The great, the good and the English are duking it out on the football fields of Brazil. For England, this is the dramatic culmination of a route that saw them traipse around the backwaters and foothills of the footballing landscape – taking in Moldova, San Marino and Montenegro. But this is where differences, legends and careers are made – this is the conclusion of a long, bewildering journey.

Would that this sense of dramatic climax were the same for the recruitment process.

Current research suggests this is anything but the case. And this seems counter-intuitive. Findings from earlier this month from KPMG/Markit indicate that talented candidates are becoming harder and harder to find. 40% of their survey of recruitment consultancies felt there were fewer available candidates than even a month previously, with just 8% taking the opposite view.

Given such a scarcity of talent, shouldn’t employers be welcoming candidates into their application process with open, efficient and user-friendly arms? Sadly, this would not appear to be the case. More research out this week from MIT Sloan and Capgemini suggests that 60% of senior managers polled felt their organisation’s approach to the candidate process was not keeping pace with technological advances and was indicative of a ‘lack of urgency’ and that the absence of pace was likely to be detrimental and uncompetitive in talent acquisition.

‘The world’s most creative job interview’

This was one of the drivers behind our work with Virgin Money to deliver ‘the world’s most creative job interview’. Tasked with extending such an iconic employer brand into the candidate experience space, we partnered with Audeliss to create an experiential series of encounters which selected applicants to go through. Candidates who were successful at ‘video selfie’ stage, found themselves exposed to a number of different rooms and environments designed to understand how they would cope with the rigours of a unique and hugely challenging role with Virgin Money. The experience was both unique and gruelling and candidates went from one immersive and relevant stage to another, testing key competencies such as resilience, imagination, creativity and persuasion.

This has been a fascinating project for TMP and illustrates a number of key points. Perhaps most telling is the need for the application process not only to be relevant but also to capture the imagination. Research from last year from TMP hinted at the importance of continuing the employer branding journey from attraction, through to the candidate experience, onboarding and into employee communications and not simply to assume that employer branding starts and finishes purely and simply with recruitment communications. If 82% of employers felt their employer brand was aligned to their attraction materials, this figure fell to 38% for candidate communications, 23% for the assessment centre and just 11% for applicant feedback.

If an employer brand is a synthesis of aspiration and authenticity, then this balance is not always being achieved – old research from the Corporate Leadership Council (36% of new joiners felt the recruiting process accurately reflected the working environment they entered) appears not to have been acted upon.

How has economic growth affected the UK recruitment market?

In just 12 months the UK labour market has turned on its head. The economy was reported to have grown a hefty 0.9% in the three months to the end of May and the BDO Employment Index, which predicts the hiring intentions of businesses over the next three months, jumped to 107.7 in May from 105.6 in April, the second highest reading the index has ever recorded.

And one more indication that hiring processes might be turning away great candidates? 15% of the UK labour force is self-employed, twice the percentage of 20 years ago. Estimates suggest this will touch 20% by 2022.

At a time when talent is increasingly scarce, are employers reaching out to them with an approach that is engaging, relevant, candidate-friendly (particularly passive candidate) and consistent with the employer branding messages that’s brought applicants to this part of the process?

If not, they might find themselves approaching a highly competitive process with similar confidence and expectation levels of England facing yet another penalty shoot out.

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Written by Neil Harrison, head of employer branding & insight, TMP Worldwide

Heading up TMP’s employer branding practice, I have lead major branding projects for organisations such as Unilever, Santander, Telefonica, Pizza Express, HSBC, the MoD, Bank of America and EON. Employer branding is now established as a core offering within TMP and an integral part of our corporate vision. I am also responsible for the delivery of both best practice research-based discovery within employer branding but also new industry initiatives – this includes a major presentation of some bespoke employer branding research earlier this year.

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