Inspire, attract and recruit toolkit: Resources and guidance to support your workforce supply

This resource has been developed for NHS HR professionals, recruitment teams and managers to help inspire, attract and recruit your future workforce.

9 August 2021

Throughout you will find guidance, good practice, checklists, top tips and thought-provoking questions. These are designed to help you reflect and consider what you and your organisation can do, along with practical information on how to get started.

Use the '+chapters 'navigation menu at the bottom to explore the different sections and topics.



As the world’s fifth largest employer, workforce supply is a top priority for the NHS. Despite its 1.2 million staff in England (1.7 including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), staffing shortages across some professions exist, which impacts on the delivery of essential services.

The UK government has pledged to have 50,000 more nurses in the NHS by 2024/25 and rapidly increasing the pace of recruitment across all roles and professions is a key focus of the We are the NHS: People Plan.

As the UK economy begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS must ensure that health and care remains an attractive and accessible sector for local talent. It is crucial for organisations to develop relationships with education providers, influence the skills agenda and ensure visibility as a good employer within the local community.

It takes time and investment to grow new talent. This toolkit will help you as you take stock of what you might want to do now, to ensure you are able to sustain your workforce pipeline.

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Understand your workforce supply and vacancies

Your staffing pipeline comes from trainees, new graduates, those returning to practice and overseas candidates. Reducing net migration continues to be high on the government’s agenda and as the country transitions out of the EU and continues to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that organisations strengthen local strategies to enhance domestic supply routes and continue to be an employer of choice. 

Your existing organisational workforce data will help to show what is happening, for example high turnover, and identify areas for improvement. This then needs to be considered and understood both at an organisational and team level to help inform future improvement activities.


Continual improvement of any practice requires ongoing evaluation and it is worthwhile building this into your recruitment activity from the beginning, considering what elements you want to regularly measure and how this can help improve your future activity.

Do you understand your trust vacancy rate data?

Do you have opportunities to plan across your local health system to understand and manage risk?

What’s your organisational workforce plan for the next few years and beyond?

While helpful to look at national workforce trends, it is important you understand your own local workforce profile and patterns, and how this can impact recruitment. 

The NHS is often the largest employer in a local community. Does all of your community see you as an employer for them?

Many workers across sectors choose to work part-time. Analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows that the proportion of part-time workers, including those with insecure roles, has grown by around 50 per cent over the last ten years (2008 – 18). The number of people on zero-hours contracts more than doubled during the same period.

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Your audience

The audience you can inspire, attract and recruit from is vast. From school children and students in higher education, those already employed in other industries and sectors, to ex-Armed Forces personnel and your local community, it is worthwhile engaging as widely as possible.

Understand and communicate with different generations

Your attraction and recruitment strategy needs to be enticing to all. While the principles of good employment apply across all generations, there are different techniques you can use to make sure your offer is communicated as widely as possible.

Using a mixture of communication channels enables you to reach a broad audience of different ages and backgrounds to maximise your reach to potential new employees.

People want to feel engaged in their work and it’s worthwhile considering that one of the key factors affecting engagement is the degree in which staff feel valued and recognised by the organisation they work for and the people they work with. Our case study on West London NHS Trust looks at how the trust developed its approach to recognition, in order to improve staff morale and and retention.

How do you communicate to your audience?

Have you considered that each generation has their own preferred communication channels?

Have you harnessed the skills and experience of your communications colleagues?

Is your recruitment part of a wider external communication strategy?

What skilled staff are looking for

Workforce shortages are seen across many professions. With nursing, medical and some allied health vacancies at record highs, have you thought about what professionals are looking for in a role and what is likely to make them stay?

Many organisations carry out stay interviews to better understand why current employees work in the organisation and what might cause them to leave. These can take place periodically either in an informal or formal setting and managers should feedback key themes, so the data can be used to inform initiatives to aid retention.

Another tool you have available to you is the annual staff survey. Read our latest briefing which looks at how to understand and use your survey data, in particular to identify workforce related issues and trends.

Do you know what your staff would like from your employment offer?

How do you use this to inform your future recruitment?

Return to practice

It’s worth considering who in your local community may be eligible to return to practice and the national schemes available to help you attract and recruit from these groups.

  • Information for qualified nurses and midwives who have taken a break from their careers and wish to return can be found on the Health Careers website.

    For nurses and midwives wishing to re-join the register, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has a list of approved programmes available on their website.

  • Health Education England runs a programme designed to provide individuals with help and information should they wish to return to their allied health or healthcare scientist profession. The programme has a suite of resources including case studies, leaflets, posters, banners and videos designed to help employers promote healthcare science or allied health roles.

  • For individuals who have retired and now claim their pension, the government’s retire and return programme has many benefits for both employers and those seeking employment again, including:

    • retention of valuable skills and NHS knowledge
    • improved health and wellbeing of retired workers who wish to continue in their careers
    • support for staff who are gradually transitioning from employment to retirement.

    Our flexible retirement hub brings together advice and resources to help organisations and employees consider the range of options available. The hub includes the benefits of flexible retirement, what others are doing, and guidance to aid implementation. Flexible retirement is an excellent retention tool and should be used for both existing staff and retirees who wish to return. Our retirement flexibilities poster explains the different options available to NHS Pension Scheme members.

Read our flexible retirement guide which focuses on supporting nurses to access flexible retirement. It outlines the benefits of flexible retirement and showcases what it can look like in practice.

School children and students

If you ask young people about careers in the NHS, many will be able to tell you about nurses and doctors, but few know of the wide range of opportunities available. 

The NHS consists of many exciting careers. The Health Careers chapter of this toolkit has a range of information about nationally led activities available and how you can use these to actively engage with, educate, inspire and support the young workforce of the future.

The Health Careers website lists a number of facilities around the country that allow school and college students the opportunity to see what it’s like to work for the NHS.

It’s also worth considering students including those who may not have considered a career in the NHS, but who find themselves in the university clearing process (available from July to September each year).

To help prevent a skills shortage among young people, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced the Kickstart scheme. The scheme provides funding for employers to create job placements for 16 to 24 years old on universal credit. Employers can find more detail and apply on the Kickstart web pages.

Shared learning from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust opened the Learning Inspiration for Future Employment (LIFE) centre in April 2018. The centre aims to educate and inspire people from aged five and above about the various NHS careers available, from doctors and nurses to porters and engineers. The Life Centre is fully equipped with interactive classrooms, a clinical zone and a mock ward area. It is free for NHS organisations and public funded education providers to use to deliver sessions.

Local community

Recruiting from your local community and being inclusive in your recruitment can be hugely beneficial in helping you tackle your supply challenges. By making sure your recruitment is visible, open and accessible, your teams will be more innovative and creative.

A potential talent pool of candidates, who could be underrepresented in your current workforce, lies within your local community. It’s worth considering how your organisation can engage with, attract and employ from this pool. Ex-offenders, care leavers (those who have been in care), ex-military, and those who have experienced homelessness are just some examples.

Have you considered how to combine your local community engagement opportunities with career promotion?

Inclusive recruitment

Our inclusive recruitment podcast series features interviews with Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust and a senior manager at NHS England and Improvement. They share their experiences of inclusive recruitment practice, how they have made their processes inclusive and the benefits they have seen by doing so.

The Prince's Trust

The Prince’s Trust pre-employment programmes enable you to provide a route into work for local young people who live in your community. They support NHS employers by providing the pre-employment programmes: Get Into, a 4 week programme of placement and training and Get Started, a 2-3 day intensive programme of placement, employability skills training, and interviews for entry-level vacancies.

The Prince’s Trust also offers one-to-one mentoring support for delegates for up to six months after completion of the programme. For details and resources see our Prince’s Trust webpage.


The government signalled the importance of apprenticeship and traineeship programmes in the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery by increasing incentive payments for new apprenticeship hires, of any age between 1 April and 30 September 2021, to £3000. This is in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government provides for all new 16-18 year-old apprentices and those aged under 25 with an education, health and care plan, where that applies.

£126 million of new money was announced in the March 2021 budget to triple traineeships. Both can help you attract new talent that may not have come through via traditional education routes.

Since the start of the pandemic 189,000 more young people have become economically inactive. The Youth Employment census report told how young people 'do not feel confident that there are good opportunities where they live.' This provides further incentive for NHS organisations to become anchor institutions and use apprenticeship and traineeship funding to help grow the economy in local areas.

Apprenticeships and traineeships can be used to provide development opportunities for existing staff as well as tackle skills shortages across roles.

They offer many benefits to your organisation, which include:

  • opportunities for all
  • a channel to recruit a diverse workforce
  • improved retention rates.

 Find out more about apprenticeships and traineeships in our web section.

T Levels

T Levels are two-year, technical programmes designed with employers, to give young people the skills that industries need. They are available to 16 to 18-year olds as a technical alternative to A levels. One T Level programme is the equivalent to 3 A levels and T Levels come in a range of topics including health and science, digital and business.

T Level qualifications include an industry placement for a minimum of 45 days over two years. They prepare young people to join the health sector with skills and knowledge that can be used in a range of entry-level roles, and allow employers to showcase the breadth and depth of roles available in the NHS, including shortage occupations and hard to fill roles. T Levels can be beneficial to employers as they allow you to tap into two new talent pools – those that know they want to work in health and science but haven’t yet picked an occupation in which to specialise, and those that might not have considered the NHS as a business, IT, or childcare employer for example.

Find out more about T-Levels.

The Armed Forces community

There are approximately 900,000 working age veterans in the UK and 14,000 leave the Armed Forces each year. Many of these individuals are job ready and contribute to a pool of staff your organisation can tap into. Armed Forces personnel undergo extensive training and development which leads to a wide range of qualifications and transferable skills, combined with values that are closely aligned to the NHS.

Step into Health is a programme that connects employers in the NHS with the Armed Forces community. Organisations pledge to the programme and enhance their recruitment processes to make them more accessible to this talented pool of candidates. Step into Health-pledged organisations also have access to an online candidate system where they can get in touch with interested candidates. Find out more about the programme and what it can offer on the campaign homepage.

Shared learning from Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has led the Surrey and Heartland Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) to sign up to Step into Health as a collaborative. The STP has jointly funded a new project lead role who will coordinate all the activity between the 11 health and social care organisations in the footprint. This collaborative approach allows each employer to benefit from the relationships built and will expand their reach to the Armed Forces community, increasing the talent pool to recruit from.

Overseas candidates

Overseas recruitment has made a valuable contribution to the NHS over recent years. The NHS People Plan underlines the importance of ethical international recruitment as an important element of NHS workforce supply alongside other longer-term domestic education and training solutions.

If you haven’t already, it’s worthwhile considering how you can help your overseas professionals to meet the necessary requirements and prepare them to come to the UK.

HEE has developed a series of videos which aims to familiarise overseas individuals with clinical environments, and offers some insights and orientations to simulation-based clinical scenarios.

Find information and guidance on the international recruitment section of the website. Here you will also find our interactive international recruitment toolkit, designed to help employers effectively plan and ethically recruit from overseas.

Employers should also familiarise themselves with the UK Code of Practice which promotes high standards of practice in the international recruitment and employment of healthcare professionals.

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Attracting staff in a competitive environment during a digital revolution can feel overwhelming. It can be confusing what methods of recruitment best suit your organisation and difficult to stay ahead of emerging trends.

From profession-specific videos shared on social media, to hospital open evenings and celebratory events, there is lots that can be done to raise the profile of your organisation and the career opportunities on offer.

In this section you can find a range of attraction methods along with resources and leading examples.

NHSE/I also has a collection of good practice case studies on recruiting HCSWs on the HCSW Future NHS collaboration platform.

We are the NHS

We are the NHS is a national recruitment campaign run by NHS England and Improvement. Images and videos to support your recruitment activities are available to use and download on the campaign hub.

We are the NHS logo


How is your trust perceived by your local community and beyond?

Is there more that than can be done to improve the reputation of your organisation?

What is your staff survey telling you?

What do prospective candidates think of your organisation at interview?

What do staff get in other trusts that they might be missing from yours?

Have you analysed the data from your stay and exit interviews recently?

Being a leading employer

To compete for talent in your local community, your organisation will need to be visible. When attracting the best candidates, you need to be able to separate your organisation from the rest. Jobseekers are no different to any other consumer – they are looking for the best deal. We know this means different things for different people, so it’s important to know your audience.

From a good reputation and culture, a strong health and wellbeing approach, to communicating your reward package effectively, individuals need to understand what is available to them both within the organisation and in the local area such as schools and transport links. Having a strong employer brand is incredibly important in a competitive environment.

The benefits of a strong employer brand include:

  • increased awareness of your organisation and vacancies
  • enhanced image in the local community and beyond
  • reduced recruitment costs
  • pride amongst your staff
  • improved retention rates.

Shared learning from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) has an engagement project that is committed to improving the employee journey. Their dedicated careers website forms part one of their journey, acting as more than just a jobs board by describing 'The Leeds Way' through video employee profiles and interactive content. It showcases the city of Leeds, information on open evenings, work experience, volunteering and apprenticeships.

Other trusts with their own careers websites include West Midlands Ambulance Service, The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation TrustGuy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Best of both worlds

Six employers in the Northamptonshire region, including NHS and private healthcare providers, a university and a healthcare charity, have developed the best of both worlds microsite as part of a campaign to attract new recruits to live and work in the area. On the microsite you can find information about each organisation, a list of their current vacancies as well as other key information on the local area such as housing, sports and entertainment.

Use social media

Correct use of social media can help you to strengthen your employer brand and attract quality talent to your organisation. Social media platforms are informal and can help you to reach out to an audience who may not be aware of vacancies through other routes, and in some cases may not even be actively searching but thinks of your organisation when they are ready for a career move.

According to Statista, a provider of market and consumer data, 71.64 per cent of the UK uses social media. USwitch also claims that the average UK citizen spends 109 minutes a day on social media.

The next generation of NHS staff will have grown up using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. More NHS organisations than ever before are using these platforms, not only to recruit but to actively engage with the community to help inspire the future workforce.

To help you get started, visit the NHS Employers using social media in recruitment page.

Social media top tips

Develop and refresh your social media strategy – include a social media calendar.

Share updates consistently and regularly but don’t overdo it.

Post eye-catching images and engaging videos.

Keep your posts brief and concise - research shows posts with fewer characters attract more views.

Use your existing workforce

When thinking about attraction, your existing staff are ideally placed to talk about their careers, your organisation and why the NHS is a great place to work. They could even help you attract new candidates to apply.

Health Education England runs a health ambassadors programme which encourages people studying and working in healthcare to volunteer one hour per year to speak in schools about their roles or take part in careers events.

Inspiring the Future has an online matchmaking platform to connect schools and colleges with appropriate volunteers from a range of sectors and professions that match their requirements. There are currently more than 41,000 volunteers registered, and your staff can join them to help inspire young people. If you’d like to share how it works, share this short video with your staff.

This report from the Nuffield Trust: Attracting more people into mental health nurse education, commissioned by NHS Employers and the Mental Health Network explores how we can attract more people, from a broad range of backgrounds, to study mental health nursing.

Shared learning from Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust has adapted its recruitment strategy to the digital era. With the use of a digital advertising agency, they built an effective social media platform to attract band 5 registered nurses and students to the organisation. Their Facebook campaign had an average audience of over 70,000 people each month which created a database of over 300 people who had interest in joining the trust. Through targeted messages and engaging content, the trust has nearly doubled the number of people attending events and increased the number of student nurses recruited each year.

Do you encourage your existing staff to spread the word and become health ambassadors within your organisation?

Could you use inspiring the future or other similar schemes to elevate the workforce?

Profession-specific videos

One way to help highlight your organisation to potential employees is by showcasing some of your current workforce. Here are some leading examples of trusts using videos and their staff to highlight the benefits of working for them.

Be a Greater Manchester Nurse

Be a Greater Manchester Nurse is a campaign led by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership showcasing what it means to be a nurse in the Manchester area. The video celebrates the NHS as well as the nursing role and is inspired by
artists from the area.

Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Aintree Hospital has produced a social media friendly and engaging video that features some of their nurses describing what it’s like to work at the trust.

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust showcases why its nurses choose to develop their career at the trust in its Not Just a Job campaign.

Open days and events

Open days, recruitment fairs and exhibitions are a fantastic way to attract and inspire young people and the local community to think about a career in the NHS. You can set up a stall in your hospital foyer with your staff, who can share their career journeys and answer any questions.

Many trusts run open days during celebrations weeks such as Healthcare Science Week.

Recruitment fairs and exhibitions, such as the yearly Big Bang fair, is a fantastic way of targeting a big audience and promoting your organisation as an employer of choice. Coordinate your attendance at these events with neighbouring health and social care organisations to prevent duplication and reduce resource allocations.

Celebratory weeks

Every year, dedicated healthcare celebrations and awareness weeks provide a fantastic opportunity for you to raise the profile of NHS careers.

One of these is Healthcare Science Week in March, when organisations across the country celebrate healthcare science and the various routes into the profession.

Find out what has taken place previously and how you can get involved in the next celebrations.

View more days and events on our calendar of national campaigns.

Shared learning from Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust has built on its successful nursing open days with a new bus tour. Individuals are taken on a tour of three of the 108 trust sites, following a route designed to showcase what Leeds has to offer. Aimed specifically at first and second year nursing students, the tour aims to attract individuals into community nursing roles. The tour involves various interactive sessions and gives students the opportunity to speak to the preceptorship lead, newly qualified nurses and members of the multidisciplinary team.

Rotational roles

Rotational roles are a great recruitment incentive, particularly for newly qualified staff who are keen to expand their skills, knowledge and experience. Rotational roles can be offered within an organisation or collaboratively across trusts in your region. Not only can they help you strengthen your employment offer, they also facilitate shared learning between departments and organisations, upskill staff and help with retention.

Internal transfer schemes

Offering staff routes to develop their careers in other parts of your organisation can be a great method for attracting and retaining your workforce. Often referred to as internal transfer schemes, these arrangements can allow staff to make a sideward move into a department they are interested in, allowing them to expand their knowledge, skills and experience – without the burden of re-applying for a role and going through a recruitment process.

"I have found that it’s so beneficial to have knowledge from other areas and fresh ideas and new ways of working – it only enhances your nursing care."

Shared learning from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

As part of its preceptorship initiatives, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust has developed an 18-month to two year rotational programme for all band 5 nurses. The programme allows nurses to carry out either six or nine-month placements within different areas to give them opportunities to expand their knowledge and experience within different areas of nursing. Nurses can consider different roles, matching potential career pathways with their individual wants, needs and skillsets.

Flexible working

The UK workforce is now more diverse than ever, reflecting changes in society and demographics of the population. Flexible working opportunities and predictability of shifts can support the delivery of improved service outcomes, providing benefits for the organisation, individual and the patient. It can provide an attractive offer to staff, many of whom have varying commitments which can make it difficult working certain hours. By offering flexible working, you can attract a pool of applicants which may otherwise have not been attracted to roles in your organisation.

Our flexible working guidance can help you to embed flexible working for nurses in your organisation.

Shared learning from Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has introduced a new flexi model which allows staff to have an annualised hours contract with greater flexibility in the number of hours they carry out each month. Members of staff will give their availability six weeks in advance and can be deployed to any site within their allocated zone. This model is an attractive package for staff and gives them the opportunity to have a stable monthly income. The trust has already seen improvements in retention and provides consistency in the continuity of care for patients.

Communicate reward

Communicating the whole reward package is a key part of recruitment. Our webpage and infographic show how using the right technology can help you promote the benefits of working for your organisation to potential new employees and existing staff. You can also use our reward communications guide to help you plan and communicate your organisations’ reward package to staff. Line managers also play an important role in communicating reward benefits to staff, our webpage provides ways to involve them in developing your reward strategy.

Our Total Reward Engagement Network (TREN) brings together NHS colleagues, with an interest in reward, to share knowledge and experience. Joining TREN can help you to develop your local reward package and strategy by gaining inspiration and ideas from other organisations.

The NHS Pension Scheme continues to be one of the most comprehensive and generous schemes in the UK and is a key part of the reward offer for NHS employees. It is a valuable recruitment and retention tool for employers to use.

Our NHS Pension Scheme poster communicates the value of the scheme and shows six of the key features that staff told us are most important to them. Including the poster in job adverts is an easy visual way to promote the scheme benefits to potentials new employees. Use the resource to support your conversations with staff about pensions and to help you explain the benefits of being a member of the scheme.

Find more reward resources and how to develop a reward strategy on the NHS Employers website.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust used reward within its recruitment strategy to ease workforce supply pressures and reduce vacancy rates. They used several approaches which included recommend a friend, supporting staff in relocation, recognising achievements and promoting their reward offer on NHS jobs which has resulted in a four per cent reduction in nursing vacancies and a reduction in staff turnover.

Careers resources

The Health Careers service provides an inclusive hub of NHS career information about the 350+ opportunities available, along with useful resources including infographics and posters to help employers inspire the future workforce.

Health Careers also runs an annual Step into the NHS campaign which provides 12-14-year olds with careers information as part of the Key Stage 3 curriculum. They can also support you to offer work experience to people from underrepresented communities. Access their smart guide.

The Greater Manchester NHS Careers and Engagement Hub

The Greater Manchester NHS Careers and Engagement Hub has been designed to improve the information and support available to people who are looking for career opportunities in the NHS in the Manchester region. The website provides a base for learners, professionals and staff from across the NHS to access helpful resources and learn about opportunities they can get involved in.

Career navigation

In Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS), career navigator roles are being developed to support unsuccessful clinical and nonclinical support worker applicants across health and social care. The roles, funded by Health Education England KSS, has been designed to maintain applicant interest in these careers and support them to gain the skills and knowledge required to fulfil the roles.

The navigators will spend time with the individuals to determine why they were unsuccessful and then engage with them to offer support and put in place any intervention required such as coaching, training or personal development.

What do you do to support applicants?

Is providing support something that might be valuable in your organisation?

Why not start the conversation with your senior leadership team?

Employability programmes

Employability programmes support individuals to help them secure employment. Many people who are unemployed face difficulties and barriers when seeking employment. The reasons for this are quite complex and might include:

  • low confidence and self-esteem
  • gaps on their CV
  • negative work experiences and lack of recent work
  • out-of-date core employability skills
  • stigma around mental health.

Find out about the approach Birmingham Children’s Hospital has taken to supporting young people on their career journeys in its Aspire programme.

Attraction top tips

  1. Ensure your website is engaging and provides individuals with up to date, concise and inspiring information about your organisation and this surrounding area.
  2. Provide clear information on the various opportunities and routes into your organisation.
  3. Consider an employability programme and how you can support people into your organisation.
  4. Describe your reward package and the benefits you provide.
  5. Use social media to promote your organisation and inform the community about open days, recruitment opportunities and how individuals, schools, colleges and universities can get involved.
  6. Consider creating engaging resources to inspire your audience such as profession-specific videos which describe the career journey and inspire people to work for you.
  7. Encourage your current staff to spread the word about the NHS and the range of opportunities available.
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Recruiting is much more than writing job descriptions, interviewing and carrying out pre-employment checks. Each step is as important as the next and it requires planning, clear processes and agreed timescales.

Have you looked at previous exercises and taken feedback into account? Of those interviewed and made appointable how many took up post? How long did the process take and if they didn’t end up starting in role, do you know why? A review of this can help you identify any areas for improvement and prevent this pre-start attrition.

Recruitment needs to centre around a positive candidate experience. It needs to provide all potential employees with a quick and easy route to finding a vacancy and applying, which swiftly leads to a stimulating and fulfilling interview with an appointment offer, or notice made as soon as possible if they’ve been unsuccessful. This streamlined approach helps to ensure potential recruits feel engaged, motivated to continue with their application, aren’t side tracked by another offer and have the confidence to re-apply once ready.

When a potential recruit spots your vacancy, ideally you want them to find out more about your organisation. Having your own careers website which is engaging, informative and enticing is key. Scroll to the advertising chapter of the toolkit to find out more.

It is also important to consider that many people search and often apply for vacancies using mobile technology. Studies by Glassdoor suggest that without mobile access, you could cut out nearly half of your potential candidates.

What is the recruitment experience of individuals who apply to work in your trust?

Could it be improved?

Is your own job section of your trust career website mobile-ready?

Positive action and accessible recruitment

Taking positive action during the recruitment process can enable you to diversify your workforce, and deliver against actions in the NHS People Plan, Workforce Race Equality Standard and the Workforce Disability Equality Standard.

The government’s Equality act 2010: what do I need to know? A quick start guide to using positive action in recruitment and promotion states: "positive action provisions mean that it is not unlawful to recruit or promote a candidate who is of equal merit to another candidate, if the employer reasonably thinks the candidate:

  • has a protected characteristic that is underrepresented in the workforce; or
  • that people with that characteristic suffer a disadvantage connected to that characteristic.

However, positive action does not allow an employer to appoint a less suitable candidate just because that candidate has a protected characteristic that is under-represented or disadvantaged."

Protected characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (or lack of), sex, and sexual orientation.

Most fundamentally positive action can support employers under the Equality Act 2010 to recruit and promote people from underrepresented groups to help them overcome disadvantages in competing with other applicants.

The government's positive action in recruitment guide outlines all of the steps throughout the recruitment process where positive action can be taken and includes examples of tie-break scenarios. Your recruitment team can also provide you with data throughout the recruitment process about the protected characteristics of applicants, to support you with taking positive action during the process, or to understand where barriers in the process may occur.

Ensure that your recruitment processes are accessible to all too. Ask whether reasonable adjustments are required and if so provide them. This may be including hearing loops, accessible software for any computer-based activity, a wheelchair accessible space for all activities, papers in large print and colour filters available.

Find out more about our equality, diversity and inclusion programme and access our toolkit to help you support, recruit and retain disabled staff into your organisation, and represent a diverse workforce that delivers high-quality patient care.

Writing your job descriptions and person specification

An effective, engaging and inclusive job description is key. It should outline your organisational values, trust mission and provide an accurate, interesting account of the skills and competencies required for the role. A good job description should provide clarity for the individual and the manager so it’s important to get it right.

Ensuring your job descriptions are available in an accessible form is the easiest way to prevent putting off a potential candidate. It’s important to use clear and simple language when describing the tasks that will need to be completed.


How organisations advertise can impact recruitment and when competing with your neighbours for hard-to-fill posts, it is important you get your advertising right.

Where you post your vacancies can impact the levels of interest your vacancies receive. You have many advertising routes available to you including job websites such as the free NHS Jobs service. In addition, you can use your local Jobcentre Plus, radio, trade media outlets and social media to promote your trust’s careers website.

It’s important to think about your audience and tailor your adverts to suit. For example the ambulance service often use radio advertising to target their audience who are typically out on the road.

Values-based recruitment

Values-based recruitment (VBR) is an approach to help attract and select future employees whose personal values and behaviours align with the NHS values outlined in the NHS Constitution.

Our resources section hosts information about VBR, resources, toolkits and case studies. Find out how ready your organisation is for VBR by using our readiness toolkit.

Shared learning from York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals

York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust overhauled its consultant recruitment process to align it to the trust’s values of kind, open and excellent, and to ensure the process worked in a virtual setting.
Read how the trust’s approach gave them a fuller picture of candidates and allowed them to recruit comparable numbers of consultants, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. 


Interviews and selection

Interviewing has evolved over the years and employers are using a variety of methods to make the process quicker, easier, more accessible and more variable, all of which enhance the candidate experience. COVID-19 has changed the way we work and virtual interviews and recruitment will certainly become more prevalent in the future.

Interviews can be conducted at open days and exhibition events giving candidates a quick and easy recruitment experience while also saving time and resource in your organisation. To help widen your pool of applicants and manage the interview process in a resourceful way, some employers are choosing to carry out video interviews using Skype, or in some cases, pre-recorded interview questions which allow individuals to be interviewed at a time which suits them.

Shared learning from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has turned its assessment days into a one stop shop, ensuring a fast and effective process for both the candidate and the trust. By working collaboratively, it has streamlined the logistics of the day and can inform candidates of the many opportunities throughout the trust. 

Shared learning from University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has changed the way it recruits for healthcare assistant roles. Replacing the usual telephone interview with video interviewing, the team has saved time and resources, improving the efficiency of the recruitment process. Having the interview pre-recorded gives greater flexibility and allows multiple managers to be involved. The video interviews also benefit the applicant who can record their interview at a time and location that best suits them.

Recruit to retain

The first six months in a new role typically influences whether an employee stays for the long term, making induction and the onboarding process crucial. 

An effective induction or period of preceptorship can help employees to perform at their best from the start. Integrating staff into your organisation and setting out what is expected of everyone in a clear and consistent way can help the bedding-in process.

Effective mentoring, senior support, structured appraisals and a supportive learning environment all lead them to be able to be as productive as possible in their roles.

Shared learning from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Start Well: Stay Well model engages new starters at various stages, including on appointment and before they arrive as part of the onboarding process. The initiative is being adopted and spread across the trust, ensuring all new staff attend a Start Well: Stay Well event and have access to a buddy.

Shared learning from University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust offers new recruits a fresh eyes review after 90 days of their employment. Staff are offered a choice between a quick interview or the opportunity to complete a questionnaire to understand what is good about their new jobs and if there is anything that can be done to better support them in their new role. Staff feel listened to, valued and therefore are better engaged with the onboarding process.

Recruitment processes

Recruitment takes time but there are things employers can do to help speed it up and ensure your prospective employees feel engaged from start to finish.

Streamlining between trusts helps to deliver a quality and efficient recruitment experience which reduces duplication and unnecessary delays in getting the successful candidate started in the workplace. It involves organisations working collaboratively to embed and deliver consistency through HR best practice and includes joint working between professionals from the four key HR workstreams; occupational health, medical staffing, statutory and mandatory training and recruitment.

Efficient recruitment processes that centre around candidate experience can help you to expand your talent pool, recruit quicker and improve your employer brand.

Our recruitment processes pages provide guidance and examples from other NHS organisations on several topics that, done well, will help you improve the efficiency of your processes and keep you up to date with the latest trends in recruitment. These include:

  • automating recruitment processes – the use of robotic process automation (RPA) to programme software to take care of routine, manual processes, freeing up staff to work on more value adding tasks.
  • virtual recruitment – helping you identify key considerations to make before, during and after interview when recruiting remotely.
  • trends in recruitment – this poster explores seven expected trends in recruitment in 2021, helping ensure you factor emerging trends into your recruitment strategy.

Pre-employment checks

Pre-employment checks are an essential part of recruitment and it is important they are carried out as efficiently as possible to avoid any delays in individuals taking up post. NHS Employers provides practical information, toolkits and resources on the pre-employment check standards including shared learning which demonstrate how organisations have simplified checking processes without compromising standards and patient safety.

Reviewing recruitment top tips

  • Set clear recruitment objectives and targets.
  • Think about the evaluation methods available to you.
  • Track your website analytics, social media reach, media coverage tools and surveys.
  • Ensure you carry out stay and exit interviews and identify any trends.
  • Use staff feedback to identify trends


New jobs are exciting but can also be a bit stressful for a new employee, so it is vital to consider the human factors that personally affect individuals during the first few months of beginning a new role.

Onboarding and induction done well can help you settle and retain the staff you’ve spent time and money recruiting. Get it wrong, and you could need to re-advertise and potentially damage your employer reputation.

Shared learning from Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust

As part of its improving the employee journey project, Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust (LTHT) has introduced an online onboarding system. On receipt of log-in details, successful candidates can access new starter forms and book their pre-employment check meeting. This has resulted in HR saving an average of 33 hours per year. New employees can access information and ask questions about their induction and future career at LTHT. The onboarding system has won the in-house recruitment award (2017 Best Onboarding Strategy) and was a finalist in the HPMA Innovation in HR award in 2018.

Shared learning from The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust has introduced a postcard initiative that congratulates and welcomes new nursing recruits ahead of their start date. The postcards, costed at just 54 pence per staff member, are sent by both the chief nurse and lead nurse on their ward ahead of their start date. The initiative has been warmly welcomed by staff, making them feel ‘valued and part of the team’ even before they arrive.

How do you help to onboard your staff?

What have you learnt from previous onboarding?

Can feedback from your new recruits help inform improvements?

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