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Why Can’t I Find Any Good People?

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Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

It’s amazing.

The Department of Labor reports a current unemployment rate of 7.3% (and some say the percent is really closer to double digits, once you factor in people who’ve simply stopped looking for work), but still employers can be heard all day long talking about how they can’t fill jobs.

How is this possible? With so many people out of work or looking for work, why can’t employers find suitable people?

Here are some common theories:

  • Job seekers don’t have the hard skills needed to fill all the utilities, transportation, and trades jobs available.
  • Job seekers don’t have the soft skills needed to fill the professional jobs available.
  • Job seekers don’t have the digital and online skills needed to fill the jobs available.
  • Employers are searching for the “perfect candidate” (i.e., that "Purple Squirrel") and overlooking qualified candidates in the process.
  • Job seekers aren’t willing to relocate or take jobs “beneath them.”
  • Employers don’t want to pay realistic wages for the skills they’re seeking.
  • Employers are biased against the unemployed and the underemployed.

I believe all of these things are absolutely, 100% true.

But I’ll tell you something else I believe.

By and large, our hiring systems are broken, and it seems we don’t know how to fix them.

You’re familiar with the common definition of insanity, right? Of course you are, but I’ll repeat it anyway. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

If you’re an employer having a hard time finding good job candidates, I’d like to give you three pieces of advice.

  1. Do something different 
    I’ll bet you have some idea of what the ideal candidate “looks like” in terms of education, experience, and skill set. If you’re really being honest, I’ll bet you even have some idea of his or her style of dress, manner of speaking, and body weight. Do yourself a favor and put all that aside for a moment. Ask yourself, “What work needs to get done?” and then review each candidate with that thought in the forefront of your mind. Candidates from different industries and different zip codes could indeed possess or be taught the skills you need to ace the job.

    I’m not saying you should settle or sacrifice fit. I’m saying—let go of the mindset that your best new employees are already working for your competitor. It’s untrue. And know this. Just because someone has done something in the past doesn’t mean she’s done it well. Your competitor has duds, too. Why in the world would you want to make his day and hire one away from him? Instead, go out and nab yourself someone fabulous who doesn’t “fit the mold” but still somehow checks all the boxes.
  2. Stop putting up roadblocks in your candidates' way. Bulky, sluggish applicant tracking systems; over-the-top educational or experience requirements; and invasive requests for personal information you don’t need (like social security numbers and high school or college graduation dates) are all a turn-off to candidates, even desperate ones. Don’t let bad policy get between you and the workers that could bring something of value to your organization.
  3. Remember that nothing ventured equals nothing gained. Take a risk. Make a move. If may not be the perfect move, but it could be wonderful nonetheless. So many job descriptions, job ads, and hiring procedures seem to be designed with one goal in mind—eliminating all risk from the process. But that’s impossible to do! Hiring always involves some degree of the unknown. Accept it, and make your decision anyway.

There are many qualified individuals in the market hoping to land a job soon. If you’ve been looking and haven’t found them yet, perhaps accepting more of the onus in the process could bring about a change.

You might have to train someone. You might have to consider someone you dismissed out of hand as a potential “poor fit.” You might have to accept a compromise or pay more than you’d hoped. You might have to take a risk.

But finding that great new employee will be worth it.

Want to finally catch your Purple Squirrel?

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11 Comments

  1. 11 Glenn 01 Jun

    The article stated, "Just because someone has done something in the past doesn’t mean she’s done it well."

    Yes, and at this point it's worth studying just why do people change jobs. 

    Many times one is asked that very question during a job interview.  It needs to be handled very carefully, especially to not speak ill of a former employer.  Yet many times a candidate won't give you the ultimate real reason.

    Using the above statement again, "Just because someone has done something in the past doesn’t mean she wants to keep doing it!"

  2. 10 Withheld in Fear 11 Mar

        I am noticing a lot of job offers that are for positions performing job duties of someone much higher in level than the job offer states. Either HR, the headhunting agency, or the company itself is listing the duties of an engineer, but asking for a "Drafter" so they can get the "drafter" to work cheap and perform engineering duties without ever being given credit as an engineer. Then, they go even further stating "and other duties as assigned"... well that's great! What would those be so we can remove all cover-ups and discuss a realistic salary?

    I think the entire idea of an HR unit within a company is a complete waste of time and money. Suddenly a company has a series of employees having to validate and justify their reason for being there, creating policies for hiring and all that other b.s.

    A LOT of headhunters are simply looking to fill their dockets as soon as possible, and if you don't like one of their jobs they offer you, they forget about you, are rude, and don't return your calls. They also never list the actual location of the company that is hiring, so you don't know if it is in your part of town or not,,, what a waste of time for real job seekers. I HATE placement agencies, and have yet to work with ONE that has any credibility or professionalism at all.

  3. 9 Claudia Bert 15 Feb

    HR needs to ditch Taleo as part of their online screening process. The only people Taleo has helped was make the programmers and inventors rich. I've seen many unqualified persons get a job, because the job seeker was able to select the "right answers" according to the computer algorithm. Qualities were missed and red flags that were missed, because the online screening programs were doing the job that should have been done by the HR pro. If HR professionals continue this trend, they will see their positions outsourced to third party businesses.

    Stop letting a faulty computer algorithm (Taleo) do your job.  HR professionals get back to doing what you were hired to do -- read cover letters and resumes.  Let your gut instincts be your guide!

  4. 8 Pranav 09 Oct

    I have also experienced what Susanne is indicating. It's not for all candidates, but can be found in many!

    While accepting the job offer, some employees want to desparately leave the current job. So they say 'YES' to all terms and conditions (responsibilities, negotiated salary) since they do not have a better option available.

    Later when they join the company, the 'security' need (Maslow's hirarchy) is met. So they start expecting other things like only strategic work, higher pay etc. And that's how they become dissatisfied.

  5. 7 Crystal Spraggins 09 Oct

    Thanks everyone, for all the interesting comments! I have a few responses.

    @Susanne. Really? I don't think I've ever heard this before. If this is a pattern, I'd have to believe that something is amiss in the process. How do you determine that employees are going into the job with full knowledge of what's expected?

    @Becky. Congratulations on getting your degree! Rightly or wrongly, many employers put a lot of stock in it, so it's great that you have it.

    @Philip. I couldn't agree more, and yes, I've read (and have no trouble believing) that the REAL unemployment rate is closer to 10 or 11%.

    @Theresa. Also agree (about the degree thing) and hope that hiring managers are reading. Well, we know Susanne is!:)

    @Becky. I agree with you, too. Unfortunately, too few interviewers have the skill or patience to do as you recommend.

    @Marie. I've heard hiring managers and recruiters say this again and again, but I always wonder how much they really mean it? Lots of companies say they want unique people but what they really mean is "We want unique people who are unique in ways we expect and can accept." Hmmm ...

     

     

     

     

  6. 6 Susanne Watson 09 Oct
    I have read all the comments, I am solely responsible for hiring.  All the theories are accurate, except one thing.  I have great candidates for positions, but once hired do not want to do the work that they agreed to do for the pay they accepted.  They are always unsettled and unhappy, even when they go into a position with full knowledge of what is expected.  This is one missing theory!!
  7. 5 Becky Smith 09 Oct

    Very good article. I have seen many of these issues when looking for jobs. Especially throwing away a resume because of a lack of a degree, and I've personally experienced discrimination due to weight.  I agree with what Theresa McGill said. Employers believe that a degree means something magical. I just got mine, at 51 years of age, with 30 years of experience. It doesn't make me smarter or a better employee. It just means I have a piece of paper on my wall.

  8. 4 Philip Picket 09 Oct

    The DOL, like all Govt entities does not have a clue about reality and real unemployment numbers. I'm hoping the writer is smart enough to realize this..

    Employers hurt themselves by screen out applicants that are: 1) to old 2) to young 3) to educated 4) not educated enough 5) not in the geographic area 6) unemployed 7) job hoopers 8) etc/etc/etc..

    When it gets down to who they will even consider (based on their ATS) they have thrown away many who are more than qualified...

    They shoot theirselves in the foot and then wonder why they can't find anyone...

  9. 3 Theresa McGill 09 Oct
    Great article.  Just
    hope the people in hiring positions are reading it.  The thing I find hard with getting hired is
    when you have over seventeen years of experience in a field but do not have the
    "degree" you are not considered for a position.  Employers are looking for "degrees"

    not realizing how valuable a seasoned person could be to their company.  Hiring both ddegree employees and seasoned

    employees would greatly benefit a company and the employees.
  10. 2 Becky Newton 04 Oct

    I think many employers make a quick
    decision when they meet someone for an interview, assumptions based on the
    first few minutes interaction and whether the candidate fits the profile. By
    asking the right questions and making the candidate feel at ease, you can get
    past their nerves and find out their true skill set. If you have any doubts,
    take references, often a person you thought would be mediocre because they
    weren't confident in an interview, turns out to have been a shining star to a
    previous employer. 

  11. 1 Marie Probana Jakobsen 01 Oct

    Great post and topic.

    I think the most common reason why people can't get a job is either that you're like everyone else or you don't have the qualified skills needed for the job. 

    My best advice is to educate yourself and improve your skills and stand out from the rest - do something extraordinary :-)

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