How to Solve the High-Volume Recruitment Crisis


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

65% of companies are dissatisfied with current ATS tracking systems, and, problematically, 6 in 10 companies 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 of all 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 one 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 wanting to hire experienced customer-facing, customer-serving, shift-working employees.

As these sectors – and more – 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 but many sectors – including retail – have more vacancies since attempting to incentivise 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 ATS available to industry. Without being supported by the right tools, an ATS will simply reflect the market – and the market is barren for so many currently.

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 in the long term.

It can no longer be the norm to scour CVs for on-paper experience over skillset. Pret A Manger, an AssessFirst client, have 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 previously stated how they place emphasis on soft skills and use behavioural analysis to personalise development plans.


How it works

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

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

Understanding that certain behaviours are more inclined to quickly acquire ‘hard’ skills in service sectors is essential to easing recruitment volume. Prioritising experience over other factors doesn’t makes sense when a behavioural profile, viewed in the context of unique company culture – is a more accurate indicator of likely success. This is how AssessFirst’s behavioural analysis can yield results that using an ATS and basic interview screening in isolation cannot.