Employers struggle to find talent

Even in today's employment market, quantity doesn't mean quality when it comes to hiring

Crowds of job-seekers wait to enter a job fair at Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) Crowds of job-seekers wait to enter a job fair at Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Some employers are struggling to find talent to fill key positions, even in this slow economy. With the national unemployment rate sitting at 9.1 percent, there are plenty of people looking for work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean employers are finding the right job candidates, says Erin Peterson, recruitment process outsourcing practice leader of Aon Hewitt.

“What we know about job applicants these days is that quantity does not necessarily mean quality,” Peterson says. “Employers are really faced with high volumes of candidates they have to sort through and overall fewer people who are an actual fit for what they are looking for. We’ve even seen some percentages as high as a recruiter who is spending 90 percent of their time handling unqualified candidates, leaving only 10 percent of their time to figure out how to push the qualified candidates through the process.”

The struggle to fill jobs is especially strong for critical-skills positions, says Laury Sejen, global head of rewards at Towers Watson. According to a recent Towers Watson survey, only 13 percent of employers are finding it difficult to attract general employees, but that number takes a significant jump to 59 percent for critical-skill employees.

“This pretty striking juxtaposition between the percentage of employers who are saying they’re experiencing attraction and retention issues for employees in general versus what we refer to as critical-skill employees,” Sejen says. “We seem to have a mismatch between what companies are looking for in terms of knowledge, skills, training, experience and then what’s actually out there.”

Of the critical-skill jobs, positions such as software architects, engineers, health care technicians and manufacturing workers are especially in demand, Sejen adds.

Education also appears to make a difference during the career search, with it being a major consideration for employers, Peterson says. In fact, for people with college degrees, the unemployment rate is only at 4.5 percent, which suggests workers without college degrees are at a disadvantage.

“For people who question whether it’s worthwhile to get a college degree, if they look at that statistic, they’ll say, ‘Well, there has to be something to this college education,” Peterson says. “If nothing else, it teaches us how to learn and gives us a leg up on perhaps other candidates who are out there.”

To find the most qualified job candidates, employers should consider using online assessments, Peterson says. These assessments are all managed electronically, which gives an employer objective feedback regarding a candidate, and this helps that employer cut the list of potential employees even further.

“Use technology to your advantage to narrow the list of candidates, so they feel good about the process and feel like they had a chance to tell you who they are and you didn’t just leave them out there,” Peterson says. “Then, the hiring manager actually has better data to make their decision.”

Peterson also suggests employers use video technology to show potential employees what a typical day is like for all open positions. By doing this, employers can instantly cut about 50 percent of job applicants, Peterson estimates, because they will see the job openings aren’t quite what they imagined.

But attracting the right job candidates doesn’t end there, Sejen adds. Employee retention directly relates to attraction, especially among critical-skill employees. Because of their unique abilities, critical-skill employees are part of a stronger market with more job opportunities. Whatever motivates these employees – whether it’s base salary, incentive pay or career development – should be made clear.

“Once you have people in the door, especially given how hard it’ll be to find a replacement, as an employer, you need to focus on whether you are doing the best job you can to engage these key segments of your work force and make sure they’re motivated, productive and don’t represent attrition risks,” Sejen says.


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