Can’t Find Qualified People? Maybe You’re Looking For “Prius” Candiates

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Lots of companies want to hire but for one reason or another say they can’t find qualified candidates.

Here’s a list of the most common reasons I’ve heard as to why companies say they can’t hire even though they claim to have openings:

  1. Skills mismatch/too few qualified people.
  2. ATS doesn’t “spit out” any qualified applicants.
  3. Applicants aren’t willing to work for lower wages.
  4. U.S. education system doesn’t prepare people with real world work skills.
  5. Job descriptions are too vague and/or recruiters don’t really know what to look for.

Most of these reasons don’t sound that new to me. Except for skills mismatch.

Traditional skills mismatch

Let’s look at this one a little closer. There is the traditional mismatch that has always been a problem.

Examples:

  • A job requires a candidate to know five (5) different programming languages including Java. A candidate only knows three (3) and has minimal experience with Java.
  • Or, a company wants someone that has managed a staff of five (5) professional employees. A candidate who’s managed only two professionals and one hourly employee is labeled not qualified.

In the past if a company really had to hire, they hired the most qualified candidate that needed the least training. Skills mismatch of this type isn’t a good reason for not hiring in my book. Train a person and get on with it.

Hybrid job mismatch

There is another kind of skills mismatch that came on “gangbusters” with the 2008-2011 recession. It’s known as a “hybrid” job — like the way a Prius is a hybrid car. Instead of hiring a person with one specific skill set, companies hire someone who has multiple skill sets so that they can handle more than one job.

This type of skills mismatch is legitimate, in my opinion, and is causing a much bigger problem.

Hybrid job for cost savings

Many companies had layoffs during the recession. The survivors in these companies had to pick up the slack by taking over the responsibilities of those who were laid off.

As companies were able to squeeze more and more productivity out of surviving employees by combining jobs, they decided not to hire replacements. They became used to these hybrid jobs. Except for the psychological drain on employees, this arrangement worked.

Example:

  • Sally used to do Payroll only. Jane did Accounts Payable. Since Jane was laid off, Sally has been doing both Payroll and Accounts Payable. Now when the company has a job opening for a Payroll person, they expect to see candidates with the same skill set as Sally — Payroll and Accounts Payable.

Companies are very slowing beginning to hire again. The kicker is that they are not looking to hire for traditional jobs, but for hybrid jobs. Hiring pre-recession traditional type jobs would mean taking on more employees. And that’s a “no-go.”

Hybrid job for market needs

Another type of hybrid job is one that is created due to evolving market needs. By combining skill sets, companies are better able to serve customers.

Example:

  • IBM currently has job openings for hundreds of “hybrid” jobs, including one that combines a nursing or pharmacy degree with consulting experience to work on “operating room information system” projects. Instead of the customer having to work with a nurse/pharmacy specialist on “needs analysis” and then work with an IT person to design a system, the customer works with one person for the entire project.

Hybrid jobs reflect infinite combinations

To a certain extent there have always been hybrid jobs. But they’e been few and far between. Today there are many, many more. And they differ by company, which adds complexity.

Take the example above of Sally and Payroll. The combination of skill sets needed for her in Company ABC might be different for Company XYZ. Instead of needing Sally to handle Payroll and Account Payable in Company ABC, Company XYZ might need someone to handle Payroll and also act as a Call Center Rep.

Companies combine jobs in various ways to suit their internal needs, and this creates headaches when trying to hire. Companies may get accused of searching for “purple squirrels.” The truth is, the search process may take forever. In the end a company may be forced to do some training if they want to fill an opening.

Hybrid jobs may become standard jobs

Another solution is for the company to split up the hybrid job and look for a couple of candidates, each having more traditional skill sets — one person for Payroll and one person hired for Accounts Payable. My guess is that management will resist this because it will lead to increased headcount and less productivity.

I don’t have the answer here. Today, companies and recruiters are having to create their own solutions as they go.

The good news is that over time these hybrid jobs will probably become standard jobs. But it will take some time.

Keep the faith! If hybrid jobs are anything like hybrid cars, they’ll become easier to deal with over time.