UK businesses are facing over £2bn a year in losses because of severe skill shortages.

The Open University’s recent business barometer suggests that increased salaries and an additional month and 24 days on the recruitment process are driving up costs.

With unemployment at its lowest in forty years and future access to skilled migrants uncertain, businesses are turning towards specialist search.

Recruitment agencies have an opportunity to demonstrate their value by supplying talent that businesses simply can’t, but how?

Utilise your contract network

Your contractors and clients are your eyes and ears on the ground and the most lucrative source of market intelligence. Specialists tend to know other specialists – whether they’ve worked on previous projects together or frequent the same networks. If they’re not interested in the role themselves they may know a referral that they could suggest.

An introduction is far more effective than a cold approach.

The same avenue is open through your clients and their previous candidates or hires. It shows the value in keeping an ongoing relationship with your network long after you’ve placed them. Recruiters need to evolve the way they view talent to an ongoing relationship. They need to see them as customers, something to continuously engage with past the point of conversion.

Look in the right places

You may have exhausted your efforts in the usual places, or perhaps you’ve been looking in the wrong pool entirely. Profile what the ideal candidate might look like and then map where the most likely places to engage with them are. From your own network take similar candidates and investigate how they would like recruiters to engage with them.

Here are a handful of methods that you could extend to the hundreds of social networks and digital portfolio sites out there.


A professional community for coders and developers and not a place to directly poach talent. That’s not to say that you can’t source talent on here and engage with them elsewhere. All code uploaded needs to be categorised under a programming language, so it’s easy to find developers with the specific skill set you need.

You then have the option of filtering by users and can use these tools to find their contact details.


It’s been said that you become what you read. A candidate with a shortlist of book reviews that reflect the skills that you’re chasing is worth pursuing. I imagine there’s an app to automate this – but essentially it’s the same investigation as with Github. See who’s rated a popular book that meets the skills you’re looking for, then see what else they’ve reviewed and rated.


Designed as a community for angel investors to discover tech companies seeking VC investment. Companies that do secure funding will signal your next hiring opportunity. You can safely assume that the companies earmarked for VC investment also have the best talent working for them.

Once you’ve identified the potential candidates you need to ensure you’re engaging with them in the right way. Selling an exciting opportunity to a developer is likely to be met with a wall of silence and being blacklisted. To engage with talent out there you need to drop the sales talk and speak their language. See our tips of what to avoid when selling to developers.

A contract gold mine

Make sure you have the infrastructure to accommodate the increased demand in contract hires as perm placements become harder to fill.

Chief Executive, Kevin Green of REC, suggests that the skills gap will intensify before it improves:

“This looks like a tipping point for the jobs market. Faced with chronic skills shortages, some employers are giving up on trying to fill permanent vacancies.”

Do you have the contract funding and management in place to react flexibly to demand?

Raise your profile

Make it in their interest to connect with you on social media by adding value to the talent out there.

This means attending conferences or hosting your own, publishing thought-leadership, networking and collaborating with influencers in your sector.

Look outside your immediate sector

In the STEM sectors there simply isn’t enough talent for demand which means that agencies need to shop outside of their immediate sector. This means building an international pipeline, looking to similar sectors with transferable skill sets, and selling on training and development. By 2025 there is demand for 1.8m engineers and qualified technicians according to research from Engineering UK. With the limited talent available it is estimated to create a 20,000 shortfall of workers each year. The number of suitably available candidates has fallen to its lowest in 16 months according to a recent Report on Jobs from REC.

This will fuel fears that uncertain access to skilled migrants post Brexit could make things worse.

Agencies that build their pipelines deep into pools of specialist talent will prove more valuable than ever.