HR’s top five hiring challenges – and how to solve them
21 August 2018

HR’s top five hiring challenges – and how to solve them

From improving the candidate experience to reducing costs, we explore the top recruitment challenges facing HR professionals today


Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery is head of content and community at Ciphr. She was previously deputy editor at People Management magazine. You can find her on Twitter @c_newbery.


Recruitment and retention Strategy culture and values Talent management


From improving the candidate experience to reducing costs, we explore the top recruitment challenges in hiring the right employee facing HR professionals today.

Finding and hiring the right candidates for your organisation, at the right time, is a never-ending challenge for in-house recruiters and HR professionals.

Macroeconomic factors certainly aren’t helping: UK unemployment fell by 65,000 to 1.36 million in the three months to June 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – the lowest figure for more than 40 years.

Uncertainty around Brexit is having an impact, too: two-thirds (66%) of employers surveyed for the August 2018 CIPD Labour Market Outlook reported that at least some vacancies are proving hard to fill, with a further 40% saying that it has become harder to fill positions during the past 12 months.

There are also perennial recruitment challenges that never seem to go away in the employee selection and recruitment process. Based on a 2018 report by the Corporate Research Forum (cited in a presentation by CognitionX), here are five challenges of hiring the right employee – and ideas for solutions how to solve them.

1. Building greater consistency between the candidate experience and the employee experience

Get either the candidate or the employee experience wrong and your organisation will undoubtedly have difficulty hiring and retaining talented people.

If you’ve nailed the employee experience but overlooked how it feels for candidates to interact with your company, they won’t engage with the recruitment process and may well tell friends, family and peers about their poor experience with you – harming not only your chance of hiring great people in the future, but your reputation as an organisation, too.

Similarly, if you’ve created an ideal candidate experience – where the applicant feels engaged and valued at every stage – but you don’t put in the same amount of effort once they are on board, then these people you’ve worked so hard to hire won’t stay with you for long.

Treating your people in a consistently good way – regardless of whether they are applicants or employees – will improve your ability to hire and retain them. Start by compiling a list of what you believe are the hallmarks of a positive experience: these might include things such as:

  • Open and transparent communications
  • Autonomy
  • Respect
  • Wellbeing support

Then assess every stage of your employee lifecycle: do your actions and initiatives support these characteristics? If they don’t, what changes can you make?

2. Improving onboarding

More than a quarter of employees are willing to quit a new job in the first 90 if they don’t find it satisfactory, according to a 2017 report by Robert Half & Associates – so it’s little surprise that HR professionals are keen to improve their onboarding processes.

It can be the small things that make a big difference – from making sure new starters meet their manager and teammates on their first day and having IT equipment properly set up, to ensuring new hires don’t spend their first days filling in endless HR forms, or even giving them a quick tour of the best local coffee shops. The important thing to remember is that every employee and role is different: some new starters will want to jump straight into their new job, while others might want to learn and observe first. Talking to new starters about their expectations, needs and wants will go a long way to making the onboarding process more enjoyable for them – and more successful for your organisation.

Read next: How to improve your employee onboarding process

 3. Reducing cost

HR budgets were expected to decline by 0.7% in 2018, according to a report by The Hackett Group, leaving many departments with the prospect of doing more with less money. More than half (51%) of respondents to the survey said they will try to use technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of HR and talent management services this year.

Investing in a secure, modern and intuitive applicant tracking system (ATS) can make a significant difference to the efficiency of your hiring processes – saving you valuable labour time and enabling you to redeploy resources elsewhere.

4. Shifting assessment criteria towards the capabilities required for future organisational success

Another issues in recruitment and selection is being able to future-proof recruitment. With the world of work changing so rapidly, there’s little point focusing solely on the tasks that candidates will need to do in the immediate future – they will need transferable skills, and ‘softer’ attributes that will enable them to not only cope, but thrive, when circumstances and roles change.

Psychometrics tests and even gamified evaluations can help recruiters spot the star employees of the future.

5. Improving the candidate experience

If you want to successfully tackle the first HR challenge in recruitment and selection on our list (see above), you’ll probably need to work on improving your candidate experience first. A good place to start is the ‘seven deadly sins of recruiting’, published by Jennifer Kim in 2017. They are:

  • Not responding to candidates
  • Not being prepared for interviews
  • Ignoring data and metrics
  • Allowing hiring managers to take the lead – especially if their views are in opposition to your HR expertise
  • Not training your interviewees – especially around the risk of unconscious bias
  • Trying to convince a candidate to take a job when you know it’s not the right fit for them
  • Not putting the candidate at the heart of your hiring process

Even if you only make headway on half of these points, you’ll make a significant difference to candidates’ experience with you as an organisation – and greatly improve your ability to hire the right people.

Need specialist software to support your recruitment processes? Discover how Ciphr iRecruit can help you offer a better candidate experience