Shortage of Workforce Talent or Just No Shortage of Discrimination

I have written a great deal about the shortage of talent within particular professions lately and I also have excessively discussed the prevalence of discrimination both in my blog posts and online.  I would prefer any week to write about one of these two subjects than regurgitate another “Six great tips for this” or “Ten Inspiring tips for that” post we see pop up daily online.

The shortage of talent in the global workforce specifically among engineers and sales horse and cowpeople is a huge problem as is discrimination among all industries.  As I ponder both of these subjects more frequently I realize they are not mutually exclusive.  On the one hand you have organizations repeatedly complaining they can’t find good talent and yet on the other many are saying or at least indicating through their hiring practices, that their primary decision to hire does not hinge on talent.  For instance according to a Gallup poll, eighty-eight percent of hiring organizations claim they will choose a candidate more for personality than for skills. Now wait a second, we can’t all complain about a lack of talent and simultaneously say talent isn’t the most important part of our hiring decision, can we?

Wharton Professor of Management Peter Capelli often relates a story of a staffing firm unable to identify one qualified candidate for a standard engineering role out of thousands of applicants.  I’m scratching my head.  Presuming that 50% of those candidates weren’t remotely qualified we can still assume that at least a couple hundred had what it took to get the job done.  So if talent is what these companies really sought then how could so many talented individuals get rejected?

According to a study published last year, overweight respondents reported discrimination in the hiring process 12x more than normal weight respondents while severely overweight respondents cited discrimination 100x more than normal weight respondents.  Now let’s assume that a few of these overweight/obese individuals were actually qualified to do the job.  If they are eliminated from the process for any reason other than talent then can they still be included in the lack of talent data?  If a guy has talent but the hiring organization won’t hire him because he’s obese then we can’t say no talent exists.  Their selection is based on anything but talent.

Research out of the University of Iowa suggests that a bad interview handshake can eliminate candidates from contention especially for entry level jobs.  Again the handshake has nothing to do with talent so I’m once again scratching my head.  The talent is possibly there right just not the handshake?  Again this isn’t a rejection based on potential lack of talent but rather a possible personality conflict insinuated by a limp handshake.

New studies also reveal that a candidate who has been out of work six months or longer is less likely to get a job than a candidate who has been out of work six weeks or less but has less skills.  So to clarify, more talent doesn’t equal more interviews.

Studies in Europe and the U.S. suggest that while attractive women are more likely to get promoted (regardless of talent) they are also less likely to get called in for interviews (again regardless of talent).

Let’s say I’m running a farm and post around the county that I need animals to pull my heavy machinery.  Well a bunch of cows apply.  Now these cows are pretty strong and reasonably healthy.  One appears a bit overweight and the color of another’s hide is different than what I’m used to, but for the most part they can all pull my machinery adequately.  Unfortunately for them I’m used to hiring horses.  I found talent but I don’t like my talent.  I want horses darnit not cows!  The talent exists but I’m basing my decision to hire or not hire on far more factors which may or may not even be important to the position.  In other words I am discriminating against the cows because they are cows and not horses.

The American workforce is not livestock but I think you get the analogy.  Are we really saying we can’t find talent?  I think we’re really saying that we just can’t find talent that walks like us and quacks like us.

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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