Shot of a row of empty chairs against a grey background

Recruiting staff in the international development sector in 2023

My first permanent job was with PLAN International in 1995. Like everyone across the NGO and charity sector back then, we knew that the place to look for a job was The Guardian.

There were no online jobs boards in those days, instead a massive Saturday pull-out section of jobs for socially minded organisations to attract those with the right ethos to work for them. This is also where I went for my future jobs over the following five years.

Of course, it’s vastly different now – with a range of job boards and recruitment consultancies. I founded The Right Ethos in 2007 with a focus on campaigns, communications and external affairs role.

However, we are seeing the toughest time to recruit in our 16-year history. We have seen strong potential candidates advance their careers – but we have also seen some less suitable candidates being taken on out of desperation by employers to fill vacant roles.

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Why is the recruitment market so tough at the moment?

There are three main reasons we are seeing a tougher recruiting environment:

  1. Recession – This leads to more people leaving the labour market, particularly older workers. They may have a favourable financial situation and are planning on retiring or decreasing working hours. This can create a skills shortage at higher levels, which has a knock-on effect across the organisation.
  2. Brexit – The increased difficulty in being able to work in the UK has forced many Europeans to seek work elsewhere. Brexit has also added to the workload of recruiters due to increased right-to-work checks and proof of identity requirements.
  3. Lockdown – remote working was already on its way, but the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. Candidates are now tending to seek jobs that are more flexible and this does decrease the pool of candidates for certain roles that were not there previously.

What can be done?

Employers need to work hard. HR staff are going to have to be more proactive and lead with a more flexible approach. They are going to need to be more entrepreneurial and result-minded and less process focussed, “tick-box” individuals.

Some things you can try are:

  • Change to having an agile recruitment process. Remove as many barriers to candidates as you can reasonably do. Do you really need an application form? Will a CV and a prescribed supporting statement do the job? Consider interviewing strong candidates as soon as you can. Maybe online the same week – at least to identify the best before a full interview. Don’t keep candidates waiting they will go elsewhere.
  • Change your flexible working arrangements. Without compromising on productivity, be as flexible on location as possible. Remote working can mean opening up roles to a much wider talent pool.
  • Support people with disabilities or long-term health conditions. Get advice from occupational health professionals and make the adjustments to make your organisation more accessible.
  • Consider part-time staff or job shares. We are missing a lot of talent from people who aren’t able to work full-time, such as parents returning to work who still have significant childcare responsibilities. Job sharing isn’t straightforward, but it can help you fill crucial positions, as well as help people back to work.
  • Show the salary. Research shows that including a salary can generate up to 13 times more applicants. People don’t want to waste their time if the salary is not right for them.

It’s going to be a tough time to recruit in 2023 – don’t compromise on your standards, just put in the extra work to make the best appointments.

And of course, The Right Ethos is here to help.