Despite the high unemployment, a common complaint of companies is that they still cannot find qualified workers. But research by human resource specialists is showing the problem may not be with the quality of the job candidates but with the unrealistic expectations of employers.
According to Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, there are plenty of qualified people out there. Companies are not hiring for reasons unrelated to qualifications: They are looking for the perfect candidate even though they have very good ones, or they are unwilling to pay a competitive salary, or they are using software programs that are weeding out good candidates.
Cappelli says there is no evidence to support the oft-heard argument of the lack of qualified people. Companies are blaming the schools for not providing people with the skills needed, but this is just not true, he says. In fact, he says, the opposite is true – candidates are by and large overeducated for the jobs they are applying for.
Another talent management specialist says it is companies’ own unrealistic expectations that also are to blame. Because of the high rate of unemployment, companies assume that there is a perfect candidate out there for the job opening, one absolutely without flaw, a seamless fit for the job. So, companies set the bar really high, and then take way too long to fill the position.
Another problem, human resource specialists say, is that companies are becoming too reliant on software programs to weed out candidates. And here too, the programs are knocking out well qualified candidates because the job qualifications are laughably unrealistic.
As an example, Cappelli noted one company that had 25,000 applicants for a basic engineering job, but not one of them was considered qualified. In another case, a marketing position required experience in the green olive produce market. But an applicant with experience in the black olive produce market was considered not qualified.
One of the reasons for this over reliance on software is the cutbacks that have occurred in human resources because of the recession. As a result, HR departments are using the software more because they have become overwhelmed. But the programs need to be set up so that they are only weeding out highly unqualified candidates. There needs to be more of a human element involved when screening job applicants, experts say, so that nontraditional candidates are not automatically excluded.
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