Talent Shortage? I Think Not!

According to recent surveys by Manpower group nearly 49% of U.S. organizations are struggling to find employees for their mission critical positions even though the Manpower graphunemployment rate continues to hover near 8%.  The three most cited reasons are lack of applicants, the applicants’ demand for more money than is being offered and the lack of experience among the available applicants.

As an individual with executive search experience who has faced the challenges of trying to place qualified applicants with “picky” employers, I take exception to these reasons.  Let’s examine each one more closely.

55% say there is a lack of applicants:  The hardest to fill jobs are skilled trades (plumbers, carpenters, etc.), engineers and sales people.  Admittedly I have never recruited for a plumber or carpenter but have conducted numerous searches for sales people and engineers.  Personally I have not found a lack of candidates for these positions.  Throw up a job posting and you are sure to get a few dozen applicants within the first few days.  However I have found that strict hiring requirements developed by the hiring manager as they look for their “silver bullet” candidate often make placing a candidate more difficult.  Requiring the candidate to be of a certain age, have every last qualification, live within a commutable distance, deny relocation assistance and not offer a wage commensurate with the position, certainly thins the herd of applicants.  This brings me to the second most often cited reason.

54% say the candidate is looking for more pay than is being offered:  Through all the searches on which I’ve worked, rarely do I find a candidate meeting all the job requirements and experience who is also willing to work for the offered salary and more often than not that candidate is eliminated for some other criteria.  Now of course many candidates think highly of themselves and believe their salaries should match their ego but I truly find that hiring managers want seasoned professionals at junior prices.  Why would a candidate making “x” go to work for someone and make “x-y”?  The position is open.  It is waiting to be filled.  Why not at least match the candidate’s current salary?  I will tell you why in a second but first reason number three.

44% say the candidates are not experienced enough:  Honestly this may be true.  If you do use job postings, you will find that at least 50% of the applicants don’t have the necessary qualifications.  Today a discrepancy also exists between the college education required to perform certain jobs and the education students are actually obtaining.  For instance philosophy and political science degrees are seldom required for mechanical engineering and software sales.  Training to overcome knowledge gaps is rarely provided to capable applicants.  Only 28% of the 40,000 worldwide employers in a recent survey said they are willing to provide such training.

So if filling open positions is so critical why are employers unwilling to offer more training or more flexibility with their offered salary?  The reason is somewhat startling.  Manpower’s 2012 survey revealed that 56% of companies believe their unfilled positions have little impact on customers and investors.  This is a 56% increase from a year before!

So the majority of companies don’t feel their open positions even affect their business.  If this is true then what incentive do they have to hire anyone for their open positions?  If they have no incentive to fill their open positions then how can most of them chime in on the lack of available talent for these positions?  Are their opinions on talent shortage not skewed by their lack of need?  After all, if you don’t really perceive a need for something or someone then you are in the position to be selectively choosy about your decision.  As a hiring manger you won’t feel the pressure of time to fill.  In other words you are less willing to settle and so if companies are waiting only for the Marissa Mayers, Kobe Bryants and Steven Speilbergs to cross their doorstep then yes, a talent shortage does exist.

This takes us back around to the assumption that the theory of a talent shortage is a bit overhyped and really, truly a lack of motivated employers is the culprit.

About Ryder Cullison

Ryder has more than 10 years of experience working with retained search clients as a search professional. As a pioneer of Interview4 he has great knowledge of video interviewing. He writes about all things hiring and looks forward to engaging with his audience on topics of leadership, recruiting, candidate screening, and employee satisfaction. Follow him on Twitter: @hireintelligent and @cullison1
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