we’ve listed below is based on tried-and-tested methods from our experiences, too, so we know it all works!

1) recharge your referral scheme

If you don’t already have a referral scheme for your staff, start one. It could make a massive difference straight off the bat. For anyone unfamiliar with referral schemes, they’re essentially reward schemes that encourage current employees to recommend people they know for open positions.

It goes without saying that an effective referral scheme reduces recruitment costs in a number of ways: you won’t need to pay recruitment agencies, you’ll save your own time during the screening process, and the chances of further staff turnover will plummet. In fact, employee referral programmes lead to an average retention rate of 46% - that’s much higher than the 33% from businesses posting to job boards only.

If you have a referral scheme already in place that isn’t quite delivering what you’d hoped for, then it’s time for a re-think. Could you improve or refresh your employees’ incentives? Could you do more to get them involved in the hiring process? The key is that your staff feels motivated to find you the very best candidates, so anything you change should come back to this goal.

2) boomerang hires

Sometimes, a role just doesn’t work out. That could happen for any number of reasons, but it’s almost always worth keeping the door open for a potential return. A different role may well present itself in the future that better suits your previous employee, and you’ll save a serious amount of time and effort by re-hiring someone who’s worked at the business before.

A boomerang hire (so named because... well, you can work that one out) will be far more likely to hit the ground running, and you won’t need to worry about whether they’ll fit in culturally. What’s not to love?

Remind any leavers that you value them highly, wish them luck in their next role, and be clear that you’d love to have them back if their move doesn’t work out. Just be sure to keep it all positive for this last part and avoid suggesting that their big move could fall flat!

Reaching out to employees who have already left is also worth a go. Alumni groups on LinkedIn tend to work best for larger organisations, but you can also connect with ex-employees individually to see whether they’d be open to rejoining under the right circumstances. If they say yes and you have an ATS (applicant tracking system), have them sign up for your job alerts.

3) use LinkedIn… properly!

Some roles are so highly sought after that you’ll be inundated with CVs as soon as you hit ‘publish’ on your job advert. Others, usually more senior positions, will require a bit more from your end in terms of proactive headhunting.

In these instances, we recommend starting with LinkedIn. Spending as little as an hour a month searching and messaging the most relevant candidates will pay off throughout the year. If you're wondering exactly how to phrase such an approach, then check out our LinkedIn training webinars for more on how to use the platform effectively. We've also added a screenshot of a template we like to use:

Linkedin message 1

Don’t worry about forking out for a paid LinkedIn account, either; in our experience, searching for candidates to fill a couple of vacancies every month can be done just as effectively with a free account. If you start seeing results, you can always decide to upgrade later.

4) sign it off

Add a ‘we are hiring’ message to your company signatures, and link back to your careers page. You’ll be surprised by how many times you end up hiring a partner, client, etc., but it makes sense - they know your business better than most do.

Go for something friendly and brief; your ultimate goal here should be to encourage a click, not to tell your company’s entire startup story. One great example does spring to mind, from Anglia Water back in 2018:

Anglia water screenshot

Alternatively, if you have a great Glassdoor rating (3.9 or above), then shout about it on your employees’ signatures. Doing so shows your customers and partners that you have an engaged workforce and a great culture, which could lead to some of them viewing you as a potential new employer.

Pro tip: ensure that your signatures also contain all relevant icons (website and social media links), to make it easier for potential applicants to find out more about you. Point them to the parts of your online presence you’re happiest to show off.

5) post to free job boards

Not exactly rocket science, is it? Indeed is probably the most obvious free job board out there, but don’t forget Adzuna, (formerly Neuvoo), find-a-job, and a whole host of others. People are sometimes put off by free services as they assume they’re in some way inferior, but you shouldn’t be. Plus, you won’t have wasted any money even if you do swing and miss!

It’s important that you try out a range of job boards to see which ones bring you the most success in your industry. Over time, you’ll be able to refine your list further to ensure that you’re posting in the most relevant places.

6) the easy option

If you advertise on job boards, consider integrating an ‘easy apply’ option if that’s available.

Taking this route makes it much easier for people to apply, but you’ll also see less information about people during the first stage.

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide how desirable you think your role is. If filling similar vacancies in the past has been tough, then the ‘easy apply’ option could open things up to a wider range of candidates.

Sure, that means you’ll probably get more applications that aren’t right, but it also increases your chances of a real catch. Applying for jobs is time consuming and draining, so don’t assume that everyone’s got hours spare to craft a perfectly worded covering letter. Some of the best potential employees out there may just be short on time - that doesn’t mean they’re not worth hiring!

7) negotiate your rates

Ask your recruitment agencies whether they’d think about dropping rates in exchange for a greater commitment on your part. That commitment could be exclusivity, an agreement that only two agencies will work a role for a certain period of time, or anything else that benefits your agency.  

Our agency team here at hireful is always open to this sort of reduced fee/greater commitment deal, and we’ve found it to be beneficial for both sides. We get the obvious perks of exclusivity, but also know how hard we have to work while that clock is ticking...

8) get more from your ATS

We might be a little biased on this one, but we’d encourage every business with more than 5 vacancies a year to think about using an ATS (applicant tracking system) to streamline their recruitment... but that’s a story for another day. For those of you that already use an ATS, think about how you might refine that process further.

Encourage as many of your applicants as you can to sign up for your job alerts. If you’re too busy to search your database, then having the job alerts do the heavy work of marketing your new vacancies to past applicants is a great idea. If you do have the time, then doing it manually allows you even more control. Provided your ATS allows you to tag candidates with custom tags, why not create a tag for ‘runner up at interview’? Doing so lets you create a little talent pool of really strong applicants who just missed out last time.

You should also take steps to simplify your applicants’ processes. You’ll probably find that all the questions you ‘needed’ when you started are no longer essential. Fewer questions = a shorter process = more applicants. That’s especially true for the better candidates, who are likely to be less patient.

9) work on your employer brand

Not exactly an overnight job, but a very important long-term strategy. Get this right, and you’ll find that the quality of your applicants rises significantly. Obviously, the better the quality of those applicants, the less time you’ll waste on searching and screening.

Sure, this approach probably won’t do much to get your adverts in front of more eyes, but it will help tell your employer story and persuade the very best applicants that they should need to apply to this role. The best part? The more engaging a story you are able to tell, the less work you need to do. Perfect your employer brand, establish it, and then maintain it.

10) think outside the box

Guerilla marketing is not often used in recruitment, but it can be extremely impactful when it is. Stepping away from the comforts of ‘we are looking for’ openings and moving towards something more daring will raise eyebrows and, hopefully, lead to more interest. Be brave and ironic, opt for some witty gifs/imagery, or go the whole hog and host worldwide events. Whatever you do, just make sure that it’s you.

If we could tell you exactly how your ‘guerilla’ approach should look, we would (promise!). Annoyingly, we can’t - that really needs to come from you. Finding what works in your industry will take gallons of your creative juices, but that golden ticket idea can come in many different forms; stand-out advert copy, striking imagery, and clever videos have all left many a lasting impression on audiences.

Check out one of our all-time favourites for a great example of what we mean:

Not only did this advert resonate with just about everyone in the UK during ‘peak Brexit’, but it also took people’s increasing lack of sympathy for Theresa May and made it genuinely funny. Having us all relate to the PM’s predicament did something that few were able to do during the infamous transition period: come together.

Remember, though; this advert worked for these guys because they’re in the right industry and they got the timing right. Sticking a politician in your campaign is no guarantee of success!

we help. you hire.

Hopefully, this piece has given you some actionable next steps for reducing your recruitment costs. If you have any questions at all about any of our points, or would like to learn more about certain aspects, then we’d love to hear from you.

Why not start by signing up to our webinars and workshops, and by checking out our free tools? You can also call us on 01933 428 991 or email to hear more about hireful’s services.

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