How to Attract Talent in Oxford’s Competitive Employment Market

As a recruiter, networker, and business owner, I am consistently working with other businesses, large or small, who all seem to share the same difficulties when recruiting talented employees. Although the severity of these difficulties depends on the location, seniority, and sector of the vacancy, the challenge itself always seems to remain.

‘The Digital Age’ has given candidates increasing access to potential employment opportunities. They are able to compare vacancies and employers, using sites like to read real employee reviews on various businesses. This makes it even more difficult for employers to stand out, especially in Oxford’s competitive employment market. It is no longer enough to offer a strong salary and good pension, candidates demand flexibility, recognised training, and a really clear (almost guaranteed) career path as a reward for their hard work.

My biggest advice is to focus on retention before focusing on recruitment. In my experience, once a staff member has handed in their notice, even if you are able to negotiate, it’s often already too late. Retention is often achieved in a variety of ways, a client of ours openly admits he pays every staff member £2k more than they would achieve with the closest competitor. Another offers substantial shares to senior staff members, and another offers flexible working with up to 20 performance-based pay rises per year (ranging from £50 – £400 each).

Most recruitment consultancies, ours included, will be able to give you an indication of the salary and benefits structure that would be appropriate for any given role. Additionally, we advise our clients to go one step further and offer a clearly defined career path with the view of retaining employment.

As a small business owner myself, I appreciate that we aren’t all able to compete and at some point, most businesses will need to recruit to replace or indeed to grow, which is a challenge we are ‘enjoying’ here at Thompson & Terry. All of our team receive a strong basic salary and commission structure, combined with pre-defined pay rises and a guaranteed promotion for every 3 quarterly targets achieved. This has been instrumental in how we have attracted and retained talent, our employees are certain on their goals, and have constant goals to work towards. Additionally, each of our team (me included) enjoy regular coaching sessions to ensure that our personal goals are aligned to the goals of the business.

Another area to consider is the method of sourcing candidates. It’s no longer enough to post an advert and wait for applications. Whilst we do advertise most of our roles on mainstream and specialist sites, we find more success in taking a head-hunting approach.

If you have the time and expertise, I would recommend advertising vacancies digitally, via LinkedIn, your website, and a targeted Facebook campaign, focusing very much on the benefits discussed earlier in this article. I would also recommend talking to a specialist agency, who will be able to directly approach and interview candidates for you. I would ensure that you negotiate terms (not just the fee) so you (and the agency) split the risk if the candidate doesn’t work out and only pay if their search is successful.

Our personal approach is to only send candidates to clients that we would personally employ ourselves. As a result, 78% of the first CVs we submit are successful, and 93% remain employed after 9 months. We are always happy to offer free advice on how best to recruit for your business, so please get in touch if that would be useful.