Why Are Talented Job Candidates Hard to Find, Even Now?

You’d think that when the national unemployment rate hovers
around 10 percent it would be easy for employers to find qualified job
candidates. The weird thing is it’s not, and the reasons are pretty

Help WantedWriting at
, Peter Cappelli, the
George W. Taylor Professor of Management and director of the Center for Human
Resources at the Wharton School,
explains how employers think during times of excessive employee supply. "There
are two explanations for the stories about employers not being able to fill
jobs even in this deep recession," he writes, "and they have nothing
to do with a shortage of skills."

The first relates to
the fact that searching through candidates always makes sense and perhaps is
even more worthwhile when there are more of them. Suppose you needed a date for
the prom, and your fairy godmother suddenly lined up 12 very attractive
candidates … You’d check them all out, and the more there were, the longer it
would take to do so. This explains why vacancies persist even in a recession.
It doesn’t make sense to snap up the first candidate who meets the job
requirements when others are standing right there. In fact, it may make sense
just to go fishing, to see if you can get someone who is really overqualified
for the position (i.e., get them at a below market price) if you can wait a bit
to fill the job.

And the second reason?

(It) has to do with
the nature of the jobs that employers find hard to fill. I’ve taken a look at
some of the accounts of these jobs – there aren’t many of these positions –
and at least among the ones I’ve seen reported, they are never entry-level
jobs. There is no shortage of people with the appropriate education credentials
for any jobs I’ve seen. The skills that are in short supply are work-based
skills, the kind that are only learned on the job: A generation ago, these jobs
would have always been filled from within. Now employers want to hire these
people on the open market, in other words, from their competitors. But when
everyone wants to do this – poof! – such  candidates are hard to find.

 Plenty of food for thought if you’re job hunting nowadays.

 — Don Willmott