Why You Can’t Hire the People You Need – It’s Not What You Think

There have been many complaints by some companies that they can’t find people to fill positions, despite a 7.3% unemployment rate.

What gives? Are the unemployed a bunch of no-talent, bottom-of-the-barrel drudges who should never be given a job?


Check out Twitter or LinkedIn, and you’ll find experienced, smart, driven people looking for work.  There are currently four million people who are now considered long-term unemployed, meaning they have been looking for work for more than six months. A recent Urban Institute study finds that these long-term jobless are better educated than the other unemployed Americans.

So why do some employers say they can’t find the right talent?

Because they’re lazy.

They let software automatically screen for keywords so they can eliminate hundreds of resumes without even looking at them. Other pre-screening methods eliminate anyone who doesn’t have the exact skills mentioned in the job posting.

Next, they rule out anyone who looks “too old,”  is unemployed (there must be something wrong with them if they don’t have a job, right?) and anything else that gives them an excuse to dump a resume, such as – gasp! – a misspelled word.

When it finally comes time to do interviews, more applicants are rejected because the employer asks basic, uninspired questions that fail to really plumb the depths of what an applicant may have to offer.

So, now the recruitment process by these employers has come down to only a few remaining applicants. But after a quick huddle with human resources, those candidates are determined not to possess “it” (which is never really defined) and so it’s decided the search process needs to begin again.

Now everyone sits around complaining that no qualified talent is available.

But could it be that the problem isn’t the lack of qualified applicants, but a lack of quality recruiting?

If managers were better trained in the hiring process, they could use pre-screening and interview processes that didn’t weed out candidates based on a lack of certain skills. They would understand that employees do best when they are challenged and can see career development in their future. Hiring someone to do the exact same job they left earlier doesn’t make a lot of sense and can lead to job dissatisfaction within the year.

In addition, more employers need to be asking better questions in interviews so that they find people with the skills that often can’t be taught:  a dedication to quality work, a commitment to teamwork; an ability to think strategically and creatively; and an ability to get along with others.

In “Hiring for Attitude,” by Mark Murphy, he says that of the 20,000 new hires he tracked, 46% failed within 18 months because a majority of the time they couldn’t be coached, had low levels of emotional intelligence,  were unmotivated and had the wrong temperament.

If employers want to start hiring smarter, then they need to:

  • Stop writing crappy job postings. Employers need to really understand what an open position needs on a short- and long-term basis. Hiring managers should spend time talking to colleagues and customers to solicit their ideas on the key skills that are needed to really rock the position. If a cool head in a stressful environment is needed, applicants might be asked to tell a story about a time that they faced a crisis and how they dealt with it.
  • Look for referrals.  Other employees often know people within their industry or even have friends who might be a good fit for a job. Always open a position internally first as it can help drive retention, motivation and engagement for employees to know an employer sees them as helping the company be successful.
  • Quit taking the easy route. If you’re looking for an easy way to eliminate the number of people you need to interview and quickly fill the position so you can move on to other things, then you will pay for that slacker attitude when you hire the wrong person.  Department of Labor statistics shows that the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the person’s first year of potential earnings. So, dig deeper into a person’s resume and ask more probing interview questions, for example, to learn that a candidate shows a real talent for self-direction or an aptitude for embracing new ideas and learning quickly. Putting more time into the process earlier will be worth it in the long run.
  • Forget about looking for drones. Employees are human beings. Their lives can be a bit messy with day care demands, cars that break down, parents who are getting older and health issues that cause them to miss work. If you’re focused on hiring someone you feel will never get sick, have a bad day, worry about a teenager while at work or fight with a spouse on the phone, then you are looking for R2-D2.

What are some other strategies that result in better hires?

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  • Hello Anita,

    There is no a shortage of qualified talent for employers who know how to identify and hire talent.

    80% of employees are not well suited to their jobs including supervisor, managers, executives, and CEOs.

    We keep hiring the wrong people to be managers and above.

    The 20% who fit their jobs as manages can create an engaged workforce but if the executives are ill-suited to their jobs success may be fleeting.

    All organizations have one thing in common that makes them not unique; all employees are people.

    There are many factors to consider when hiring talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire for talent nor manage talent effectively.

    1. How do you define talent?
    2. How do you measure talent?
    3. How do you know a candidate’s talent?
    4. How do you know what talent is required for each job?
    5. How do you match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?

    Employers need to assess for:
    – Cultural Match (Cultural Fit)
    – Skills Match (Competence)
    – Job Match (Talent)

    Some employers assess for all three.

    Potential is identified during the Job Match evaluation.

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  • SS50

    I talked to a skilled titanium machinist, who made on jet engine turbine blades. That business dried up, and he was re-trained to make artificial knee and hip joints. Before he started in manufacturing, he was a musician. His employer recognized basic skills and values, then invested in specific training for a long productive career.

    That machinist is now working with a community college program to turn out graduates highly optimized for a job that matches the keywords posted in this month’s job openings. If history is any measure, some of that training money might be better spent learning to play a musical instrument