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| Posted by: Tristan Shirley

Recruiting digital talent – overcoming the challenges

Over the past 18 months we have noticed the rise in articles about the lack of digital skills in the sector – you see it reflected in conference programmes, one-off events and in sector news, as well as the Charity Digital Skills report offering a more granular level of detail on the state of the sector on digital.

A lot of this content focuses on the challenges – we want to share something that offers solutions on hiring digital talent that extends from quick wins to more instrumental changes in your approach to the market and your hiring processes.

At the start of this year, two Prospectus team members were asked to present at the Charity Digital Tech conference on “How to recruit digital talent” and this is the basis of this article - but we have taken the opportunity to offer more examples of best practice and provide some up to date market insights.

We hope you find it useful and if you have any questions about digital talent or your recruitment approach in general, you can contact either Tristan Shirley or Louis Eastwell.

Wider market context

It’s incredibly useful to understand the wider market context before looking at how we improve our approach to talent acquisition. Given it’s our focus we often talk about digital and tech through the lens of charities, membership bodies and other not for profit organisations. In the same vein of finance, digital and tech skills are sector agnostic, so we can get a much richer picture if we really open up our view of the market to include other sectors - it means we can develop a more informed recruitment strategy.

The information below is taken from a range of sources including the Office of National Statistics, Adzuna, Tech Nation, Charity Digital Jobs and the Charity Digital Skills Report.

Geography and growth

The tech economy employs over 2.1 million people and is a bigger employer than sectors such as hospitality (1.3 million) and construction (1.9 million) - this includes a broad range of roles that are not just the “sharp-end” of tech and digital such as Full Stack Developers but also Project Managers, Communications and Marketing. The digital and tech markets are growing at 2.6 times the rest of the economy and this has fueled an increase in these roles of 150% within the sector over the past four years.

Outside of London, regional cities such as Reading, Leeds, Manchester and Cambridge are firmly established regional hubs and this growth is generating an increased density of roles in these areas with tech and digital accounting for over 20% of listed job vacancies within these regions. A recent example is the digital bank Starling opening a new office in Southampton to draw on local talent and collaborate with Universities.

Demand is focused primarily focused on digital technology roles which are 20 times more in demand than creative design roles – for example Software Developer roles account for 20% of all positions but Digital Project Managers account for only 5%.

The growth of the sector and roles across regions is a reminder that the traditional London centric focus for not for profit organisations will create additional challenges in hiring talent - there are opportunities to find candidates in regional cities.

This demand, irrespective of location, has created a candidate short market for digital positions which means there are far more passive rather than active candidates in the marketplace – this means we should be using tools and methods that reach candidates across sectors and regions, and not just those that are actively looking. 


The sector is less likely to be recruiting Software Engineers (which demand a high salary) but Digital Project Managers are more common – for each role, there are significant variances in the salaries across regions.

For example, the median salary in the digital and tech sector is £42,000 in London versus £32,000 in Leeds – a difference of 31%. When we look at how salaries compare in the not for profit sector, data from Charity Digital Jobs on over 1,000 job adverts gives us a median salary in the sector of £34,000 for London - £8,000 less than the rest of the market.

Taken the scale and geography point above, as well as salary, might not tell you anything you don’t already know – there is growing competition for talent inside and outside of London and the sector is likely to struggle to compete on salary.

However, when an organisation cannot compete on salary it is critical to understand and appeal to candidate motivations and look at what you can leverage versus a competitor. For example, taking a role to 4 days per week but retaining the same salary would give a 20% uplift in the pro-rata rate. Other benefits such as flexible working as well as understanding the value of a not for profits mission cause can also impact on a candidates decision to apply or not.

You can see more detail on average salaries and the growth of the market in the Tech Nation Report 2019 and the Bright Tech Future report.

Candidate motivations

Charity Digital Jobs surveyed candidates interested in working in digital in the not for profit sector. Surprisingly only 21% of candidates listed salary and benefits as the most important thing to them when looking for a new role – with an organisation’s mission and cause (39%) and agile working/culture (26%) both scoring higher.

We also know from our conversations with candidates that what excites them is an opportunity to work on large scale digital projects, supporting culture change and innovation.

Appealing to candidate motivations should be front and centre of your job adverts and working practices. If you don’t offer flexible working or agile working you are significantly reducing the chances of finding the talent you need. You can read more about best practice when creating job adverts here.


The Tech Nation Report 2018 offers some useful insights on the wider candidate base, particularly when you consider the intersectionality of diversity – the table outlines the percentage of people working in a digital tech job versus the UK average across all jobs.


Digital tech role

UK average across all jobs







Under 35



We can see a lack of women is reflected in the workforce, which resonates with broader STEM areas, however, there is a 50% increase in BAME candidates working in digital tech roles and contrary to what we might think, a lower than average amount of young people in the sector. Given the ongoing focus on diversity digital and tech roles, this could represent a real opportunity to leverage new and diverse talent into the not for profit sector.