How to Overcome the Recruitment Challenges in Berkshire


  • The lay of the land
  • Location
  • Diversity
  • Timing
  • Understanding candidate motivation
  • New recruitment strategies


As a hiring manager, you might be staring down the barrel of a brand-new landscape for the recruitment sphere and wondering…

What on earth are we doing?”

We’ve always been an everchanging industry, but with the world two years post-covid, what challenges are hiring managers facing now?

In this guide, we’ll be diving into some important statistics (they won’t be boring, we promise) to give us a better picture of what the industry looks like right now.

The challenges that hiring managers are facing in their every day.

But, most excitingly, we’ll be providing some practical takeaways to help boost you up and over the hurdles. How best to roll with the COVID punches, get to know your location, and effectively champion diversity. The impact that timing has on your candidates, why understanding their motivation is the secret to success, and the new recruitment strategies taking the industry by storm!

Recruitment trials differ county to county, but we’ll be focusing primarily on the Berkshire area (as it’s our bread and butter).

If you find this blog helpful, why not keep it on hand? Download the e-guide here.


The lay of the land

So, let’s start with the obvious. The recruitment landscape has seen a significant shift in the last few years.

2022 has brought its own challenges, as recruiters are forced to navigate the rocky uncertainties caused by Brexit and the post-pandemic economy chaos.

Without an ability to predict the future, all eyes are on the labour market as we track the highs and lows resulting from COVID-19.

Workers’ priorities have changed, and their values have realigned as they find themselves redefining what their career paths look like.

Historically, many were content to accept standard benefit packages, uniformed approaches to management, and a lack of hands-on support. In 2022, employees are looking for passion – they want their employers to care. This 180 in expectations, led to a dramatic movement labelled as ‘The Great Resignation’ immediately preceding the pandemic.

The biggest struggle that hiring managers are now grappling with, stems from this shift.



Finding and retaining top talent

In 2019, unemployment rates were at an all-time low. The challenge was attracting quality candidates away from their current roles.

Unfortunately, this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. So, it’s time to polish up those shiny benefits packages!

While Berkshire has been affected less than the national average by COVID-19, the impact of the virus still created a huge amount of uncertainty for many businesses.

The decrease in demand meant that roles previously important to the local economy struggled to survive, such as administration and support services. In fact, 15% of all Thames Valley employees held roles in the sectors most affected by the shutdown.

So, what can you do?


Flexible options

Prior to the outbreak, 68% of workers had never worked from home.

However, in 2022, a large proportion (57%) say they want to be able to continue working from home after seeing the benefits it can bring.

Flexible working options mean more than just working from home and a move to flexible working should not be seen as a nuisance, therefore you should be offering flexible or hybrid options where possible to remain in the competition for talent.

“The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) released new figures showing that over two thirds (66%) of businesses surveyed were offering remote working to employees. The data, from a survey of over 900 businesses conducted in April 2021, also shows nearly three quarters of businesses expect to have at least one employee working remotely over the coming year, with the average expectation among those firms being just over half of their employees working remotely.”

If the last few years have shown us anything, it is that flexible working can bring benefits for both employer and employee. Ultimately, increased job satisfaction and productivity, and better mental health can save both parties money.




The topic of counteroffers is a tricky business.

Some resources will suggest the counteroffer as a last-ditch attempt to woo an employee back.

Let’s get something straight – we’re suggesting the opposite.

We don’t believe in encouraging employers to throw around counteroffers in a bid to convince workers to stay on. It’s a cheap and hollow gesture – too little too late!

If you want to retain your talent, you need to pay them what they’re worth whilst you have the chance. However, as a hiring manager, this is something that you need to be aware of when dealing with candidates.

A little pearl of wisdom straight from us at Grace, is to bring up the subject of counteroffers during your first interview with a candidate.

Use the first interview to understand your candidate’s motivations.

Are they money motivated? Focused on professional development? Prioritising company culture?

Fast forward your candidate through the hiring journey and take them to the offer stage, by asking-

“What would you do if you were counteroffered?”

Understanding your candidate’s incentives, will definitely help to weed out candidates who aren’t serious about moving.



We’re going to throw a few Berkshire specific facts at you:

  • The area contains significant concentrations of high-value industries.
  • It has above-average median resident and workplace wages and benefits from high levels of gross value added (GVA) generated per hour.

What does all of this mean?

Essentially, the area has a large amount of “high-value” industries, such as information and communication, and professional, scientific, and technical.

There are also significant “priority” sectors such as life science and utilities, which have the potential to act as foundations for further growth in the future.

Wages and benefit packages are above average in Berkshire to appropriately reflect the industries they’re employed in, and the skills needed. Keep this in mind when reviewing your own offers to candidates!



Typing up a job advert, posting it online and hoping for the best won’t cut it anymore. Championing diversity and inclusion is key to attracting a wide and diverse pool of talent.

You should be making every effort to focus on DE&I where you can.


Is it worth it?

recruiteeblog said it best:

  • Companies with diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues.
  • Diverse companies are 7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market segments.
  • 67% of job seekers say diversity is an important factor when considering a company.
  • 85% of CEOs say that having a diverse workforce improved their bottom lines.



Where to begin?

It’s wishful thinking to assume that you can successfully scrub every bit of bias from your communications. There’s a science to attracting certain groups of people and you won’t always get the nitty gritty right.

However, there are steps you can take to ensure that you’re doing your best.

Sorting out your job ads is a great place to start.

Did you know that up to 89% of female candidates deselect themselves from the recruitment process due to bullet points? (Source from Get Optimal)

It can be something as innocent as bullet points, which puts off your ideal candidate.

So, here are a few tips to remove bias from your job descriptions, courtesy of Grace and glassdoor.

  • Specifically avoid requirements like, ‘X years of experience’:

By including that requirement, you significantly limit your candidate pool. Remember, experience does not necessarily equate to capability, so don’t discourage applicants who are new to the industry.

  • Specifically avoid requirements like, ‘degree needed’:

Don’t limit yourself to only candidates with degrees. You don’t want to discriminate against applicants without degrees, as again, a degree does not necessarily equate to capability.

  • Use gender neutral titles in job descriptions:

Male-oriented titles can inadvertently prevent women from clicking on your job in a list of search results.

Avoid including words in your titles like “hacker,” “rockstar,” “superhero,” “guru,” and “ninja,” and use neutral, descriptive titles like “engineer,” “project manager,” or “developer.”

  • Check pronouns:

When describing the tasks of the ideal candidate, use “S/he” or “you.”

Example: “As Product Manager for XYZ, you will be responsible for setting the product vision and strategy.”

  • Limit the number of requirements:

Identify which requirements are “nice to have” versus “must have and eliminate the “nice-to-haves.”

Research shows that women are unlikely to apply for a position unless they meet 100% of the requirements, while men will apply if they meet 60% of the requirements.

  • Reconsider your major requirements:

Listing a specific major as a requirement can limit the number of applicants one gender or the other.

Because Glassdoor Economic Research found that the choice of college major can vary by gender, you may be limiting your candidate pool by unnecessarily requiring completion of a specific degree.



Women were some of those whose careers were worst affected by the pandemic, so being able to attract such a large proportion of workers like this should be a priority.

However, younger workers were not the only ones disproportionately affected as women and lower-skilled workers also felt the fallout of the pandemic’s effects on recruitment.

Wages are becoming increasingly divided, and the gender pay gap is more prevalent in the area than it has been before.

Promote inclusivity within your business, by making sure that any development or mentoring opportunities are highlighted within your job adverts. Women want to be reassured that their professional growth will be prioritised and will lean towards companies with female led initiatives.

Rethink your benefits packages too. Many working women with families will be attracted to flexible roles that can offer remote working options. If you already offer these, promote these benefits across your social channels and job adverts.



The Berkshire population is ageing quicker than the national average. The proportion of over 65-year-olds will increase by 75% over the two decades.

Older workers play a key role in our success. With our working lives being extended to 67 by 2028, recruitment efforts shouldn’t be solely focused on younger talent.

The older generation have a multitude of benefits to offer any business. Older workers bring life experience as well as knowledge from their many years of employment.

An age-diverse workforce can also prove useful in weighing up potential risks and benefits. As with all diversity, the more opinions you can get, the better informed you will be.

Finally, older workers can be a positive influence on younger or less experienced employees.

To fill in the gaps, we need to provide the older generation in Berkshire the chance to gain the skills and knowledge to grow with the future economy.


How do you attract a more mature audience?

  • Reach out to organisations where older workers might be looking for job opportunities.
  • Use word of mouth referrals and personal connections.
  • Avoid terms like “digital nerd,” “recent grads,” “university student,” “young and energetic” in job descriptions, as this might put-off prospective candidates.
  • Avoid biased questions during the interviewing process which may be viewed as age discrimination.

Despite a number of young people entering the job market within the next five years, the gap between education and employment continues to grow (thanks to the years lost to the pandemic).

However, Berkshire residents are nearly 50% more likely to possess a degree than the national average.

This is the third-highest area in the country, after London and Oxfordshire. This means our future talent will be some of the best-educated in the country because of the excellent education system and highly rated schools available to residents here.

Younger workers coming into the job market faced were faced with fewer opportunities and job freezes, leaving them vulnerable and unable to get a foot in the door.

The impact will influence the future for many years to come.


Race & Ethnicity

When it comes to recruiting racially or ethnically diverse candidates, we have a few sure-fire ways to broaden your pool.

Blind CVs

Recruiters are removing bias from how they screen candidates by removing any and all personal information on resumes.

Information like names, schools, date of birth, specific locations, and so on can all contribute to some degree in a biased assessment of the candidate.

Blind Interviews

Blind interviews use the same principle as blind resumes but apply this tactic to early conversations with the candidate.

You can do this by sending candidates text-based questions via text, or through your recruitment platform of choice. Candidates answer these questions anonymously and are asked to avoid providing personal information.


One way to ensure that you remove bias from your resume screening process entirely is to use artificial intelligence technology in your ATS.

Pre-program your platform to flag and filter for specific skills and experience and let the AI technology analyse your candidate resumes for those parameters.

Remember, use AI and tech to streamline your more manual processes but don’t lose your human element! Otherwise, you might miss opportunities by putting too much emphasis on a CV and not the person behind it.

Rethink your Priorities

An important part of diversity recruiting is to always question what you value most in candidates, why, and whether that’s based on your own bias.

Take the time to evaluate your screening process, and honestly ask yourself if you’re steering the results towards specific types of people. If you are, consider changing your testing methods.



One of the biggest barriers when hiring employees with disabilities is ignorance.

Here are some tips to get around the challenges of perception and get employees with disabilities onto your teams:

Write it into your recruitment policy

Writing disability employment into your recruitment policy is important to getting the rest of your team onside.

If it isn’t written into your hiring processes, often times people will agree to it in principle but ignore it when it comes to hiring decisions.

Implement anti-discrimination and disability inclusion training

Once you’ve compiled your recruitment policy, you should carry out anti-discrimination training, with a focus on disability for your staff. It’s the best way to ensure that you’re up to date on best practise and accommodations.

Equal pay and benefits

It’s the responsibility of HR to ensure that hiring managers keep figures fair if an offer is made to a disabled candidate.

Disability wages shouldn’t exist. Write it into your recruitment policy that all offers to disabled candidates must be signed off by an HR exec to ensure transparency.



With 81% of candidates expecting the hiring process to take 2 weeks at most, improving time-to-hire is a recruitment challenge increasing in importance.

Candidates are far more likely to drop off the application process if it is taking too long.

Waiting too long between a final interview and making a candidate an offer can give them the impression you are no longer as interested.

Candidates can also get snapped up by other businesses, which could end up costing you more by having to offer an increased salary to get them over the line.

A lengthy recruitment process also allows for candidates’ circumstances to change in their personal lives and with their current employer, which could be detrimental in your efforts to secure them.

Understandably there are always roadblocks and challenges, but you need to use your time as efficiently as possible and there are a couple of things you can do to speed up the process.



What can you do?

  • Be quick at responding to potential candidates and schedule interviews as soon as you receive suitable applications. Ensure that any agencies that you partner with follow suit with promptness. Prioritise communication between the two of you and candidates to make sure that everyone is up to date.
  • Keep in touch after the interview to make sure candidates are kept in the loop with the hiring process – this is great for decreasing drop off rates as well as improving the perception of your employer brand.
  • Map out the process before you start it. This way candidates know what to expect and when to expect it ahead of time.
  • Use of video for the first stage of the interview. COVID has given us a lot but one of the most interesting things has to be the rise in popularity of Zoom. Make things easier for your candidate and hop on a video call to start the process.

Flexibility is a big one. You need to be flexible with availability and timings, especially as candidates aren’t exactly short of options right now.


Understanding Candidate Motivation

Lockdown gave workers what they hadn’t been able to cherish before – time.

Time to think and revaluate their lives and where they want their career paths to head.

29% of workers plan to make changes to their career paths in the coming years. You should be prepared as highly competent candidates are now aware of the value of their skills and know their worth.

Candidates recognise that they have choices in the job market and won’t work for an organisation that offers lower than average salaries or benefits.


The top 4 priorities of workers right now

  • Work-life balance is key:

More than half of employees in the McKinsey & Company report said they want more flexible, hybrid virtual-working models, where employees are sometimes on-premises and sometimes working remotely.

This means that employees are looking for companies which promote a healthy degree of separation between their personal and professional lives. Workers are not interested in prioritising work to the detriment of their home lives.

  • Flexibility:

Within that hybrid model, most employees want to work from home for three days a week, McKinsey data showed. There is also a call for more flexible hours to be offered, considering employee preferences to their workdays.

And workers are now prepared to fight for what they believe they deserve. With priorities changing so drastically post COVID, being unemployed is no longer the worst thing that can happen to a person.

  • Clear values:

Having strong, understandable values and communicating them clearly was also important, with many participants saying a lack of clarity made them feel anxious.

This is why it’s so important to be clear about hours, expectations, and requirements from the off-set. Candidates need to have as much information as they can to be able to make informed decisions.

  • Mental health focus:

This one feels like a bit of a no-brainer at this point. After two years of fear, sadness, being stuck inside, and feeling burnt out- employees are looking for something more substantial from employers. They want to feel cared about.

Prioritise tangible policies to show that mental health is at the top of your list.

What are some examples of these tangible policies, you might ask?

  • Counselling and therapy sessions
  • Mental health / duvet days
  • Mindfulness & meditation sessions
  • Free access to sleep apps
  • Resilience training
  • Wellbeing webinars
  • Mental health first aiders at work
  • Employee Assistance Programmes
  • No Meeting or No Email days


How can you combat the skills gap while retaining your current workforce?

Within Berkshire, employers are more likely to report skills gaps within their organisations, but less likely to label the gaps as having major impacts on their business.

However, 95% of Berkshire employers who did report seeing skills gaps in their employee’s abilities have taken action to help overcome them where they can. Although, unfortunately, the number of staff receiving adequate training opportunities is still lower than the national average.

The development and growth of your team are key to the successful running of your business.

Plus, investing your time into upskilling your employees comes with a plethora of benefits for you as well.

Upskilling or retraining your workforce is a much smaller investment than hiring and training a new employee. As you develop your current workforce, you create a much more well-rounded, knowledgeable team, and increase their effectiveness in your business.

But it’s not just your bottom line that’s affected:

  • It can attract new talent – when employees feel supported with a sense of purpose they become stronger brand advocates, more likely to recommend your place of work to others
  • It improves retention – No one wants to work for a company that doesn’t care enough to invest in their future.
  • It can boost morale – Employees provided with development opportunities are much more satisfied in their roles.

Where do you start?

  • Make development opportunities available for everyone.

Many companies are now prioritising promoting internally before outsourcing candidates. If your company does this, you should advertise it!

The same goes for companies who hold frequent training sessions, put their employees on development courses, or create individual professional development plans to help workers achieve higher career goals.

  • Reward employees for upskilling.

Rewards and incentives come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s as simple as publicly praising their achievements, other times you might want to reward on a grander scale. This could include prizes of a monetary value, companywide excursions, or providing further professional development opportunities for the employee.

  • Put employees in charge of their own development plans.

This one comes with a disclaimer- you can’t leave them completely to it, a bit of guidance is always important. Employees don’t want to be stagnant in their jobs, everyone is striving for professional development. By providing your employee with the autonomy to take charge of their own future, you’re putting the control into their hands.

The impact on your workers should be a sense of calm and security, as they carve out the next steps on their ladder, for themselves.



New recruitment strategies

To overcome the challenges, you could be facing right now means you might need to get more creative with your recruitment techniques and create a stronger brand image.


Social Media

Your social media channels are the best weapon your business has in battling a talent drought.

It’s not a trend anymore – social media is now one of the most commonly used talent acquisition tactics. Focus on developing and communicating your culture via your social media channels.

Most people use at least one social media platform, LinkedIn alone has over 810 million users, so it makes sense to leverage your social channels to attract and hire new job candidates.

Consider what resonates with potential candidates, what their values are, and what they’re looking for in a working environment by improving your employer brand.

Here are a few examples of what you should be posting, in case you need a bit of inspiration:

  • Office move/refurb or a tour of your current office set up
  • Any team socials
  • Been nominated or won a business award
  • Any office pets? Shows you’re a flexible employer.
  • Celebrate your successes no matter how big or small
  • Charity initiatives – this is high on people’s agenda so show people
  • Someone’s birthday in the office? Show others how you celebrate these.
  • New starter? Show their set up or even better see if they can do a journal of their first few days.
  • Any off-site events/exhibitions
  • Great reviews online? Share it


Employer Brand



Branding isn’t just for businesses anymore – Your employer brand is vital to building awareness and attracting talent to your business.

A good employer brand can reduce turnover rates by 28%, and cut your costs-per-hire by half.

If that wasn’t enough, the better you are at managing your employer brand, the more likely you are to attract top talent. Additionally, a positive employer brand can also help you retain top talent.

How do you improve your employer brand?

Know your unique value proposition

What are your values and goals? Do you have a mission statement? By identifying what your business is at its core you can determine what kinds of candidates you’d like to help you achieve your goals.

Talk to your current workforce

What do they enjoy about their work and the culture?

If job seekers want to learn more about your business and what it’s like to work for you, they’re going to want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. You could conduct interviews or testimonials to share on your social media channels and website.

Nail your onboarding process

A good, positive brand image starts with a solid onboarding process.

Get employees engaged and excited about their new role and their colleagues, from the beginning. By providing your employees with the instructions and necessary tools they need to excel, you can ensure a smooth transition which in turn will lead to lower turnover rates and a more productive team overall.



The struggles and challenges that hiring managers in Berkshire right now might feel vast.

I mean, this has been a pretty lengthy e-guide!

But hopefully, as an industry, we can navigate the hurdles together. Everything we have included here has come from either ourselves at Grace, or others within the sector.

If you found this blog helpful, why not keep it on hand? Download the e-guide here.