How Hiring Limitations Can Perpetuate the Skills Gap

What’s in a name? Many people have wondered this over the years, including the bard himself, who conveniently created this memorable phrase to remind everyone that at times a name gives little or no meaning to what or who it is labeling.

The same could be said for a company’s job descriptions. Often, job titles can be very broad, giving little actual detail about the job, the everyday tasks the job requires, or the skills needed to fill the position. While at times a job has remained the same in substance year over year, some job descriptions are created with the knowledge that the position will develop and change over time. In addition, jobs often change in ways that an employee or their employer could not have imagined and a single, broad moniker can’t account for this.

This means that if hiring managers are searching for the right candidate by considering their previous job titles on their resume, they could be missing much that goes on behind the name of the position. A study done by CareerBuilder revealed that about 55 percent of hiring managers who report having difficulty filling an open position generally hire people who have held a position with the same title as the post they’re currently trying to fill. The question begs to be asked: what applicable skills or relevant experiences could they be overlooking by only accounting for the job titles a candidate has previously held?

By limiting their search in this way, it is possible that companies are creating their own skills gap. The search for the right candidate is prolonged when a hiring manager only looks at previous job titles and doesn’t consider the skills a candidate has which could be just as useful in the open position. Albeit, it may take some extra training to hone their skills for the new job, but the skills are there, present in the candidate, and are being lost because of traditional hiring habits.

In response to the CareerBuilder study, Matt Ferguson writes in the Harvard Business Review that, “For those who bemoan the lack of necessary skills in their current talent pool, deemphasizing the importance of candidates’ job titles is an easy way to expand.” Ferguson sites another study by Economic Modeling Specialists International. The study points out that many “nearly perfect” candidates with the correct skills but the wrong job title can be missed in the hiring process. So, Ferguson says, a shift in focus is needed. How can you glean more about skills and less about descriptors from a resume or an interview? How do you discover what skills could be necessary to fill a position over what credentials would complement it? Questions more aligned with knowledge, skills, and ability, Ferguson says, are those that recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals should be asking.

Have you hired someone with varied experience but the right skills for the job? How did you spot them? Let us know in the comments below.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by bortescristian