Case studies

Department for Education

Central Government


22 vacancy campaign across multiple sites, levels and reporting lines

Client profile

The Department for Education is responsible for children’s services and education, including early years, schools, higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills across England. In addition to the head office in Whitehall, the Department employs staff at a number of regional hubs.



Following significant structural change that revealed business-critical skills deficits, Robertson Bell was retained by DfE to run a large-scale recruitment campaign spanning 22 permanent vacancies.

The roles were spread across Finance, Risk, Assurance and Policy divisions, and ranged from HEO through to Grade 6 level. With many central government departments under pressure to reduce head count in Whitehall offices, we were tasked with recruiting these posts to other key locations across the UK.


Considerations and challenges

  • The logistical challenge of running a 22-vacancy campaign across multiple sites, levels and reporting lines.
  • High churn of candidates in this sector means that recruiting departments frequently receive the same CV’s, so a key challenge was to attract a fresh, diverse candidate pool with broad exposure across a variety of finance environments.
  • Specified skills profiles for many roles were very niche, requiring strong private sector experience.
  • Managing the quality and consistency of D&I monitoring across a large-scale campaign. 


Robertson Bell collaborated closely with recruiting managers, many of whom had no previous experience of working with an external recruitment partner. So our consultants were able to add even greater value through the sharing of recruitment best practice, and by providing insight into the commercial considerations of running a successful, cost-effective campaign.

We deployed a bespoke approach, carrying out a comprehensive database search augmented by targeted advertising and a wide-reaching headhunt to identify and engage passive candidates with the appropriate expertise and experience.

With so many high-quality candidates to consider, we implemented an efficient screening processes – relieving busy Department managers of much of the burden, whilst quickly identifying the most attractive candidates.



Our campaign generated 934 applications across the 22 vacancies, and our specialist headhunt team engaged with a further 117 high-calibre candidates. All candidates were screened blind by a Robertson Bell panel of trained consultants, consisting of one male, one female and one from a minority group – all of whom had completed D&I awareness training.

144 candidates were invited to video via our In-Sight platform, with 89 selected for second round face-to-face interviews. Of the 22 vacancies listed, 20 were appointed with the first choice candidate.



“Robertson Bell recently delivered a retained recruitment campaign of 22 vacancies with our Finance, Governance, Assurance and Risk teams with a 100% success rate for us here at the Department for Education. The roles ranged from HEO (Assistant Accountant) through to Grade 6 (Senior Finance Manager) with a good spread across our different sites.

Robertson Bell managed the whole process professionally from end to end, keeping our team here at DfE fully informed and involved at each stage, and were on hand whenever I (the contract manager) or the individual vacancy managers needed to get in touch with them. I was particularly impressed with the strength and diverse shortlist of candidates presented to us which also meant we didn’t have to go through full processes for all of the campaigns due to healthy waiting lists from our early recruitment. And through the use of In-Sight, their online recruitment platform, it reduced the time commitment on our vacancy managers as it meant they could narrow the shortlist down to the most suitable candidates at an earlier stage.

Overall, I have been very impressed with the level of service, knowledge and expertise of the team and have no hesitation in recommending them. As a result of their support, we have managed to fill some of our most specialist posts with no outstanding vacancies across the whole directorate.”

Chief of Staff – DFE.

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