We’re sponsoring the ‘Best Public Sector or Not-for-profit Team’ at this year’s In-house Recruitment Awards.

As such, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of this year’s finalists and learn more about their recruitment processes.

This time it’s the turn of Sarah France-Gorton, Principal Adviser at North Yorkshire County Council. Sarah leads the specialist Resourcing Solutions team at the Council. In a similar vein to my conversation with Rob Walker at Mencap, her team’s passion and creativity was palpable during our interview.

The challenges: A rural location and limited talent pool

One of North Yorkshire County Council’s key challenges is the size of the local talent pool. The rate of unemployment is low compared to the national average and there is an aging population as many people retire to the area. This not only reduces the pool of labour, but places a greater demand on the Council’s care and support services.

With over 2,000 hires across the Council last year, the Resourcing Solutions team provide dedicated support and guidance for volume, hard-to-fill, specialist and senior roles. The challenge for Sarah and her colleagues is to deliver creative solutions that attract sought-after talent whilst adhering to a limited budget.

Where marketing, events and social media combine

The team’s approach is to focus on marketing and attraction rather than traditional advertising. When a Hiring Manager is struggling to fill a vacancy, they turn to the Resourcing Solutions team for specialist support. Sometimes that can be as simple as reviewing the job advert to make it more compelling or accessible.

At other times, Sarah and her colleagues will recommend using niche job boards, directly sourcing candidates or running a social media campaign. As a rule, the North Yorkshire County Council team don’t rely on paid-for advertising, nor recruitment agencies.

What happens if more is needed to fill a particular role? Sarah explained to me: ‘We take a look at who the ideal candidate is and where they might be. In doing this, we can develop a bespoke marketing plan for that role, whether by creating a microsite, holding an event, or producing a range of creative, engaging imagery to use across a variety of media channels.’

One example that captured my imagination was an initiative Sarah referred to as ‘Take Out the Sofa Days’. This was created to help attract candidates to health and social care roles. It’s a challenging sector to recruit for, partly due to negative public perceptions.

The team took a sofa out to small market towns and encouraged people to sit down, ask questions and talk about the realities of a career in health and social care.  It’s the personal approach that can make the difference between someone applying for a role rather than just thinking about it with good intention.

If a vacancy still struggles to attract suitable candidates, the Resourcing Solutions team review the application experience to understand if there are any gaps in the process or particular areas where candidates drop out.

Closing thoughts

The key for the Council is to take stock of candidate feedback and to find creative ways to engage with talent at a human level, beyond traditional job descriptions and advertising. It’s about making it personal.

When I asked Sarah what advice she would give to other public sector organisations, she left me with this:

‘Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. Make it easier, more accessible, more engaging for them. Consider everything from your candidate’s perspective.’

We wish Sarah and her colleagues at North Yorkshire County Council the best of luck at the In-house Recruitment Awards later this month.

Find out more

Discover the secrets of a fellow finalist, national charity Mencap

Find out 4 smart ways to source candidates on Twitter

Looking for recruitment software with a human touch…?

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.