Recruitment is a sales process

As is always the case I find OneTeamGov events restorative and good for the soul. You meet great people, you learn, you get inspired and the energy in the room is fantastic. The #BureaucracyHack was totally up to standard. There were 4 pre agreed topics prepared and space for one topic brought forward on the day for process improvement. The topics ranged from hacking politics to business cases. The aim to understand the problems in the process and to hack some solutions in a day that you can apply to improve the process. You could choose a topic and go and work with colleagues who also were interested in that subject. You could move around but I made the decision at the start to stick with the topic I chose. I chose the recruitment process and boy was it an eye opener.

Unfortunately due to the time of my travel I had to leave before the end and the show and tells but I cannot wait to catch up with the outputs.

So a bit about what we did. We worked through the process in 3 groups as 3 different users and brought the outputs together as a group. We then proceeded to vote for our most important pain points and took the 4 most popular forward (to be fair there were 50+ pain points identified in less than an hour and all could have merited exploring). We then split the group again by preference for each of the 4 and started to work up ideas as individuals and then bringing them together as a group.

As a group we were looking at the offer to (hopefully!) onboarding stage and how we could remove waste and improve the time taken to do this process. There is much waste in this process and therefore many opportunities to improve. I will allow others to update with the outcomes (as I am writing this at London City Airport) whilst others are showing and telling. I want to talk about what I was thinking about and this was mainly from the perspective of an applicant as I do not have the deep knowledge of the Government Processes that others in the group have.

I have been reading a lot of Dan Pinks books like To Sell is Human so its probably no surprise I was thinking about the process and considering the selling and buying behaviour in the process and the implications of this to the users. I wonder how many of the users are considering this as they travel through a bureaucratic painfully long process of Central Government recruitment. There is a point in the process where there is a fundamental paradigm shift where the buyer becomes the seller at a critical point (the point of offer).

The recruiting manager (or organisation) who has been the buyer, fundamentally needs to change mindset and become the seller. The applicant who has been a seller to this point suddenly gets the power of being a buyer. This part of the process really drags on so selling the benefits (i.e. please wait for us to complete our lengthy, complex, opaque and frustrating processes) to the buyer is vital and it is debateable whether this is currently done or if it is how well it is done. The buyer has the power, the buyer can easily get frustrated by the process and chose to buy another product (a different role) maybe from another Public Sector supplier with faster delivery, maybe they get offered an upgrade by their existing supplier(promotion/more money) or maybe they buy from the private sector as they o next day delivery (they offer straight away).

When this goes on for 3-6 months clearly there is a very high attrition rate and many buyers go elsewhere hence the hack!

The high level recruitment sales process

Sales process

Looking from a recruiting managers perspective here (as they have the need that drives the process and they are involved in all stages) they have to keep changing role from seller, to buyer and then back to seller.

This is a ‘simple’ three phase process!

  • Internal Approval – where we get the (massively numerous) sign offs to get permission to recruit. As a recruiting manager I need to sell the need to the approvers so that I can get permission to recruit
  • Recruitment – this is the process of job specifications, application forms, advertising, shortlisting, interviewing and deciding. As a recruiting manager I need to attract the right suppliers to bid so that we can buy the right products for our organisation
  • Offer to On-boarding – we make a provisional offer, we need to do lengthy processes to turn that into a formal offer, we need to negotiate costs, terms/conditions and we need to make sure we can keep the candidate interested so that they take the job and start. As a recruiting manager I need to keep selling to the buyer so that they will buy into our organisation and come to work for us


The reality of that simple 3 phase process is a massive process the many tasks, approvals, hand offs, rules, workarounds, waiting time and so much more. We only captured a fairly high perspective view of the process from a couple of personas/types of recruitment but the map looked like this.

Service Design Approach

Service design

It was really useful to me to see the Service Design approach in action and how it compares with our own process modelling workshops. I was pleased to see how both can work together and are complimentary to delivering better outcomes.

We learnt a lot of insights about the process. There were so many issues identified all of which would have an impact on improving the process and therefore improving the outcomes of successfully recruiting the best candidates for the organisations. It was interesting to see how many of the challenges did not relate to things not allowed in the current process but actually things you could do but unless you had the right people who knew how to navigate the process correctly you would never be aware of these workarounds. So many issues in the recruitment process were ones I remember workshops about 15 years ago.

From memory a selection of the challenges in broadly chronological order would be

  • Issues with the need for business cases for any recruitment
  • Huge amounts of sign offs required to proceed
  • Difficulty constructing specialist job descriptions around the civil service standards
  • Perceived inability to advertise at market rates within inflexible pay scales
  • Poor UX (for all users) around the Civil Service Jobs site
  • Flakey performance on notifications from the site
  • Lengthy application and no useful cv uploads
  • Delays in the process and the applicants not being kept notified
  • Skills need to apply for jobs ‘in the civil service way’ to even get through shortlisting. Skills it would be very unlikely anyone outside the civil service would have.
  • Jobs being advertised even though preferred candidates identified
  • Many applicants are going through the process many times and applying for many jobs to get a promotion
  • Complex guidance for applicants
  • Difficulty getting rooms and trained panel members for interviews leading to more delays
  • Unable to identify trained staff (no available register)
  • Wrong tests being applied for interviews (e.g. presentation for a developer)
  • Sometimes all tests being applied rather than the right ones
  • Perception that government recruitment service would prefer managers left the offer process and communication with successful candidates to them
  • Lack of communication/engagement with successful candidates during lengthy post interview check process (3-6 months)
  • Delays in security checking process
  • Candidate turns down offer after delays
  • Further delays with late negotiations on terms and salary
  • General feeling that good candidates did not apply, did not get shortlisted, did not get through interview or were turning down offers due to difficulty, complexity and opaqueness of process

There were so many others but that gives you a flavour!

Process Improvement Ideas

Improvement ideas

Our team looked at what we could do to improve the offer process onwards. We came up with ideas and the first one we prioritised was to map the activities that go on in that process as we had only got to that point in the existing map.

I was particularly interested in this point as this really was a very costly point in the process for it to fail. So much activity had gone on to date to get to making an offer. A failure at this point costs the most and also has the biggest impact on the organisation potentially even meaning starting all over again. As the outsider of the group I very much had the applicant needs in mind to look at this, meaning I could use my (no) knowledge of the internal processes as an advantage!

There clearly was fundamental parts of this process that could be improved and our hacks we were discussing (and as already mentioned I left before the show and tells) would definitely improve the process and reduce the attrition rate of losing candidates. Again from memory and I meant to finish this yesterday so apologies for anything I miss.

  • The manager needs to be heavily involved in the communication and engagement with the candidates through the process. As an applicant who has been offered a job I want to speak to the person taking me on to get more information not the people doing the technical checking processes.
  • Everyone (applicant, manager, GRS and any other agency involved) needs access to a realtime dashboard to see where we are in the process and who needs to do what.
  • We could use some gamification (badges etc) to speed up delivery of supporting documents i.e. you have a gold badge as you have supplied the ID proof faster than the average time etc
  • More information could be sought earlier in the process (maybe at interview) to allow the fast tracking of the checking immediately on offer
  • Notifications and reminders being sent and copied/available to all stakeholders (obviously not showing the detail but the task)
  • Consider taking applicants at risk (if that is the correct term), if BPSS is received start the candidates on the proviso they must gain clearance. Others are already doing this.
  • Ensure the right security clearance is applied to roles at the outset to minimise delays
  • Even if a candidate cannot start have some form of pre induction meetings/lunches to keep them engaged
  • Automate and reduce delays in production of letters etc
  • Consider email instead of letters or access via web to documents to further speed up the process

So many things that could improve that process. A couple may exist in the new version of Civil Service Jobs about to be released. Overall I was impressed with the insight and experience we gained from the people in the room.

Really interested to see what can happen next with this and I would love to be involved.



It was overall a fantastic day and I met loads of great people who shared immense knowledge and experience of the processes. We could easily have spent days on this process and its improvement opportunities.

As a supplier we were there to understand more about the challenges of process improvement and to understand more about government process challenges. This was a massive bonus to us to learn and hopefully to contribute to the outputs.

We were able to see the service design process in action and also to see where our software and approach adds value as part of the delivery cycle. Our software helps you to take those service designs and to turn them into maps and then fully costed models of processes. Have a look at our overview of how our modeling software can help you map and model your processes with our software with our blog here and our video of a cup of tea process here.

Overall I think we could have done with some more data. Our software helps to build real process models with real times and costs which helps really identify where your process is having the most impact on your success. I think it would have been interesting to know things like how long does it take on average, how many applicants per role, how many shortlisted, how many recruitments end in an offer, how many people fail security checks by level, how many offers turn into hires vs not and much more data. It would have helped to really quantify the risks and the benefits of change. This would have helped us to really drill into the most important areas better than just using voting of the individuals.

We have struggled to get traction within London Local and Central Government agencies despite huge success elsewhere in big cities like Edinburgh and Cardiff. The day gave me the chance to discuss with many practitioners the challenges with improvements they experience and to validate our hypothesis that our software that helps you map and model your processes and quantify the benefits of change will also work in London Local Government agencies (we were sure of this already) and Central Government (we believed this to be the case). On this it was a success everyone stated that they could identify things to change but they struggled with demonstrating benefits.

Well I can definitely tell you all struggle no more, we have the solution to help you and a by product of that is that it also makes capturing and understanding processes significantly faster and more engaging. Get in touch and take the free trial we will show you how you too can benefit like many other organisations in the UK and Europe.

London is hard to access as a GovTech SME


As an SME focussing on the Public Sector and focussing on delivering excellent productivity software, we have had some great success outside of London and Central Government. Local Government within London have been slow to adopt our software and Central Government we have struggled with the twin issues of changing people and Brexit eating resources. London has so many GovTech companies on its doorstep and there is no need to go outside of London.

This is difficult for an SME outside of London trying to launch a new product that nobody knows a solution exists in this space. Nobody is raising Digital Marketplace opportunities for a solution as they are unaware there is a solution. Attending events in London requires massive marketing budgets and costs more in expenses. Even attending the #BureaucracyHack yesterday in London a free event effectively cost us £1500 (loss of earnings and expenses). Marketing events regularly are looking for £5k+ to come and speak. For a company selling probably £8-10k of services as a reseller even of software that delivers massive ROI and benefits for organisations it is prohibitively priced to be able to engage.

We are working with almost 10% of Local Authorities in the UK but as of yet not 1 London Local Authority or Central Government agency is a user. 3 years ago there were no UK Public Sector users. We know our products will help as will our start up approach. We believe in growing your organisational capability to deliver in a sustainable way not to do it for you and in the process reduce your need to bring in external costly expert consultants.

All of this has been a very long introduction to say that we are so glad to have not finished the blog yesterday and to have seen the initiative from our friend and  the legendary Theo Blackwell today on Thoughts on supporting GovTech solutions across London’s Public Sector please do fill in the supplier or borough forms and help contribute to this fantastic initiative.

Will we go to another Hack? Hell yes

Do we believe our software will help Local and Central Government in (and outside) of London absolutely (and any other organisations improving processes)?

Do we think we can help all organisations be better at identifying the benefits of change? Yes

Should you give it the free trial and get the free training to use the trial? Yes

Did we enjoy the day and think it was beneficial? Yes Yes Yes 

Contact us for more information