Skip to content

How to make the most of a competitive candidate market

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

The number of candidates looking for work has increased in recent years which is great news for employers, but as with all stats, there is a caveat – and it’s a biggie.

The best candidates – and we’re talking about the ones with the most sought-after skills and personal attributes – still have the pick of the roles, usually with more than one job opportunity to choose from.

The picture varies significantly depending on which region of the UK, industry sector, profession or role we’re talking about, but here in Oxfordshire, competition for talented people is as strong as ever and employers are having to work hard to stand out and secure the most desirable applicants.

If you are looking for permanent or temporary staff at any level in our specialist areas of PA and Administration, Marketing, HR and Finance, you’ll want to make sure you’ve taken steps to streamline every aspect of the recruitment process and are in a position to provide job applicants with an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Checklist to help you secure the best candidates

It’s essential to get the basics right. The following tips will help streamline your hiring process and significantly improve your chances of success:

Work quickly

  • Make sure all hiring managers and decision-makers required to recruit for the role, are available for first and/or second stage interviews to streamline the process and ideally, reduce the number of interviews
  • Conduct first stage interviews online, using video
  • Be decisive and shortlist candidates on the same day, if possible
  • Move on to second stage interviews (if you need them), promptly
    • It’s worth pencilling in provisional second interview dates upfront at the start of the process, with both candidates and decision-makers, to avoid delays
  • Standardise interview questions to ensure all candidates receive the same experience and allow for more efficient assessments and speedier decisions

Make it easy for candidates

  • Eliminate lengthy application forms and tests from your process

Highlight your workplace culture

  • Identify your key selling points and come up with a narrative to describe what it is like to work in your business or organisation. Highlight your values and what you stand for as an employer, your culture and approach to CSR
  • Make sure that everyone involved internally in the hiring process has been briefed so you can all talk enthusiastically about the benefits and features of working for your organisation, and in a compelling and consistent way

Be clear about the role

  • Talk knowledgeably and passionately about the role and team it relates to; be prepared to answer any questions
  • Ideally involve the person the role reports to or any key team members who will act as ambassadors

Offer competitive pay, hybrid working and relevant benefits

  • Very few candidates are interested in purely office-based roles; most are looking for hybrid or flexible working
  • Be prepared to be flexible and open to various options, such as five days condensed into four
  • Benchmark salaries and make sure that what you’re offering is competitive for the role, industry sector and city or region you’re operating in
  • Review your benefits package to make sure it is as exciting and relevant as it can be to the candidates you would ideally like to target

At Allen Associates, we pride ourselves on the strength of our ‘live’ candidate database. Our consultants interview candidates daily so employers can rest assured that every candidate we register has been personally assessed and we have a good insight into what they are looking for from their next role and what they have to offer.

If you’d like any advice or help with your next hire, please get in touch with us at

About the author

Kate Allen, is one of the founding directors of Allen Associates, and is as hands-on today as she was when she set up the business in 1998. Find out more about Kate here.