5 Tips for closing the skills gap


Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

PayScale’s 2014 Best Compensation Practices Report revealed that employers are still very much concerned about the skills gap.

According to the survey, which culled responses from 5,000 executives and HR professionals, nearly 50 percent of companies are having trouble filling positions with skilled labor.

While not everyone agrees that a skills gap exists (or at least exists to the degree publicized in some media outlets), most do agree that something in the job market is awry when employers are complaining about not being able to find qualified workers even as job seekers complain they are qualified yet still unable to find stable, full-time employment.

That said, and regardless of what anyone believes, if you’re an employer unable to fulfill customer demands and/or your own plans for growth because you don’t have the right personnel, you’ve got a problem in need of solving. What can you do?

Here are 5 suggestions.

  1. Adjust your expectations
    Despite the fact that it’s not exactly working for them, some employers still believe the “perfect” candidate—someone who checks all the “required” and “preferred” boxes, who has a great personality, and who’s willing to work for what the employer cares to pay and not a penny more—is theirs for the taking. A recent survey, however, found that 31 percent of offers are being rejected because the candidate has another job offer. The survey also found that 37 percent of openings are caused by resignations. It would appear that waiting on perfect, instead of hiring to standard, isn’t always a good business decision.
  2. Be willing to train 
    In "Why The Manufacturing Skills Gap Is Serious," it’s noted that “some manufacturers have … placed emphasis on peer input by developing apprenticeship programs in order to circumvent some of the missing skills.” While an employer may be reluctant to invest in training when he could hire a worker who already has the necessary skills, this stance is self-defeating in the face of persistent and stubborn job vacancies.
  3. Be willing to offer more 
    It almost goes without saying that people with specialized skills expect to be paid commensurate with those skills. If you’re finding that all your best candidates are asking for more money or better benefits than you’re offering, it’s time to consider whether your compensation package needs an overhaul.
  4. Hire independent contractors 
    In general, contractors will be more experienced and better skilled and won’t require  much supervision. And, the higher hourly rate you’ll likely pay will be offset by the lack of benefits.
  5. Tighten your hiring practices 
    Arduous application processes (including clumsy online systems), extended decision-making periods, multiple interviews, and unrealistic job qualifications are all things that frustrate job seekers and cause you to lose good candidates—in some cases before the recruiting process has barely begun.

From time to time, it’s normal to have a position that’s more difficult to fill than some others. However, if your hard-to-fill positions have become more the norm than the exception, it may be time to rethink your overall recruiting strategy.



  1. 4 Rebecca 11 Aug
    I think that employers are narrowing the field too much by using on-line application systems that are programmed to identify the candidates that most closely match their needs. I think this type of programming causes employers to lose out on excellent candidates that have well-rounded skills and that are easily trainable and interested in learning different parts of a field. (Or maybe lose out on candidates that are honest in their self-assessments). I am in internal audit, which requires a high degree of independence from performing accounting functions, but it doesn't mean that I don't know how to perform them or that I am any less qualified as I am also a CPA who worked for Deloitte & Touche before leaving to earn more money. I recently received an email highlighting a Finance Director position with the note that I should apply for it, as my colleague has worked with me and knows my abilities. The application asked my experience level with working in certain accounting software applications and I have little to none, but am more than willing to put in the time to learn (and have quickly learned in the past other accounting software programs). Due to that, I was never asked to be interviewed. I found this to be highly discouraging especially given that another highly qualified colleague of mine did qualify to interview for the position (who happens to fall asleep in full view of management at work daily). About one year ago I moved out of state and went through the job application process in earnest. It took so much time to fill out on-line job applications for which I never received a call-back on. The only interviews I did get were through recruiters, I believe because they met me in person and were trained on identifying really good candidates. I feel empathy towards those individuals who are seriously job-seeking and having to go through this extremely impersonal and discouraging job search. The playing field of job seeking has seriously changed.
  2. 3 Adel Mahmoud 06 Aug
    By my Experience it is better to find the newly graduated staff, with basic work ethics, and adjust his skills through continuos training & inclosure on Teams that able to guide him. this solution give us many of the best staff which you could not get them through normal hiring process
  3. 2 Lesley 06 Aug
    Having been one who was looking for employment after taking time off to raise my children, and one who is also highly skilled and well-educated, my experience is that there is a diconnect between what employers say that they need and what they are actually seeking. I too heard time and again that employers are looking for skilled workers to bring value to their organization, i.e. highly skilled workers. And, that makes perfectly good sense, but that was not my experience while interviewing. The reality when I interviewed was that employers were seeking employees that had certain experience. Well, it doesn't take a genius to point out that experience does not equal skill. Skills are transferrable and should be applicable from one experience to another--at least they will be for those employees who possess the ability to tap into their inner resources. Experience only demonstrates time spent on perfoming certain tasks; and, just because one has spent much time performing certain tasks, it cannot be assumed that one has mastered those tasks or even developed transferrable skills from performing those tasks. Employers need to discern when experience is most critical to performing a job and when a highly skilled individual, regardless of experience at that job, will be well-suited.
  4. 1 Mel Kleiman 06 Aug
    For once management needs to take a short term look at the problem to get to the solution. There is no lack of talent to get the jobs you need done no matter if there is a shortage of the skills you need out there. There are enough people with the skills you need they are just working for someone else. You just need to figure out what you need to do to get them to come work for you.


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