From education to employment

Recruiting with essential skills – getting it right first time

For the first time since records began, demand for workers is surpassing supply.¹ With the average spend for recruiting a new employee reaching £3,000², HR teams and recruitment processes are under increasing pressure to attract the right people with the right skills, first time around.

The challenge 

Almost half of UK employers across a range of sizes and sectors have reported hard-to-fill vacancies this year. For small businesses in particular, this percentage grew to 78%³. This trend shows little sign of slowing down, as two-thirds of employers anticipate problems filling vacancies in the next six months. In parallel, where vacancies have been filled, ‘bad hires’ are a common mistake – 74% of employers say they’ve hired the wrong person for a position.⁴

As a result of this, many businesses experience significant losses in terms of time, money and productivity. Clearly this pattern is unsustainable, and employers need to find a way for more recruitment cycles to be successful first time. But how?

How Skills Builder can help

Skills Builder Partnership and its Universal Framework for essential skills (those highly transferable skills required for almost any job) gives the same sort of rigour to essential skills that you might see for technical skills or numeracy. It does this by breaking each of the 8 essential skills into measurable, learnable components. Its power lies in its universal applicability across sectors, roles, and ages. 

Embedding the Universal Framework into hiring practices helps employers to hire the right person for the right role, by providing a consistent, shared language to specify the essential skills required. For example, rather than asking broadly for ‘a good communicator’ within a job description, HR teams and hiring managers can use the Universal Framework to specify exactly what they expect from a candidate: perhaps they are looking for someone who can speak engagingly by using tone, expression or gesture; or they might require someone who can negotiate effectively by speaking adaptively by planning for different possible responses of listeners

Embedding a consistent language for essential skills across a recruitment process increases the accessibility of job descriptions and helps to reach a far wider talent pool than filtering by technical experience or education alone. By clearly defining which essential skills are required for a role, candidates are provided with the clarity they need to understand what the job entails and feel confident in applying. It also supports them to effectively prepare for the recruitment process, giving them a better chance of success.

Moreover, the Universal Framework provides a way to objectively identify and measure applicants’ essential skills during recruitment, resulting in consistent, fair and transparent hiring decisions. 

The evidence speaks for itself – employers who have already embedded the Universal Framework into their recruitment practice have seen a 23% improvement in recruiting candidates with the skills their business needs to succeed – in the words of one partner, “The Framework gave us a language to use and refer to, enabling us to recruit more appropriately and build a more skilled workforce.”⁵

‍You can find out more about the 120 employers who are already members of the Skills Builder Partnership and how the Employer Programme is supporting them to transform the impact of their outreach, recruitment and staff development at

¹ ONS Labour market overview, 2022

² SHRM Human Capital Benchmarking Report, 2016

³ FSB, Scaling up skills, 2022

⁴ CareerBuilder, 2017

⁵ Skills Builder Trailblazer Report, 2022

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