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21st Feb, 2024

Debbie Hill
Debbie Hill
Job Title
Area Manager - Further Education

Over the past few years, further education colleges have found themselves deploying talent acquisition strategies in the midst of a candidate-led market – where potential employees wield considerable influence.

As the demand for skilled professionals continues to rise – on the back of record numbers of student enrolment – the importance for colleges to make a good first impression cannot be overstated.

As acknowledged in our further education salary guide, at the heart of our sector’s challenges, colleges are struggling to attract and retain skilled educators – putting many in the sector in an unsustainable position.

The allure of higher salaries in other industries, including higher and mainstream education, still diverts talented professionals away from the rewarding role of teaching in further education, necessitating the urgency for change.

Because of these challenges, it’s even more important that college leaders do what they can to promote an appealing work environment and be responsive throughout the recruitment process.

The power of CV feedback 

In a market where top talent has the luxury of choice, both in and out of the sector, colleges must recognise the value of offering CV feedback to candidates in both the short- and long term.

Empowering candidates

In the spirit of creating a collaborative and transparent environment, providing detailed and constructive CV feedback is instrumental in allowing candidates to develop and grow during their job search. Beyond mere recruitment formalities, timely feedback communicates that your college or institution values personal and professional growth, regardless of the interview or job application outcome.

Candidates who receive constructive criticism are more likely to view the college as an organisation invested in their development, which may increase the likelihood of them wanting to work there. This is the case for both successful and unsuccessful candidates.

Enhancing the recruitment process

A robust feedback strategy has been known to contribute significantly to the overall enhancement of the recruitment process. By offering insights into candidates' strengths and areas for improvement, colleges can identify individuals who are receptive to feedback and actively engaged in their professional development.

This proactive approach continues to help build a workforce that is not only qualified, but also dedicated to the continuous improvement of educational practices – at a time when professionals are needed to drive forward educational attainment and close the skills gap.

Building a positive employer brand

We’ve seen recently that word-of-mouth recommendations have become a powerful tool in the job market. While this is good news for institutions at the top of their game, it can be tough for others to break negative preconception. With a realistic view of the institution’s shortcomings and a strategy to resolve them, it is possible to reverse opinion over time. This could require organisational change or a different recruitment approach.

A reputation for providing thoughtful and constructive feedback at interview stage establishes colleges as employers that genuinely care about their candidates. With attraction and retention top of the agenda, this positive image contributes to a strong employer brand, leaving would-be employees in no doubt as to what to expect from working there.

The importance of first impressions 

The FE sector is growing and evolving rapidly, and employers will need to do more to attract and retain the best talent. The initial impressions formed during the recruitment process can significantly impact an individual's decision to join an organisation or pursue alternative opportunities.

Brand image matters

A college's brand image plays a pivotal role in shaping perceptions and forming opinions. Prospective employees often research potential employers, and a strong presence that showcases the college’s work, values and achievements – both via online channels and within influential FE circles – can make a substantial difference.

A well-crafted website, engaging social media profiles, friendly and informative first contact points, and good reviews contribute to a favourable impression, which in turn can lead to attracting high-calibre candidates.

Effective communication and company culture

Clear and transparent communication is fundamental.

Candidates appreciate a seamless recruitment process that provides timely updates and clarifications. A lack of communication may deter top talent, leaving them questioning the college's commitment to employee experience and looking elsewhere for work. A forward-looking organisational culture is crucial, as jobseekers tend to prioritise colleges that demonstrate a commitment to staff wellbeing and development.

FE colleges should showcase their values, mission, and commitment to diversity and inclusion, alongside the employee engagement and support. A welcoming and inclusive environment appeals to a diverse pool of candidates, creating a sense of belonging that can help improve standards and attract students outside of the local area, who want to study at the best college for them.

Showcasing facilities and resources at interview

Physical or virtual tours that showcase the college grounds, facilities, technology, and resources can significantly enhance a candidate's perception of a college. It conveys a commitment to providing an optimal learning and working environment, appealing to those seeking a progressive educational institution.

It’s important to remember that the interview process itself contributes to the first impression. This may be the first physical contact point for candidates, so thoughtfully designed interviews that assess skills, culture fit, and aspirations provide a satisfying candidate experience.

As much as candidates want to impress the college, hiring managers also have the important task of promoting all aspects of the workplace to appeal to professionals. A respectful and well organised interview process reflects well on the college's professionalism.

Making a good first impression is not solely about attracting talent but also about retaining it. An employee who joins a college with a positive initial experience is more likely to be engaged, committed, and contribute to the institution's success.

By strategically managing both brand and reputation, institutions can position themselves as an employer of choice even in the most difficult of times. In doing so, this not only helps to attract the best talent, but lays the foundation for a successful and sustainable future in further education.

To find a talented professional for your further education establishment, or to find your ideal role, contact one of our specialist consultants.