Slow public sector misses out on top recruits

The quickest companies in the private sector can fill a vacancy in two weeks, while an average public sector organisation takes more than two months to do so, according to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication, IRS Employment Review.

The survey of more than 120 employers found that it took on average 7.6 weeks to recruit, from the moment a vacancy was notified to the point that the successful candidate accepted the job. But performance varied considerably between one organisation and another.

Among manufacturers, the average was 6.3 weeks and the longest wait was 12 weeks. In private sector service companies, the average was 7.5 weeks, while the longest wait was 13 weeks.

But in the public sector, even the fastest organisations took at least four weeks, while the average was 9.5 weeks. One public sector organisation admitted that it typically took 24 weeks to recruit – nearly half a year.

The research suggests a number of reasons for this: HR processes in the public sector tend to be more formal, making it more difficult to get authorisation to recruit more public sector posts require Criminal Records Bureau checks and it generally takes longer to recruit specialist staff.

The survey also found that the greater the role taken by HR in filling a vacancy, the less time it took.

…with authorisation the main blockage

The most time-consuming part of recruiting a new employee is the interview process, the IRS survey shows.

Overall, more than four out of 10 employers said the most drawn-out part of the process was either arranging (21%) or conducting (20%) interviews – with a further 15% getting bogged down in shortlisting.

But there were exceptionally clear differences between sectors. A massive 32% of public sector employers said the real delays came when they tried to get vacancies authorised, compared to just 9% of private sector service firms and 4% of manufacturers.

And one in five public sector employers (20%) said the most time-consuming aspect was checking references – double the number of private sector companies identifying this as a problem.

The study suggests this can be explained by differences in the way the sectors recruit: public sector organisations typically have a set day when all interviews take place, while in the private sector it is common to spread interviews over a number of days.

…while HR’s role is limited to early stages of process

While HR makes most of the decisions and carries out most of the work involved in the recruitment side of the process of filling a job – from agreeing the job ad to taking up references and sending out contracts – the balance shifts to line managers for selection.

In more than half the organisations surveyed by IRS, line managers agree the selection criteria, draw up the shortlist, put questions to the candidates and deal with any issues the candidates raise. In the majority of cases (85%), line managers also make the final decision.

The research concludes that this reinforces the importance of training line managers in recruitment and selection.



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