The Skills Gap: Myth or Reality?

By March 18, 2016 No Comments

Many employers have faced this scenario at one time or another: they have a need for a certain type of professional — ideally with a specific degree, a requisite amount of experience and a particular skill set — but the candidate search comes up empty (or lackluster).

CareerBuilder published a report early last year that stated, “more than half of employers nationwide have an open job for which they cannot find qualified candidates, and eight in 10 have difficulty filling positions altogether.”  It might seem as though organizations are currently facing the added challenge of overcoming a skills gap — a shortage of the right kind of professionals in the job market.

But that might not be the case. In fact, some wonder whether the skills gap even exists, particularly at this scale.  Inc.com business writer Cait Murphy suggests there’s no such thing as the skills gap for the labor force as a whole.  Employers’ difficulty in finding suitable candidates might be due in large part to their being entirely too picky.

If companies are too rigid about the parameters they’ve set for acceptable candidates, they may have lost sight of the “big picture” and may have set a standard that cannot be met in reality.  Furthermore, the extensive use of online hiring applications can compound the problem. Screening software often filters out otherwise-qualified people who just don’t have the right title or buzzword in their online résumé–or have six years’ experience instead of seven.

And here’s another glitch that using screening software creates: research done by the U.S. Federal Reserve tells us that when employers perceive that the talent pool is particularly large (big enough to justify using online screening, that is) the hiring authority tends to raise the standards in the vain hope of scoring a far-above-average hire.

Consider this: the biggest danger of unrealistic standards and an unnecessarily long and protracted search process is leaving a critical position unfilled for an extended period of time. That’s inefficient and expensive.  If you can’t fill the job in a reasonable amount of time, there may be something wrong with your methods.

If your firm is facing what seems to be a shortage of qualified candidates, consider whether the expectations might be unreasonable. Is the problem truly a lack of talent out there, or a failure on the company’s part to recognize top talent when it sees it?


Maurice GilbertMaurice Gilbert is Managing Partner of Conselium Executive Search, which specializes in placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel for clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific.  Maurice is also CEO of Corporate Compliance Insights, a worldwide publication devoted to governance, risk and compliance issues. Maurice can be reached at maurice@conselium.com or maurice@corporatecomplianceinsights.com.

Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.  

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