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There's Not a Talent Shortage. You Just Stink at Hiring

Hiring is a nightmare, and databases are partly to blame. Step away from the screen, and start talking to people.

Nick Corcodilos, a headhunter and author of numerous books on job hunting, including his latest, Fearless Job Hunting, wrote a bit of a rant in his newsletter, titled Employment In America: WTF is going on?

Corcodilos writes:

The emperor still has no clothes, and that's why over 25 million Americans are unemployed or under-employed. (According to PBS NewsHour, that's how many Americans say they want but can't find a full time job.) Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are about 3.9 million jobs vacant.

HR executives have a special term for this 6:1 market advantage when they're trying to fill jobs today: They call it a "talent shortage."

Gimme a break.

A break, indeed. Many businesses that struggle to find employees would state that while there are plenty of people, there are not plenty of people who can do the jobs that need to be done. For instance, we hear often about a shortage of workers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, along with a plea for more H1B visas, which would let companies bring in workers from overseas to fill these jobs. It sounds convincing--don't we need more people in these fields?

But Robert N. Charette, writing at IEEE Spectrum, makes a pretty convincing argument that there is no STEM shortage. In face, he writes, there is a STEM oversupply. Wages in computer and math fields, he writes, have stagnated over the past decade. Universities churn out STEM graduates at the rate of 250,000 per year, but there are only 180,000 new jobs per year. That doesn't exactly indicate a need for more H1B visas.

So what's the problem? Why can't companies connect with these people who are ready, willing and able to work? Corcodilos' blames bad recruiting policies and over-reliance on databases. Corcodilos writes that companies spent over $2 billion last year on databases, such as Monster.com,  Taleo, and LinkedIn, only to see a very small percentage of jobs filled through those methods. Only 1.3 percent of jobs are filled through Monster.com.

Another way employers stink is that no matter how good the candidate before them is, they are utterly convinced that there is someone better out there, so they don't make the hiring decision. In fact, right after reading Corcodilos' treatise on hiring problems, I switched over to Facebook, where a friend was complaining that her husband had been turned down for a job after interviewing six different times for it. Six times. Six visits to this company. I'd like to say he just dodged a bullet because these people are idiots, but I know he needs a job.

In the beginning of September, when I counseled Inc. readers to treat interviews more like dates, I didn't mean they should drag the relationship on for six interviews. I meant that interviewing should be a two-way street. And like every relationship, there needs to be some give and take.

Companies need to realize that the perfect candidate doesn't exist. You need to find the best candidate, and keep in mind that that particular candidate may lack one or two skills that you'd like him or her to have. Remember, you didn't always know how to do whatever it is that you do either. Sometimes it's better to hire someone who lacks a particular skill and train him or her yourself. That way the new person learns it according to your company standard.

If your hiring managers are so unsure about their abilities to judge a candidate after two interviews, perhaps the problem isn't lack of qualified candidates. It's lack of qualified hiring managers. When they bring the same candidate back in six times, they are showing their lack of respect for people. Doesn't that go against your company values? It should.

Corcodilos is right. Hiring is broken in America. The high unemployment rate does not mean that companies should hold out for perfection. If you truly need someone to do a job, you're losing money every day that position is not filled. Get some guts and bring in the top five candidates for your position, and make a promise to hire out of that group. Your chances of being disappointed in the long run? Very slim.

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Last updated: Nov 4, 2013

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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