Lessons in Recruitment Software Success

Finding the right formula with online recruitment


Loughborough Endowed Schools (LES) is a charitable foundation consisting of four independent schools with over 2,000 students.

The Foundation employs 600 staff in both teaching and non-teaching roles, with a mix of full and part-time posts. The Head Teachers are responsible for the management of educational activities whilst business aspects of the Foundation are managed through the centralised functions of finance, estates, health and safety, catering, network services, human resources, marketing, commercial and the development office.

LES has a significant number of casual employees ranging from sessional music teachers to cleaners, catering and estates staff. At least 20 vacancies occur each year within the central support teams, plus a range of other roles at all levels across the Foundation.

Recruitment Issues

Prior to deploying the Vacancy Filler software, all recruitment was paper-based. Some posts, by their nature, tend to have a fairly high turnover, particularly casual staff positions. As a prestigious employer, a high volume of applications is often received, and this combination often generated an inundation of paperwork for the human resources team.

With shortlisting packs being photocopied for interview panels, the recruitment process generated long paper trails. Relying on paper for recording decisions and approvals was also problematic. LES had used a limited number of job boards, and had tried LinkedIn, but results were mixed and didn’t offer a joined up approach. It was clear that an electronic system could not only provide an automatic audit trail but also speed up the appointment process and reduce reliance on paper.

The Requirements

Richard Smeeton, IT Director at Loughborough Endowed Schools, took the lead to implement an online recruitment system to help manage the volume of applications and address the high cost of press advertising and recruitment fees. The ambitious target was to achieve a payback within 12 months, whilst reducing the burden of paperwork involved in recruitment. Other aims of an online solution included improving and streamlining the recruitment process with a vision to fully digitize it for all posts within the Foundation.

The online recruitment system also had to meet the following success criteria:

Improve the efficiency and efficacy of the recruitment process, enhancing the quality of appointments whilst reducing in the cost of hire

Enhance the reach of vacancy advertising, securing improved candidate calibre and response

Streamline and automate the process of shortlisting and communicating with candidates

Enhance candidate experience and improve the professional image of the Foundation

Free up time spent manually coordinating candidate communications

Reduce the amount of time human resources staff spend dealing with applicants, agencies and job boards.

The Solution

“We looked at other systems but did not find them as cost-effective as Vacancy Filler,” says Richard. The schools also liked the way the system integrated with the Foundation’s own website, maintaining the look and feel of its pages even though the software is hosted in the cloud.

A proof of concept of Vacancy Filler’s online recruitment service commenced in December 2013 and the service went live in March 2014. Since then, LES has used Vacancy Filler to recruit into more than two dozen posts.

Training and Support

The training provided by Vacancy Filler is excellent, according to Richard. There are some 24 users of the system which include hiring managers, the human resources team, school PAs, and heads of department. Hiring managers attend a half-day training course and if further training is required after that it can be done online.

Being cloud-based, the software requires no maintenance by the client and feature enhancements are being added all the time. As Vacancy Filler includes these additional features in the system, LES gets the benefits of these automatically.

The Return on Investment

Financial projections and a business case prepared in the early stages of planning for the system indicated payback was achievable within 12 months. This was delivered even though print advertising was maintained for senior roles. Teaching posts continue to be advertised in TES Jobs, but local press advertising and job board expenditure was significantly reduced. Avoiding just one large print advert in a trade journal could literally cover the cost of the Vacancy Filler system for a whole year. Agency costs have also fallen sharply with at least one finder’s fee avoided. Maintaining such savings could not only pay for the system, but deliver ongoing and sustainable reductions to recruitment costs overall.

Using the integrated job board service has significantly increased the number of applicants for professional roles, providing listings to multiple job boards for the same fee previously paid just for one. Vacancy Filler provides access to 20 general job boards and 10 sector specific ones with its integrated service. In addition to reducing recruitment agency costs, this has meant that the number of high-calibre applicants has increased.

Other savings achieved include reductions in conventional advertising costs, postage, printing and stationery, whilst being able to electronically organize the selection and scheduling of candidates is a great time saver. Greater impact is being achieved in terms of response rates when advertising roles with the job board service, and the average number of applications per role has almost doubled.   Excluding the cost of staff time and postage, the average cost of recruitment activities per applicant has fallen from £100 under the manual system to just £34 since using the Vacancy Filler system. The ability to automate responses and to electronically organize the selection and scheduling of candidates for interview is also saving some 20-30 minutes time per applicant, per post, according to Richard.

Because Vacancy Filler is a cloud service, the cost of on-premise equipment is completely avoided. This reduces upfront costs, with no additional cost for hardware required to host the solution. For a similar cost to a previous LinkedIn campaign, the Vacancy Filler subscription supported a higher number of recruitment activities and applications, and therefore represented better value for money for LES.

Not all the benefits can be measured in financial terms. Increased productivity and organisational effectiveness is evident, whilst the ability to undertake online screening has improved shortlisting efficiency. Having an online system is particularly beneficial in managing large volumes of applicants, and it has also been much easier to re-advertise posts when necessary.

“Ultimately, Vacancy Filler has enhanced the quality and calibre of candidates, not just the quantity,” said Richard. As a result, the Foundation is able to make the most suitable appointments to key roles. Other intangible benefits include enhancement of the Foundation’s reputation and a positive feedback from candidates about their recruitment experience.

The Results

Vacancy Filler has proved particularly effective in recruiting IT and professional posts, saving a considerable amount of time for the hiring managers whilst enhancing the candidate experience. LES recently received 100 applications for a commercial assistant position, whilst 162 candidates applied for two IT posts. Managers found the selection of the right candidates was made much easier by Vacancy Filler. “Without the system it would have been extremely difficult to manage the vast number of applications we received,” said Richard. “We can shortlist much more precisely and fairly using numeric scores from tests and assign coloured flags, which includes the facility to retain a ‘talent pool’ for future roles.”

The system is updated in real time without having to make any web edits. Previously LES posted job adverts on the website, which required a member of staff to be skilled in using Wordpress.

Richard also likes the fact that retaining notes on the system allows the organisation to provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates to help them in the future should they request it, whilst online testing provides quantitative results to confirm the strongest candidates for technical roles.

Lessons Learned

When asked what he least liked about the system, Richard said: “I'd like to be able to manage more of the recruitment process in Vacancy Filler, for example by adopting the electronic request to recruit (RTR) module.” Richard has also suggested that new starter induction process could be automated, whilst the IT screening tests could be extended to include assessment of newer technologies.

Richard also commented on the importance of securing buy-in from key users. Some individuals initially expressed apprehension about the amount of change and training required, and time taken to overcome this can potentially delay full implementation and use, and therefore the return on investment. Keeping stakeholders informed of progress and outcomes is vital to maintaining support and enthusiasm for the system.

Richard gave us some further tips for a successful roll out:

Phase your rollout: It is best to implement a system, particularly over multiple sites, when other IT projects are not scheduled as they may divert resource and focus away from online recruitment

Timing is important: When implementing any new system, bear in mind the seasonality of how the organisation works as a whole. For example, teacher recruitment peaks in the summer term, with departing staff typically giving notice at Easter. It may, therefore, be better to roll-out a system at a quieter time of year.

Identify champions: It is important to consider who will champion the system. You might not want to rely solely on an IT lead to bring about organisational efficiencies, project-manage and technically implement a solution – this can create too many dual responsibilities. A better approach is a human resources-led project with separate technical resource, if required.

Some roles need a different approach: Although online recruitment systems can be extremely effective, not all vacancies can be filled this way. Recruitment of manual workers who may not even have a CV, for example, may still require a traditional approach. Some candidates go online to look for jobs but need support to complete their applications. This is where Vacancy Filler can step in, offering candidate assistance where needed, removing this burden from the in-house team.

The Future

With Vacancy Filler already proving very useful for filling roles in the central teams, a roll-out to the schools is underway to realise all of the projected benefits. Online recruitment of teaching posts is now being phased in starting with the LES Music School.


The resources to cope with large volumes of applications and the vastly improved experience for both candidates and recruiters, the ability to provide tailored communications to the candidate and better candidate selection, and the cost savings over traditional recruitment methods has made the system a great hit with LES.

The time and efficiency saving has been immense, with no need to copy multiple documents and with no fear of losing a signed document and having to start a process from the beginning. Shortlisting decisions are reached quickly which frees up the time of key people for other tasks. Vacancy Filler has increased both the number and calibre of candidates, especially for professional and IT positions.

The benefits of using the system have been recognised by hiring managers as well as the finance department who are convinced that the system provides a good return on investment.



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LE11 5XS

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