The Lack Of Qualified Job Candidates Is A Myth
At this writing, the unemployment rate in the United States is 7.9%, yet, according to Manpower, one out of every two U.S. employers is struggling to fill mission-critical jobs. How can that be? In my view, based on my company’s work with more than 28,000 businesses around the world and our assessment of over 3.5 million people on their behalf, those frustrated employers are simply using the wrong hiring criteria.
I’ve personally heard from people at numerous companies that are looking to fill important jobs while millions remain unemployed. They think they can’t find “the right person.” As Samuel Coleridge put it, “Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.” The main trouble: They value experience above any other asset. They require an experienced individual who will hit the ground running. But how often do they come across someone who has five years of experience that adds up to just one year’s bad experience repeated five times? And perhaps even hire them, only to have to fire them (at a high cost to the company) within six months?
In this economy, no one can afford to make a bad hiring decision, so many companies find themselves stymied by traditional hiring criteria. In basketball terms, what do they do? They freeze the ball. They go without hiring while they need to hire.
First in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then in New York City, we did work proving that if companies hire on the basis of who someone is rather than looking at what they’ve done, and, of course, if they provide the necessary training, they have an excellent chance of hiring successfully. In these two cities we conducted workplace personality assessments with some 8,000 candidates and were able to place approximately 4,000 of them in a wide range of jobs with some 55 companies. These were people labeled as “hard-core unemployed.” Many had prison records, and most lacked higher education, while some had even failed to complete high school. Few had the work experience needed for the jobs in which they were placed. Yet when they were appropriately assessed and their personality qualities (communication style, motivation, etc.) matched the job requirements, they succeeded despite all their résumé shortcomings. After a two-year followup, we lost fewer than 3% of those individuals because of inability to perform a job.
In other words, we were able to place 4,000 unemployed people in jobs for which by traditional experience-based criteria they would never have been considered. We did it using our own personality assessment tool, but the lesson holds true for any company. By thinking differently about applicants, by looking for qualities outside of experience, you can exponentially increase your pool of “qualified” candidates. To return to my earlier metaphor, the more companies take this approach, the more the ball gets passed, and the more people have jobs.
I certainly don’t mean to suggest that every prerequisite should be scrapped as companies hire. If an employee needs to be bonded, the candidate must be able to meet that requirement. If a job requires a highly specific skill set, for example training as a radiologist, that must be insisted on. However, for most jobs, putting a solid training program in place will suffice. Simply put, as I’ve learned working with training and human resources professionals, you can teach skills but you cannot teach attitude or the kind of company culture fit that leads to long-term retention, to the benefit of both employee and company.
The ranks of the unemployed are filled today with people who can fill open positions—who can be good salespeople, or who would excel at supporting customer service or IT—if more companies just gained the courage to look at innate abilities, to learn more about the inner person capable of doing the job, apply appropriate training, and cease their over-reliance on precise experience.