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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous centre for botanical
and mycological knowledge and, o
ver the past 250 years, it has made
innumerable contributions to increasing the understanding of plants and fungi.

The aim of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is for us to live in a world where
plants and fungi are understood, valued and conserved.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - 3 screen image

High volume recruitment and an international reputation

“Painful, time-consuming and paper-based…” 

Hannah Fraser, Recruitment Advisor at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was describing the organisation’s recruitment processes before it implemented Unit4 Recruitment.

“It was thorough though!” she added.

Before Unit4 Recruitment arrived, the team at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) had to send shortlisting packages to panel members and used to create paper folders for each candidate.

With 10,000 applications received annually, something had to change.

Implementing Unit4 Recruitment software: The results

RBG Kew implemented Unit4 Recruitment in 2014. Since then, the HR & Recruitment team has been able to automate almost every element of their recruitment administration, which has made hiring processes significantly quicker. In fact, RBG Kew was able to rethink its team structure and make a tangible cost-saving of around £16,000/annum due to the reduced administrative work.

As an organisation with international prestige, many of RBG Kew’s vacancies are over-subscribed:

“Often, people apply for roles to simply to get a foot in the door at RBG Kew. We find administrator positions in particular attract huge volumes of candidates who may not have the necessary experience. To help manage this, we use the ‘Killer Questions’ feature.”
– Hannah Fraser

Killer Questions is a Unit4 Recruitment feature which enables organisations to set essential criteria questions before a candidate begins the application process.

For an administrative position, for example, this could be: ‘Do you have proven experience of working in an office?’

If the answer is ‘no’, a candidate cannot progress to the next stage of the application as they do not meet the minimum criteria.  This simple step minimises the time spent reading applications that simply aren’t suitable.

If, for example, it takes 5 minutes to read an application form and 50 applicants are completely unsuitable, using the killer questions function could save 5 hours of painful shortlisting!  It also manages candidates’ expectations of a role and ensures they are not spending time applying for unsuitable roles.

Recruiting for science, research and global projects

Hannah and her colleagues recruit for an incredibly diverse range of roles, from day-to-day operations staff to highly niche scientific roles.  Hannah explained:

“As an international centre for research and knowledge, RBG Kew is involved in numerous projects. Many of these are grant-funded, so we have to fill roles quickly and to a very high standard. We often try to fill advanced scientific roles internally.

We use Unit4 Recruitment for our internal recruitment, which means we can provide a consistent application experience for all candidates.  We can also tailor application forms to suit these project roles, to ensure they capture the very specific information we need.”

For a recent project, RBG Kew was approached by KU Leuven, a Belgian university. It needed a PHD student to work on a study of the genetics of banana seeds, and asked RBG Kew to attract and recruit the candidate.

This example is a testament to RBG Kew’s international reputation, in addition to the strong and professional recruitment process it offers candidates.

Attraction and engagement – what can we learn?

Despite recruiting for roles which require an incredibly niche skillset, for many roles attraction isn’t an issue for RBG Kew, due to the organisation’s global reputation.

However, Hannah takes a proactive stance to continue to enhance RBG Kew’s recruitment activity.

“I’m always interested in new tools and platforms to help shape our sourcing, attraction and engagement strategies. Most recently I’ve been exploring Researchgate, which is an academic network.

I’d say to any in-house recruiters that it’s really important to be open to new products and ideas. I always try to watch webinars, read guides and white papers, and take learnings from them.”

Hannah’s advice extends to her experience working with Hireserve.

“Treat your ATS provider as a partner. As well as good customer care, you want a proactive and inventive ATS partner – a team which is open to your ideas and processes and can always think up a work-around or new solution. We’re continually evolving our use of Unit4 Recruitment and work closely with Hireserve to keep tweaking it. In a way, they have become like an extension of my own team!”

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