High-volume recruitment relies on speed, efficiency and rapid data processing. But many current applicant tracking systems are incapable of meeting this recruitment need in the UK– a problem exacerbated by the “Great Resignation,” Brexit and the pandemic.

Some 65% of companies are dissatisfied with current ATS tracking systems and, problematically, six in 10 have high-volume recruitment needs. David Bernard, the founder of behavioural assessment firm AssessFirst, believes that high volume recruitment requires a complete overhaul.

For recruiters, the challenges presented in the past 18 months are incomparable. Even for long-term recruitment professionals, the pandemic, the Great Resignation and the ongoing adjustments to Brexit make this period one of unmatched difficulty.

Perhaps the biggest challenges are found in high volume recruitment. Sectors that already relied on mass hiring have seen their needs increase as staff levels have fallen.

In retail, the trend that began with Brexit is continuing with COVID: fighting for candidates from a diminishing talent pool. Between June and August in the UK, there were over 1 million retail vacancies; the first time on record that numbers were in excess of a million. Despite the industry’s mass recruiting efforts, the problem persists.

But consider the typical environments in which high-volume recruitment occurs and this is unsurprising. The retail industry is in direct competition with hospitality for skilled staff. UK Hospitality estimated last summer that 84% of businesses had front-of-house vacancies.

And both hospitality and retail compete with the travel sector: Each one wants to hire experienced customer-facing, customer-serving shift-working employees.

As these sectors deploy new rounds of employment, the pool from which they recruit will become ever-shallower. 

The quick fix in years gone by has been better pay and incentives. But incentives and wage increases are not enough to find and retain employees when the problem is as complex as it is today.

If better incentivisation was the golden ticket out of this problem, the issue would be less concerning. However, many sectors, including retail, have more vacancies since attempting to incentivize positions.

Is an ATS Helping or Hindering Business Hiring?

Many businesses are hindered by their applicant tracking systems. Like any technology, there are good and bad examples of an ATS available to industry. Without being supported by the right tools, an ATS will simply reflect the market.

Even working optimally, in isolation, good ATS solutions will adequately screen “experienced” candidates with “hard” skills. Yet, in the current job market, the talent pool is diminished and those with experience have left (or are leaving) these sectors in vast numbers.

High-volume recruitment must be able to identify, at speed, skills that an ATS in isolation cannot. Now is the perfect time for recruiters (in-house or otherwise) to move away from the templates that worked for previous employment drives, replacing them with a search for the transferable skills in candidates that want to commit and develop.

Behavioural science and AI-led recruitment, often used in conjunction with an ATS for high volume hiring, can help them to achieve this.

Soft Skills

The fact is this: Recruiters in these sectors can no longer get what they have previously sought.

Retail, travel and hospitality must avoid a reliance on younger, part-time workers who have acquired “hard” skills. Instead, the solution is to process not tens or hundreds, but thousands of applications at rapid speeds, identifying crucial soft skills (emphasis on the interpersonal) in highly motivated individuals. These individuals, correctly identified, are more likely to stay with a company for the long term.

It can no longer be the norm to scour CVs for on-paper experience over skillset. Pret A Manger, for example, has targeted 3,000 staff to be hired by the end of 2022. They have invested in increased pay and benefits for their employees and in the past have stated how they emphasize soft skills and use behavioral analysis to personalise development plans.

How it Works

Customizable algorithms and behavioral assessments, processed at rapid speeds, deliver an ongoing identification method, highlighting employer-compatible motivations over experience.

Which is more valuable for an employer in a sector with staff shortages? A low number of experienced entry-level workers in high demand or a larger pool of candidates with behaviors that prove them to be more likely to stay with an organization and have the motivation to develop within it? 

Understanding that certain behaviors are more inclined to quickly acquire “hard” skills in service sectors is essential to easing recruitment volume. Prioritizing experience over other factors doesn’t make sense when a behavioral profile, viewed in the context of unique company culture, is a more accurate indicator of likely success.  

David Bernard

David Bernard is an entrepreneur who specialises in prediction applied to human behaviour. David co-founded AssessFirst only 30 days after obtaining his Master’s Diploma in Quantitative Psychology. He developed an innovative tool for assessing potential and behaviours in the workplace. In 2008 he fine-tuned the Meetic algorithm (match.com group) to match couples based on psychological and behavioural affinity. A year later, he created an online career counseling service that over 2,000,000 students will come to use. In 2012, he created the predictive algorithm that will allow AssessFirst to predict people’s ability to succeed and thrive in specific roles, with 85% accuracy. To date, almost 15 million people in over 40 countries have benefited from the predictions generated by the systems he developed.