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A close look into why councils choose Vacancy Filler

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Thurrock is the local council for the borough of Thurrock in Essex. The majority of staff there are based at the council’s main civic offices, however there are other sites such as depots and care homes that are dispersed around the area and the council operates flexible working.

With 300 jobs advertised over the space of 12 months, recruitment happens continuously throughout the year. Recruitment is expected to stay at these levels over the coming years and currently the recruitment side of the HR team is built up of 5 members of staff.

We spoke to Mykela Pratt, the Improvement Manager at Thurrock, about why she chose Vacancy Filler and how she expects the software to benefit processes in the future. Mykela’s role is varied and includes a number of responsibilities such as contract management and managing employee wellness; however, the position is mainly focussed around recruitment. Previously, Thurrock Council had outsourced their recruitment team, but all recruitment was brought back in-house in October 2015.

Problems with recruiting

Prior to partnering with Vacancy Filler, Thurrock Council had many of the characteristics of an effective recruitment process yet there were a number of elements that prevented the organisation from reaching the streamlined end to end process they aimed for.

Mykela explained that even before she began looking for an applicant tracking system, Thurrock Council sought to bring their recruitment in-house and the first problems that arose from that were:

  • Recruitment was extremely paper based and they often still received application forms through the post.
  • They had delays in getting approval for recruitment.
  • They struggled to attract applications particularly for hard to fill positions like social workers.
  • They were unable to report on their recruitment activities.


Mykela explained that although these problems had caused difficulties on a day to day basis, the real aim for choosing an Applicant Tracking System was to improve candidate experience and become an employer of choice.

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Reasons for choosing Vacancy Filler

One of the main reasons for choosing Vacancy Filler was not about what was offered within the system, but more related company principles. It was important for Thurrock Council to find a provider that was entirely concentrated on providing the best Applicant Tracking System possible, rather than a company that offered recruitment as a bolt on.

“We wanted to make sure VF was aligned with our commercial agenda and that we weren’t restricted with what we wanted to do. We wanted to make sure we were working with a business that wanted to work with us.

It was imperative that Mykela found a company that would work in tandem with Thurrock Council and as a partnership of shared ethics around recruiting.  Vacancy Filler’s commitment to integrate with Oracle in the early stages of the project helped demonstrate to Mykela that flexibility was highly possible and that the system would work around the needs of the council - not vice versa.

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Value added to Thurrock Council’s recruitment

Mykela explained that it was her main goal to create the best candidate journey possible and the idea of keeping candidates happy during the recruitment process was paramount. With Vacancy Filler, every candidate receives communication regarding their application and are kept informed at all times. The ability to text candidates with messages such as “good luck on your 1st day” enthuses the recruitment team who universally agree that it will help the reputation of the council and assist in making Thurrock an employer of choice.

“When you use Vacancy Filler for your Applicant Tracking System, it means that it doesn’t matter if someone is applying for a Head of Service role or a front line role in Waste Collection, they’ll get the same, consistent top-quality service when it comes to recruitment”.

By having a centralised recruitment system, Thurrock Council are ambitious to have the ability to manage all recruitment through one location. Mykela pointed out that having an end to end system will free up resource in the recruitment team, enabling them more time to deal with candidates and recruiting managers on a personal level.

The ability to pull data from the system was one of the biggest driving forces in Thurrock Council’s decision to adopt an Applicant Tracking System.  Mykela admitted that she is greatly data driven but explained that the senior management team and Councillors at Thurrock will also be keen to see data on recruitment activities such as time to recruit and cost per hire.

Future recruitment plans for Thurrock Council

Although it was not one of the immediate reasons for choosing Vacancy Filler, Mykela spoke about her excitement to use Video Interviewing.  Thurrock Council already attracts international candidates and video interviewing will allow them to recruit internationally without having to worry about the costs associated with interviewing internationals.

Thurrock Council currently use tests as part of the interview process however there is no standardisation and the process of giving these to candidates is extremely manual and labour intensive. Mykela spoke about how Vacancy Filler’s psychometric and skills based testing will streamline the process internally and provide candidates with a better experience.

When asked about a return on investment, Mykela explained:

“For us, we’ll see a return on investment when our reputation, as an employer that offers a first-class recruitment service, is where we want it to be. Essentially, we think we’ll see a return on investment in less than a year with Vacancy Filler. ”

Katie Parr

Content Assistant for Vacancy Filler Recruitment Software

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