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Why Hiring Managers Can't Find Skilled Candidates

Everyone seems to be hiring right now, making it a buyer’s market for qualified job seekers. Yet more than 80% of actively-hiring companies are saying that there aren’t just enough skilled candidates to go around, according to a survey by Challenger, Gray, & Christmas. And this isn’t likely to improve anytime soon: LinkedIn projects that by 2030, the global talent shortage may hit 85.2 million people, costing organizations trillions of dollars. How does such an alarming shortage come about? And how can you help your own organization jump that gap?

Employers Need More Sophisticated Skills

For many organizations, the skills gap struggle is real, as companies are digitizing and growing at incredibly fast rates. The truth is that there just may not be enough candidates out there with cutting-edge tech skills that organizations need to support digital growth and strategy. Emerging technologies and automation, for example, are trends that require a lot of specialized knowledge to implement and nurture. However, the number of job seekers who list the specific skills and certifications that show proficiency may not be catching up.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that people with the skills aren’t out there. It may be that supply and demand aren’t lining up due to a lack of communication. For job seekers, it means being more specific in their resumes and application materials, or actively building these skill sets. For employers, it means being more explicit in their job descriptions. Better communication about what’s expected or hoped-for in particular roles may help potential recruits adapt to the market.

Soft Skills Are The New Hard Skills

Organizations are increasingly understanding that soft skills (problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, etc.) are becoming as much a factor in recruiting and hiring as hard skills (skills that require certification, specific experience, training, etc.). In a recent SHRM survey, HR respondents identified three main soft skill areas where job candidates were lacking:

  • Problem-solving/critical thinking/creativity
  • Dealing with complexity and ambiguity
  • Communication

These skills are considerably more difficult to “teach” than, say, welding or data analysis, and so are harder to quantify and identify in a talent pool thus increasing the skills gap.

The Mismatch Between Education And The Reality Of The Labor Market

More people than ever are earning college degrees, but with the exception of highly specialized or technical programs, many of these degrees do not include the kinds of skills that the market needs. For example, according to a recent “World at Work” report by McKinsey & Company, most countries will need to double the number of students graduating in STEM fields to meet the demand for skills and jobs in those areas. Yet most schools still offer traditional programs in liberal arts and sciences that don’t address the more future-facing needs of a tech-and-healthcare focused society.

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Related:  The Staffing Agency's Guide To Programmatic Recruitment

Organizations Don’t Branch Out Enough In Recruitment

Old standbys like job fairs, job boards, and in-school recruitment can be effective, but they’re not doing enough anymore to cover the diversifying needs of most industries and organizations. By looking to more nontraditional venues like job retraining programs and nonprofits, companies can help identify skilled workers outside of the usual sources.

Eliminating bias in recruitment and hiring can also go a long way in diversifying hires, and tapping into potential skills that might have otherwise slipped through the system. Automation and data analysis can help catch candidates that might otherwise have been victims of conscious or unconscious bias in hiring.

Companies Don’t Prioritize Training For Current Employees

Many organizations end up following the status quo for their workforce. They hire for a particular role and encourage job title growth, but not necessarily skill growth. In-house training, certification guidance and support, conferences, and corporate subscriptions for online courses—all of these investments in employees can help fill your own skill gap at home and make for a stronger workforce overall. It may be that the skills you need are achievable with the team you already have.

The stats can be frightening when it comes to our skilled future. But the answer is not to panic and settle for employees with lesser qualifications, or to accept that hiring will just get harder and harder for the foreseeable future. If you understand why these gaps are happening and start to develop strategies that your own organization can use when hiring or developing existing talent, the crisis may not hit you so hard.

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Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.

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