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How to recruit outside London

London has the highest density of charities in the UK and other not for profit organisations, and the headquarters for most national and international organisations are based there.  However, according to the UK Voluntary Sector Workforce Almanac, 81% of third sector employees live outside of the capital, with the highest rates of growth in employment in the North East, South West and Yorkshire & Humberside.

In recent years there has been a growing trend within the third sector towards the decentralisation of charity operations.  It makes sense to situate fundraising, communications and administration in the same location as service delivery, encouraging local people to support their own communities.

This has created a huge demand for skilled charity staff outside of London, which has prompted TPP to open a second office in the North of England. If you’re a charity based outside of the capital, or one with regional branches, how can you find local staff of the calibre you need?

The benefits of recruiting locally

Probably the main reason charities choose to recruit locally is to ensure that their employees come from the same background as their beneficiaries and can relate to them and the challenges they face.  Providing employment in the local area is also very important to regionally-based not for profits, and often helps support their charitable objectives.

Additional benefits include possible savings in travel or relocation expenses, overheads and even wages.  Plus, employees who live where they work can be more loyal, reducing your turnover and boosting productivity.

And the downside…

Obviously, the main downside to recruiting locally is that there is usually a much smaller pool of qualified candidates to choose from, making it a struggle not to settle for a less than ideal employee.  Some candidates may also actually prefer to work in London, and will treat your role as a stopgap until they can make the move.

Recruiting regionally, especially if you need to recruit for multiple locations, is also much more time consuming that recruiting in London, as the smaller pool of candidates mean you need to devote more resources towards finding them.  It can also work out more expensive, as you may need to advertise on both local job boards, as well as specialist sector boards.

So what methods can you use to find the candidates you need, while avoiding those who are not really committed to working locally?

Use local job boards / papers

Although it might be considered passé by some, local media is still the first point of call for the majority of the UK population when job hunting; according to the Newspaper Society, 72% of people would search using their local newspaper or website.  With over 1,100 local newspapers in the UK, this can be a great way to target jobseekers specifically looking for local jobs, and cut down on irrelevant applications.  Most print ads will also be run on the local newspaper’s website, so you won’t miss out on online jobseekers.

However, before you start running a classified ad campaign, make sure you check out the readership figures and application ratios for your local publications, as some publications are much more popular than others and represent better value for money.  If you are searching for candidates with a very specific skill set, local media may not be the right solution and a sector-specific national job board may work better.

Find local communities

Charity staff in regional areas often form groups to share ideas and information and to network with peers based in the same location.  Tapping into these networks can give you opportunities to advertise jobs and hunt for potential candidates.

Many third sector associations have special interest groups for regional charity staff, such as the Institute of Fundraising, Small Charities Coalition and CharityComms.  There are also membership groups specifically for charities based in a certain region, like Involve Yorkshire & Humber or the South East Charity Forum.

You can also search for regional groups of charity specialists on LinkedIn – these usually allow job advertising – or for online forums, such as those at Fundraising.co.uk.  Spend some time using a search engine to find organisations and forums in your target area.

Ask for referrals

When asked how they had found their current job by the Newspaper Society, the most common method was word of mouth.  Referrals have definite advantages as a method of recruitment, as existing employees are likely to know people in similar roles and locations to them and jobseekers are likely to place more value on a role recommended to them personally.

The easiest way of generating referrals is simply to keep your staff informed of any upcoming job vacancies, and ask them to distribute via word of mouth, email and social networks.  Offering a referral fee will help incentivise your employees.

Sell the benefits

When advertising a role in a regional area, make sure you emphasise the benefits of working in that particular location, especially if you are likely to be competing with jobs based in London.

One of the aspects of working that people in the UK dislike most is commuting, and just over a quarter (26%) would most like to work somewhere closer to where they live.  Capitalise on this by stressing the benefits of a significantly shorter (and cheaper) commute in your job description.  Working in regional areas can also give employees a more pleasant working environment and the benefits of living in a less urban environment.  Offering the possibility of a better work-life balance can be an extremely attractive draw, particularly for candidates with families.

Jobseekers often worry that taking a job outside of London will give them fewer opportunities for career progression, but this is a concern that can often be tackled in the job description.  Working in a smaller office can give them opportunities to take on more responsibility at an earlier stage, and having fewer processes and stakeholders involved in decisions means they can make an impact more quickly.  A smaller structure means that employees usually work more closely with senior management, and this can give them a better insight into the organisation’s processes which can stand them in good stead later on in their career.

Finally, if you are still having difficulties finding the perfect candidate, offering flexible working opportunities can make your role more competitive with those based in the capital.  The results of TPP’s Flexible Working Survey shows that flexible working options are highly valued by employees, but there is a real gap in what they want and what most third sector employers offer.  Capitalise on this by offering part time work, home working or flexible hours and your vacancy will be much more attractive.

Screen candidates thoroughly

Once your job advertisement has generated a suitable pool of applicants, you’ll need to screen them carefully, to make sure they are going to be committed employees.  The scarcity of job opportunities in the current economic climate means that some jobseekers will apply for regionally-based roles, even if they really want to work in London.  These employees are likely to be less loyal and leave as soon as a vacancy comes up in their preferred location.

Obviously, check where your potential employee currently lives and what their commute will be like.  Discuss any concerns with them at the first interview stage, to make sure they have a realistic idea of how long their journey will take.  As in any job interview, check that the candidate has good reasons for wanting to work in your organisation, and find out their plans for their future career.  Probe their reasons for leaving their previous employers, particularly if they show evidence of ‘job-hopping’.  Evidence of volunteering in the local community could be a good indication that the candidate is rooted in that region and likely to be committed to helping the local population.

If you find a particular candidate who seems ideal for the role, but you are in doubt about their commitment, consider offering the role to them on a temporary or contract basis.  This will give both of you time to assess how things work out.

Use a specialist

However many of these suggestions you follow, recruiting is always going to be harder outside the capital, and if your organisation has multiple locations with a regular turnover of staff it can be extremely difficult to build a pipeline of potential candidates for all of these areas.

Using a specialist recruiter can save you a great deal of time and hassle, and can ultimately save you money as advertising costs are included in the fee, which is only payable when a candidate is successfully placed.  TPP use a variety of methods to advertise our roles, including our own website and social media, specialist and national job boards, plus local advertising when required.  We also interview candidates prior to shortlisting, so you’ll only see CVs for people who can do the role.  All this is included in our fee.

Established in 1996, TPP Recruitment has a wealth of experience in recruiting specialist charity employees.  Our second office has now made it easier for us to meet and interview both clients (to establish their requirements and assess their organisation’s culture and work environment) and candidates (all TPP candidates are interviewed in depth by us prior to shortlisting).  We already have a network of candidates actively looking for locally-based jobs, and can make the recruitment process much faster and smoother for you.

We cover all types of charity jobs, from fundraisers, social workers, healthcare professionals to communications and admin staff, in all locations across the UK.  We recruit on a permanent, contract or temporary basis for roles at all levels from Assistant to Director.

You can find out more about our regional recruitment services or our office locations on our website.  If you have a regional role coming up, please contact Ellen Drummond, our Regional Recruitment Manager on 0191 229 9595 or ellen.drummond@tpp.co.uk.