Globally, one in three employers struggle to find employees with the skills and experience necessary to meet their needs, and almost one-third cite a lack of experience as a key barrier to filling their open jobs.
Despite the serious shortage of some skills, the disconnect between employers and job seekers is not surprising given how many job descriptions fall victim to the “experience-needed syndrome.” Thi s ailment manifests itself in two ways. In one, job descriptions for entry-level positions ask for experience, which shuts out many young workers. In the other, seasoned workers find the “experience-needed syndrome” becomes the “exact experience needed syndrome.”
As companies struggle to be as productive with fewer workers, they’ve gotten creative about sharing workloads by combining parts of jobs or even whole jobs into one big new job description. This leaves candidates perplexed, trying to decipher what’s needed and determine if they meet the requirements. One job seeker told me that the write-ups are so specific that she would not be surprised to see one read “must have blue hair and hazel eyes”! (Illegal of course, but illustrative.) Those who do have the skills to cover broad, catchall expectations can choose what work they are willing to do (if they can find it). Those who have fewer skills may not be so lucky. A poorly worded posting can cost an employer the best candidates. With job descriptions and skills changing at breakneck speed, here are few ideas for employers and job seekers to understand each other:
Create job-success profiles: Be specific about the key skills, mindset, and core competencies required to succeed rather than itemize every skill and duty one will conceivably encounter during the workday. Specificity about what is most important will generate a smaller pool of stronger candidates who can see themselves in that job. (More detailed research on success mapping can be found here.)
Be contemporary: Use job titles that clearly describe the skill or profession as it is today. Young workers may not know what a bank teller actually does (because they have always used an ATM machine) or that a Proof Operator is a data entry job. This is true for describing emerging skills too. For example, jobs in emerging areas like the green economy and cloud computing are just being defined and described —recycling coordinator or cloud specialist, for example — so ensure that your postings are contemporary and relevant by staying on top of the way this work is described. In the online job-posting world, the way you describe a job defines who will — or worse — who will notapply.
Practice inclusivity: As you describe the work to be done think about all of the combinations of talent sources and work models available. Rethinking tired mindsets about whom and how works get done might help you make a better match. For example, if you really do need exact experience consider reconstructing the work so a retiree could do the specialized part while a new graduate trains on the more general work.
Break out of the silo: Move away from supplying the traditional itemized list of skills and experience. Supplement your resume with an “Employability Profile” that displays your current capabilities in the context of the employer’s business priorities — in language that demonstrates how your capabilities will help the company succeed. If you’re inexperienced, this tool allows you to better illustrate your enthusiasm and ability to collaborate.
Practice compatibility: Know your skills, knowledge, and capabilities so that you can translate them for employers that are stuck in the “exact experience needed mode.” You can help your profile rise to the top by articulating how your current skills are compatible to a job posting even if it goes by another name. For example, customer service representatives are compatible with loan interviewers, hotel desk clerks, billing clerks, and receptionists.
Keep fit: Know what you are 75% qualified to do and set a plan in motion to build the other 25%. A great recruiter (inside or outside your company) can help you figure this out. Spend time really understanding what capabilities will take you to your next level — formal development plans through a college, informal development activities like volunteer programs, or competing in contest-based online marketplaces like Threadless if you’re a designer or TopCoder if you’re a developer. Staying relevant will enhance your employability.
For both employers and job seekers, making a great match requires the right blend of culture, capability, and opportunity. But that can’t happen unless they find each other.
This post is part of the special series The New Rules for Getting a Job.