How to attract job market returnees

by in Talent Attraction

WaveTrackR January data has shown a huge uplift in applications as 2023 begins. As more people enter the jobs market from economic inactivity to meet rising financial pressures, recruiters are met with an opportunity to help people back into work. Wave‘s Emily Buckley looks at how to attract these candidates to your jobs and the barriers that need lifting in order to do so.

The past 2 years has been characterised by falling candidate numbers and rising jobs, creating a perfect storm for recruiters. Fulfilling demand has remained perhaps the greatest challenge for recruiters in the post-pandemic era.

However, data from the Wave  January 2023 Recruitment Trends Report has revealed an incredible 57% uplift in applications month on month. The number of applications received in the first month of the year was 32% higher than the 2022 monthly average and more applications were received in January 2023 than in any month in 2022. Meanwhile, jobs were lower than in any month in 2022 bar April. So, higher candidates, lower jobs – the pendulum appears to be starting to shift. What recruiters need to be asking themselves is where have these candidates appeared from and how can they attract them?

A gradually closing gap between candidates and jobs

WaveTrackR data showed a general decline in job numbers in the latter half of 2022 compared to the first half of the year and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recorded six consecutive quarterly falls in vacancies. Although vacancies remain at historically high levels, the trajectory is clear – jobs are decreasing, a reflection of ongoing uncertainty holding back recruitment as economic pressures continue. Meanwhile, applications have had a huge boost following a lull in the summer of 2022. The gaping gap between the number of available jobs and the number of available candidates in the market might be beginning to narrow.

Why are application numbers increasing?

Application numbers are likely increasing for the same reason that job numbers are falling – economic pressures. The rising cost of living is prompting many to look for new jobs with better compensation packages and is forcing some to take on second jobs. Others are re-entering the job market having been amongst the growing numbers of economically inactive. The ONS reported a decrease in the economic inactivity rate towards the end of 2022 driven by those aged 50 to 64 – largely those returning to the job market from retirement to meet increased living costs.

A report published by insurer Royal London in September 2022 found that 5.2 million UK workers had taken on a second job, with a further 10 million considering doing so if costs continue to rise. This has perhaps contributed to a huge increase in average application per job numbers in Retail & Wholesale (nearly double December’s figures) as roles in the industry can often involve shift and evening work and so make good second jobs. Such jobs also offer a way back into the market from retirement for retirees who need a little more money to help meet rising costs.

How to attract job market returnees

Returnees to the job market or those entering it for the first time represent untapped talent that could be incredibly valuable to employers. Not only are they an additional pool of talented candidates, they can help make businesses more diverse. It will, in some instances, involve a change in attitude to older workers and those with chronic ill health or disabilities – there remains a stigma around these groups that is preventing many from contributing to the economy. Yet these individuals could be highly able, skilled workers if certain barriers were lifted.

Pay transparency

Salary is an obvious attraction tool in a downturn when people are experiencing increased financial pressures. This doesn’t necessarily mean a high salary (though it does mean a fair salary) but it does mean being transparent about the salary that is on offer. Several studies have found that job adverts receive more applications and a reduction in time to hire when they disclose financial remuneration. Talent platform Liberty Hive found in recent data that jobs that display a salary range receive around 67% more applications than those that don’t. Data from Reed revealed a 27% increase in the number of application for jobs that disclosed a salary and LinkedIn’s Talent Trends in the United Kingdom Report has found that compensation is the top three priorities for jobseekers. Given there will be many either returning to work or moving jobs to help with the cost of living, pay transparency on job adverts is more important than ever.

Flexible working options

The overwhelming reason for many people to fall out of the jobs market and become economically inactive is the lack of a flexible approach that might allow them to continue to work. A greater degree of flexibility could tempt early retirees back to the workforce and help make work possible for some of the growing numbers of long-term sick, as well as those with caring responsibilities and students. A lack of rigidity on when and where work is done, where possible, could make work more accessible for so many. With flexible working signposted on a job advert, you could gain that all-important competitive advantage. Given flexibility is the number one candidate priority according to LinkedIn, offering flexible working in some form (job sharing, flexitime, or working compressed, annualised or staggered hours) will undoubtedly help attract a greater number of qualified candidates.

Healthcare benefits

Flag any healthcare benefits the job offers. For those coming out of retirement and the long-term sick, healthcare is a huge bonus. In fact, given increased NHS waiting list times, private healthcare benefits have risen in value for all candidates. Offering healthcare benefits also demonstrates a supportive, caring culture, something that has become hugely important to so many workers.

Opportunities for upskilling

Those returning to the job market after an extended break might feel worried that they don’t have updated skills, especially in tech, which could prevent them from applying. A desire for upskilling to ensure career mobility isn’t limited to job market returnees either – LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Trends Report revealed that upskilling (specifically opportunities to learn new, highly desired skills) was one of the top four priorities for candidates.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) recently announced a rather gloomy prediction, that although they believe the UK will narrowly avoid a ‘technical recession’ in 2023, British people will suffer a ‘permanent’ reduction in living standards. In other words, even if the UK doesn’t officially fall into a recession, it will feel like one for millions of households. This has already forced some to re-join the labour market and that will likely increase. The NIESR is also forecasting the participation rate for the working age population to return to its pre-COVID level over the course of the next few years. Though the reasons for an injection of candidates into the market may be stark, this does represent a huge opportunity for recruiters. All it takes is for employers to put right measures in place and for recruiters to highlight these in their job ads – measures that will benefit the majority of employees and attract a huge range of candidates. It’s a win-win, surely?   

This article was originally published on on the 10th of February 2023