Employers I listen to often lament the fact that every time they advertise an opening they get far more applications than they have in the past; a great many of which don’t meet their expectations. That too many applicants are clearly not who they are looking for.
Now, after hearing this refrain from several employers of late, I started doing some thinking on my own. Is it that there are so many people out of work these days widening their searches to the point where they are applying for any and all jobs more on a hope and a prayer that some employer will take a chance on them? Or are the job ads being posted out there the problem; attracting the wrong people in the first place? Or a third option, is it really a combination of the two? I’ll put my money on the third option.
Okay so it’s true that despite the numerous people out there such as myself who advocate for targeting one’s resume to specific jobs to increase your chances of getting to the interview stage, yes, there are a large number of people still distributing their resumes to any and all employers. What’s the harm they reckon? If I don’t get an interview I’m no further behind than I was and it didn’t cost me anything but some time to submit the application. Job seekers are often so frustrated with being out of work and so desperate to find work that they send out resumes in a broad sweep playing the odds that somebody will take a chance on them surely!
And employers? I’ve read many of the job postings circulating out there and I must say some of the employers only have themselves to blame for attracting the wrong people. Some job ads are so vague or the credentials so few that virtually anybody could meet them. The result? Anyone and everyone does apply which drives the employer nuts with only a few actually short-listed as having a reasonable chance at being the right person. This process costs the employer time and by association money; sifting through poor applicants whether they do so by hand or by automation.
Now you’ll notice a huge difference between most upper, middle and entry-level job postings. Postings at the senior levels are actually pretty good I’ve found at attracting the right people. These employers’ have taken a good deal of time clarifying not only the technical skills people need at that level, but they also do a fine job at articulating the soft skills the successful people they will eventually hire require. Entry level job postings at the other end of the spectrum however are often poorly composed; as if the employer’s who write them figure the people who apply will be interchangeable; they’ll come and go. Why therefore, invest much time and thought articulating the kinds of people – personality, values, soft skills who the employer would ideally wish to attract.
The result of course is that entry-level job ads are often brief – a grade 12 education would be preferable, dependable, honest, hardworking – and that’s it. Well, really now, who out there is going to feel they aren’t honest, don’t see themselves as dependable and work hard but only to a point? And what does the need for grade 12 mean if it’s preferable only and not a definite requirement? Would they prefer a grade 12 graduate from someone who dropped out in grade 11 but has 10 years of life experience to go with that incomplete education?
One of the employers I chatted with recently told me that she would love to put the kind of qualities she wanted in the people she eventually hires in a job posting, but she’s fearful that there would be repercussions. Repercussions? Yep, repercussions. It’s not – to clarify – that what she wants in the people she hires is people of one gender over another, from an ethnic background or certain political views. Nothing illegal in other words. But she worries that to say she wants people who are bright, have natural people skills and common sense for example would show expose her to problems. “Let’s face it”, she said, “a person can be taught some things but there are other things you just can’t teach some people – they have it or they don’t. How could I possibly say that in a job ad and then reject people who don’t get it?”
Hmm…I did see her point. Two people can have the same technical knowledge required to do a job but will perform very differently and it often comes down to the intangibles; one gets it and no amount of training will ever bring about the change in behaviour of the other.
So is this the problem? Are employers handcuffed whether by law or conscious or are they just not investing the time to thoughtfully write the job postings in the first place and therefore they deserve those that apply? To carry on seems a lose-lose for both a majority of applicants and many employers.
Employers out there: what could you do to better attract the talent you want?
Job applicants: what could you do to better market yourself to employers?
I think investing at the outset and stating the kind of qualities that make up the ideal employee is a critical part of the process. You end up with the right people – and they stay longer because of the fit.