Recruitment Advice in a Candidate-Driven Market

How Food and Drink businesses can Recruit Professionals in a Candidate-Driven Market

Workers in the Food and Drink sector have rarely enjoyed such demand for their services with skilled and experienced people in high demand across all disciplines. Food Industry businesses need to accept that the balance of power has shifted towards the Employee and adapt their recruitment practices accordingly. Failure to adapt will result in Food businesses struggling to find the talent they need for their businesses to thrive and prosper. Below are ten approaches to apply to give your Food & Drink business the best opportunity to successfully recruit suitably skilled and experienced people.   


Write a Compelling Job Advert

Writing and Advertising a Job Advert is often the first option for Food and Drink businesses looking to recruit. From generic vacancy websites to Food related publications and Food focused job boards there are numerous options available for those seeking to advertise. As Job Adverts are not as effective as they once were in the current candidate-driven marketplace, Food & Drink businesses need to work harder when compiling a job advert.

The Job Advert is the first impression an Applicant will have of your organisation and, more so than ever, a Job Advert placed by a Food and Drink business needs to clearly convey what is important to the target audience. According to research the top five career priorities (in order) are as follows: i.) A Good Salary, ii.) Friendly Colleagues, iii.) Great Company Culture, iv.) Opportunity for Progression, v.) Opportunity to Learn New Skills. To add to this list, if an element of Work From Home can also offered we recommend stating this prominently in the Job Advert.

Regarding the Salary, stating this in the Advert is recommended as you will receive more applications. If a Salary is not stated it is giving an Applicant a reason not to apply which is counter-productive in an environment where there is a lack of Food Professionals applying for roles.

In terms of the Structure of the Advert we recommend a Paragraph introducing your business and any exciting news such as expansion/growth, followed by bullet points clearly stating Duties and Responsibilities, followed by Skills, Experience and Educational Requirements.

With the current difficulty in convincing Food professionals to make job applications we advise Food and Drink businesses to keep an open mind regarding experience and qualifications. Whereas in previous years you may have only considered Graduates for a particular post, we advise opening the Advert to non-Graduates. Or where previously you insisted on 5 years’ experience, consider opening this up to applicants with 3 years’ experience.

The final section should be used as an opportunity to really sell your company by listing Salary, Benefits, Perks and Hours and key information important to Applicants such as: Company Culture, How Great the Team is, Scope for Career Progression, Training Opportunities.


Respond to Job Applications Immediately

A report (June 2022) published by recruitment software company Talos360 has revealed that 40% of job applicants will lose interest if they don’t hear back from the Employer within 48 hours of applying for a job. Leaving candidates in flux is bad practice and can damage a Company’s reputation. Treat all Applicants equally. Even unsuccessful applicants should be contacted quickly, to allow them to focus on other live opportunities they may be pursuing. A surprising number of Employers do not inform an Applicant if they have been unsuccessful, so those who do stand out from the crowd and will be remembered in a positive light.


Make it Easy to Apply to your Online Job Advert

Three-quarters of jobseekers say they are happy to complete one-click Job Applications. The more clicks required to apply, the less applications you will receive.


Don’t Expect your Recruitment Advert to Uncover the Perfect Candidate

Food business customers of Food Careers report a massive reduction in the quality and quantity of Applicants responding to Job Advertisements. Even household names and ‘big brands’ with large recruitment advertising budgets are not receiving the volume and quality they once were when advertising jobs.

Research suggests this issue is affecting all industries and The Head of Talent Acquisition at TalkTalk was quoted in June 2022 as saying, “Direct applications have dropped significantly despite our employer brand remaining strong, so we’ve had to be much more proactive in searching and approaching the more passive candidates”.

With the recruitment challenges currently facing Food businesses, Advertising a job must be viewed as just the first step in a more holistic approach to recruitment. In a market where good Applicants are scarce, effective Recruitment strategies need to be multi-pronged, targeting audiences and audience segments through different mediums, channels, using different techniques.

This could include having a generous Referral Scheme to reward Employees who refer individuals who are subsequently employed. We would suggest setting a referral reward at £1000 to £2000 or the equivalent in Vouchers (Amazon vouchers are particularly popular). Setting the Referral Bonus at this level may focus the mind of Employees into thinking harder about who they know who could fill a role. Even at £1000 to £2000 per successful Referral, it is still less than paying a Recruitment Consultancy fee. Other candidate searching approaches include using LinkedIn to identify and target passive candidates, external CV databases, and the proactive development of your own pool of potential candidates for future roles.


Shorten the Time it Takes to Recruit

At Food Careers we recently (July 2022) reviewed all Job Offers Accepted and all Job Offers Rejected over the past 12 months. From analysing the data we found that Food companies are 52% more likely to have a Job Offer Accepted if they complete the Recruitment Process (From Receiving a CV/Application to Making a Job Offer) within a 3-week period or less. Applicants quickly get restless and good people often have numerous job options to consider. Companies who took longer than 3-weeks to complete the recruitment process were often left disappointed when the person they wanted to employ had already accepted a job offer with another company.


Reduce the Number of Recruitment Stages

The report quoted above (commissioned by Talos360) found that almost one in three (30%) job Applicants state that multiple interview stages would put them off applying for a job. Food Industry professionals are in high demand and often have other businesses competing for their services. In the current jobs market if an Applicant doesn’t receive a decision following a maximum of two interviews, they may find it strange and feel the business doesn’t want them and will turn their attention to other potential opportunities. To maximise the opportunity of making a successful hire we recommend two interviews at most, with a quick decision following the second interview. At Food Careers we have also seen that businesses who initiate a gap of longer than 1-week between first and second interview increase the likelihood of missing out on the candidate, as good people are receiving more than one job offer and are not on the market for long.


Be flexible and Expedite the Recruitment Process

Arranging a suitable time for a face-to-face interview can be difficult with competing pressures for your time, compounded by the fact that most Food Professionals will need to book a holiday in order to attend a face-to-face interview. This may entail giving an employer up to a weeks’ notice to get the time off for the interview, slowing down the recruitment process. Circumvent this by holding the First Stage Interview remotely via an Online Video Interview. This will give you the opportunity to sound out the Applicant, confirm core skills and get to understand their personal characteristics and whether their professional goals and motivations are aligned with that of the business.

Furthermore, when it comes to arranging a time for the Online Interview, be flexible, be prepared to go over and above what you would usually do, if necessary, to make it more convenient for the Applicant. Many Food Industry professionals work standard days Monday to Friday so are unlikely to be available during the day. Therefore, offer them the option of an Online Interview ‘out of hours’, they will thank you for it and it will speed up the process.


The Job Offer

You have found a great Applicant, you have expedited them through the Recruitment Process and are ready to make a Job Offer. When making an Offer of Employment be mindful that the Applicant’s existing Employer will probably fight to keep them.

When making a Job Offer we advise our Food & Drink customers to think about what the Applicant is currently earning, their reason for seeking a new role and what realistically their employer will do to keep them, which should be discussed at the Interview.

If through speaking with the Applicant it has been established that (for whatever reason) there is nothing the existing Employer can do to keep them, then the Job Offer may not need to be that much higher than their current salary (especially if you can offer other incentives like training/qualifications etc). However, if it has been established that the existing employer will fight hammer and tong to keep them, we advise offering the highest Salary the business can afford to pay from the outset.

Be totally honest with the Applicant, inform them that you are making your best and final offer as you really want them to join the business, explain the reasons why they have a great future within your business. At Food Careers we have seen that in the majority of cases, this approach has resulted in a Job Offer being accepted and the Applicant starting work with the new Employer.


Blended Working

Although it can be difficult within the Food & Drink sector, if at all possible, if your favoured Applicant is looking for an element of Work From Home, try and accommodate this request. At Food Careers we have seen that operating a hybrid, flexible working model, is very appealing to some Applicants and Job Offers have been turned down where Blended Working has not been offered. Even one-day a week Work From Home can make all the difference to a Job Offer being accepted or not.


Take Nothing for Granted

An Accepted Job Offer is not a guarantee that somebody will commence employment with you. A customer of Food Careers recently offered a job to three different candidates who all accepted but later pulled out before starting due to, either being counter-offered to stay with their existing employer, or they had their head turned by a higher salary offered by another business.

In the 20 years that Food Careers has been assisting Food & Drink businesses to recruit, we have not experienced a time where such a high percentage (90%) of Employees are being counter-offered to stay with their existing Employer, often being offered eye-watering Pay increases that can be difficult to turn down.

Approaches can be taken to combat counter-offers before they have been made, and Food Careers proactively explains to Applicants why accepting a counter-offer would be a bad idea. We recommend our Food & Drink customers also speak with their preferred Applicant (at the Interview) regarding: the possibility of a counter-offer, the reasons why they are looking for a new role (money is not usually the primary reason), why their existing Employer is unwilling or unable to give them what they want/need, how the new Company can give them what they want/need and reasons why accepting a counter-office is generally a bad idea. This leaves the Applicant in no doubt that the new Company can offer them exactly what they want so there is no reason to accept a counter-offer.

Statistically, Employees who accept a counter-offer usually leave within 12-months anyway, as Employers struggle to deliver on what they have knee-jerked promised to retain them, or the shine wears off the ‘bumper’ pay rise they received when the same issues (that prompted the Applicant look for a new job) are not resolved by the existing Employer.

When Job Offers are made and Accepted, and the new Employee is serving their notice period we recommend Food Companies stay in close contact with the individual. Due to recruitment difficulties many Employers have installed 3-month Notice Periods, even for non-management roles, and this longer notice period compounds the need to ‘stay close’, as its almost guaranteed the individual will be approached about further roles, and/or their employer will try and convince them to stay during the Notice Period.

Food and Drink businesses can ‘stay close’ to a new Employee during their notice period by: inviting them to site, inviting them to socials, calling them to give updates, giving them work or research to carry out, having face time, inviting them to accompany a colleague on a customer visit, or an invite to lunch with the people they will be working with. This ensures ‘buy in’ and commitment and makes it much harder for an Applicant to accept a counter-offer.