June 20, 2013, by NUBS Postgraduate Careers

War for talent? How to win as a candidate

By Beth Cooper

Despite the global economic downturn, the war on talent appears to be increasing in importance since the phrase was first coined by McKinsey in 1997. The latest CIPD resourcing report, suggests the battle is intensifying with 62% percent of recruiters stating it was an ongoing issue, a figure that has tripled since 2009. When you are looking for your next move and not getting past the first hurdle, it may seem a distant concept but there are a variety of tactics you can adopt to help you come out as a winner.


People are less mobile in the employment market as job security increases in importance. By having made the decision to follow postgraduate study, you have overcome this mobility issue as you are ready to join a new employer without needing to be tempted to leave an existing one. Companies may also be facing geographic challenges in that they may have a surplus of candidates in once place but unable to attract for others. By being flexible on location, often you can find the job you love within your target organisation. Limiting your geography, limits your opportunities.


Recruitment budgets are being increasingly tightened, with employers sourcing candidates ‘in-house’ rather than incurring the costs of using agencies. This places increased pressure on the recruiter with tight targets in which they are to fill their open positions. This means that as a job-seeker you have to place yourself in the shoes of the recruiter and realise that you have to make their job as easy as possible. This means making sure your key skills and expertise are easy to find on LinkedIn. Your cover letter is tailored to each role you apply and potentially shifting emphasis on your CV too. By using people within your network who work for your target organisation and already know you, you can take advantage of what are often generous referral schemes to gain a potential foot in the door. The vast majority of companies would rather fill their roles through personal recommendation because it minimises the risk of the unknown (as well as costs).

Employer Alumni Networks

If you left on good terms, make sure you are registered on your former employer’s alumni network. It enables you to connect with former colleagues who may have moved on since and may let you know about openings you might not have considered. External companies may post roles when they particularly want to target people who have worked for your former firm and equally, your old company may wish to embrace your enhanced skills you have developed over the time since you have left. Again, it is easier for both sides to understand what they know.


Please don’t think of LinkedIn as a way to connect with strangers as it is rare they are open to such approaches. Instead it is a fantastic resource to find out what is going on at your target companies. You can see the profile of people who are doing the roles that appeal and therefore identify what the organisation is looking for. Through joining groups and following companies you can see what is being discussed and help build your reputation as a thought leader and influencer. Using the alumni tool allows  you to see where former students of your establishment are now working, helping to build a picture of where your qualification might be valued.

Drive and Passion

An area that seems so simple but where so many let themselves down. You may have the perfect skill-set but if you are not demonstrating the values and behaviours of the organisation and making it clear why they could not possibly manage without you, you are making it hard for them to say yes. Companies want to recruit people who are going to stay with them and deliver what is expected. Any hint that you are not committed and you’re out of the game. Building relationships is essential so that even if you are unsuccessful this time, they view you as the one that got away and they want to get back at the right time, rather than a lucky escape.






Posted in Experienced recruitmentPostgraduate