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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?