10 Recruitment Challenges and How to Overcome Them

by Mike Tannian on May 10, 2022

Recruiting got you down? Let’s discuss the top 10 recruitment challenges in the government and education sector — and how to overcome them.

Article Highlights

No one ever said recruiting is easy. From refining a job description to assembling a recruitment team to sourcing, interviewing, and onboarding candidates, there’s no shortage of ways for the process to break down. 

And the recruiting challenges in 2022 are certainly far different than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid “The Great Resignation,” organizations need to cultivate sustainable recruiting strategies so they can compete against other employers to secure talented, competitive candidates. 

So, how can you minimize barriers in the recruitment process? Let’s find out.

In this post, we’ll cover the 10 most common recruiting bottlenecks that organizations face today. But don’t worry: we won’t leave you hanging. We’ll also discuss the actions you can take to overcome these challenges and secure top talent for your organization.

10 Common Recruiting Bottlenecks

If you’re struggling to hire and retain qualified candidates in today’s labor market, you’re not alone. In 2020, local and state governments faced record quit rates of 11.7%. The Great Resignation only continues to grow in impact as time wears on with the ongoing pandemic. 

Your organization is thus competing with many other agencies to fill vacancies with the best and brightest of job seekers. Let’s talk about how to overcome each recruitment challenge your organization might face as you battle for talented employees (hint: an applicant tracking system (ATS) can help!). 

1. Unclear expectations 

After sifting through dozens of applications, you find three potential candidates who have just the right educational background and skills for an option position. Or so you thought. 

The hiring manager doesn’t agree. She’s looking for an employee who has different experiences than the candidates you’ve secured. And — this is just a hunch — it seems like she’s even envisioning a completely different job description than what’s currently being advertised. 

You can’t find the right job candidate if you don’t know what the hiring manager needs. As such, you need to share a conversation early on to establish clear expectations. Take the time to come to a mutual understanding around things like: 

  • Minimum education and skill sets for the role
  • The open position’s key roles and responsibilities
  • Existing budget for the position’s salary and benefits
  • The number of candidates you want to interview
  • The hiring process timeline 

After sharing a conversation with the hiring manager, an applicant tracking system such as NEOGOV’s Insight can take your efforts a step further. Using this software, you can screen candidates for the key competencies, educational backgrounds, and skills that the hiring manager requested. 

2. Ineffective candidate sourcing 

It happens to the best of us: rather than having an ongoing sourcing strategy, we try to find talent for our organization only when we’re in an active recruitment cycle. While tempting, this approach does more harm than good in the long run. It all but ensures your hiring process runs longer than it needs to. 

Always work to cultivate talent pools for key positions in your organization. That way, you have a solid foundation from which to build upon your recruitment process. This might look like creating an employee referral program, which can increase your pool of candidates ten-fold, or attending networking events to meet professionals in your field.  

An applicant tracking system can also help you source candidates and build a talent pipeline. Using software like Insight, you can review applications from candidates you’ve interviewed in the past (but didn’t ultimately hire) who may be a good fit for this role. Then, you can reach out and see if those candidates are interested in interviewing for the open position. 

3. Lengthy application process 

You want to cover your bases by getting as much information as possible from each job applicant. This can help ensure that you’re choosing the best candidates to interview. 

But be wary of asking too much from an applicant. If your application process is too lengthy (50 questions or more), you increase the chance people won’t complete their applications — including those qualified candidates you seek. 

Fortunately, there’s a straightforward way to overcome this recruitment challenge: ask fewer questions! NEOGOV’s Insight enables organizations to ask supplemental questions at the end of each application, so you can get all the information you need from a job candidate without overwhelming the applicant.  

You can also shorten your application process by using GovernmentJobs.com. This user-friendly interface makes it easy for candidates to apply for jobs and creates an excellent candidate experience. After applying, candidate information is saved, so individuals can apply to future job openings without spending valuable time re-entering resume information. 

4. Too few applicants 

Another common recruitment challenge is receiving too few applications. If you don’t have a large enough talent pool, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the right candidate for your organization. 

On average, the public sector needs 25 applicants to find the right person for the job. So, what can you do to get these 25 applications? 

We’ve already established that one reason you might not be receiving enough applications is because your application process is too long. In addition to shortening your application, you might want to consider: 

  • Whether you need to expand where you’re posting job descriptions and recruitment ads
  • Whether your application is mobile-friendly
  • Whether you’re including salary range and other benefits on recruitment ads 

An applicant tracking system can be helpful when it comes to seeing how your job ads are performing across platforms/job boards. NEOGOV’s Insight identifies how many views you’ve gotten on recruitment ads, allowing you to identify where you’ve had the most success and where you might consider reposting a recruitment ad. 

5. Lack of a recruitment marketing strategy 

In some job markets, it may be enough to simply post a recruitment ad to a job board and call it a day, knowing you’ll receive enough qualified applicants to interview. 

But anyone who’s experienced recruiting challenges in 2022 knows that’s not the case today. In a job seeker’s market, you need to have an overarching and ongoing recruitment marketing strategy to secure high-quality candidates. 

And a key component of every successful recruitment strategy is facilitating employer branding to attract the best candidates and build your talent pool. This includes targeting passive talent by regularly conveying your organizational culture across social media networks, as well as hosting community events and job fairs to meet potential candidates.

You can also demonstrate your employer brand by using an applicant tracking system that’s integrated with a user-friendly job application process (such as GovernmentJobs.com). A modern job board and application process creates a great candidate experience and demonstrates that your organization adapts to changing needs.

6. Homogeneous applicant pool 

If diverse candidates aren’t applying to your organization (whether you’re trying to increase racial, gender, age, or other candidate diversity), you’re coming face to face with yet another common recruitment challenge: a homogenous talent pool. 

To improve diversity throughout your hiring process, there are a few key questions you should ask. The answers to these questions can help your organization assess where there is room for improvement. 

  • Is your organization diverse? (41% of Black job seekers won’t apply to work for an organization that isn’t racially diverse) 
  • Does your organization have an organizational culture that celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion? 
  • Are your DEI efforts a part of your employer branding strategy? 
  • Where are you advertising job openings? 

An applicant tracking system overcomes barriers in the recruitment process by compiling important demographic information. This data can help you understand where (and why) your organization may be failing to hire diverse talent. 

For example, after looking at the data, you might find that diverse candidates are disproportionately disqualified from future interviews, even after passing initial candidate screening. At this point, you can consider ways to address bias in recruitment, such as by implementing implicit bias and racial equity training for hiring managers. 

7. Slow time-to-hire 

A slow time-to-hire is one of the most significant recruiting challenges in 2022 for public sector organizations. In today’s tight job market, high-quality candidates won’t wait around for you to conduct five rounds of interviews and assessments. Qualified candidates recognize they’re a hot commodity and can anticipate taking their pick from multiple job offers.

And since public organizations have a much longer time-to-fill than the private sector (119 days for the public sector and 36 days for the private sector), your organization may be at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with companies in other industries.

An applicant tracking system is the best way to speed up your hiring process and overcome this recruitment challenge. Software like Insight scores and ranks applicants so that you can quickly choose which individuals you’d like to invite to an interview. 

Then, suitable applicants can self-schedule their interviews, meaning you can spend less time coordinating schedules and more time getting to know the potential candidate in an interview. 

Applicant tracking systems can also help you analyze your recruitment timeline and identify the parts of your process that take the most time. Knowledge is power, and this knowledge enables you to start making your hiring process more efficient. 

8. Putting hiring on the back burner

As human resources professionals, you know how important it is to be fully present throughout a recruitment process. But sometimes managers put hiring on the backburner as they deal with competing priorities.

It’s your job to continually hold yourself and your hiring manager accountable throughout the entire hiring process. Otherwise, qualified applicants will leave for other jobs because your process is simply too slow. 

Establish expectations about your hiring timeline early on. Then, ensure that hiring managers and others on the hiring team are actively completing tasks assigned to them.  

Applicant tracking systems enable both human resources professionals and hiring managers to quickly check on the status of a hiring process. Your recruitment team can use this software to see if they have any upcoming action items and take any required action to move the process along. 

9. Poor communication with candidates 

Providing a positive candidate experience is vital to securing talent for your organization. That’s because 83% of candidates indicate that a poor candidate experience during the interview process can cause them to change their minds about working for the company. 

Keep candidates in the loop throughout every stage of the process to ensure they know what to expect. Candidates want to know things like:

  • How many interviews they’ll be asked to complete
  • Whether there are any assessments as part of the interview process 
  • When they can expect to hear back from you 
  • Whether you decided to hire someone else

Some applicant tracking systems, such as Insight, enable individuals to check in on their application status. Additionally, an ATS can allow candidates to self-schedule interviews and assessments at times that work for them, reducing the need for back-and-forth communications and giving job applicants a sense of control.

10. No consensus on who to hire 

You’ve made it to the end of your recruitment process! But now you face one of the hardest recruitment challenges of all: a disagreement over who you should hire. 

If you have too many people trying to make a decision, you’re going to slow down the process and possibly lose out on the best candidate for the job. Avoid involving too many people in the hiring process so that you can be as efficient as possible when it comes to gaining consensus. 

Applicant tracking systems can help your hiring team review the key roles and responsibilities established at the beginning of the process and reflect upon candidate interviews. In doing so, you ensure that each member of the hiring team is using the same data to make their decision. 

The last thing you want is for the hiring manager to be displeased with the new hire! Ultimately, the final decision should fall to the hiring manager or the person who will supervise this new employee.

Final Thoughts

If you want to secure the best candidates for your organization, you need to overcome common recruiting challenges in 2022. Whether that means improving your time to hire, decreasing your application length, or increasing the number of applications you receive, an applicant tracking system can help. 

Of course, there are many more ways you can improve your recruiting process. Learn how to automate your recruitment process (and much more!) on our blog.

Mike Tannian

Mike Tannian is the Head of Content Marketing at NEOGOV. With a talented team of writers by his side, he aims to produce content that delivers real value.