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Study Suggests Employer Expectations On The Rise?

George Walther-Meade | 14.02.2018

A recent study published by Harvard Business School professor Joseph Fuller seems to support some trends The QualiFind Group has observed with clients engaging us for technical recruiting support. Their expectations are on the rise.

The study shows that the job market within the specialist and functional management ranks in the United States is becoming increasingly more selective. Employers are demanding more qualifications from active talent applying for open positions and are essentially demanding that applicants have better qualifications than the person currently doing the same job. This effort to improve their workforce is actually causing otherwise qualified works to miss out on viable jobs. The study suggests these increased demands for greater qualifications are costing companies more in salaries at a time when the US has 6.1 million job openings, which is now near an all time high.

The Federal Reserve conducted a study that surveyed 600 businesses with the majority of those surveyed complaining that they were having trouble finding skilled or even available employees. The manufacturing sector was the most impacted yet the study goes on to say that despite these challenges, factory leaders have actually further increased requirements for applicants which further exacerbates recruitment efforts.

Further illustrating this contradiction was this comparative data, 67% of job postings in 2015 for supervisory level production workers required a four year college degree yet only 16% of the people holding those positions actually had a college degree.

Consulting giant Accenture also weighs in on increased employer selectivity with another study. The Accenture researchers focused on “middle skill” jobs which they defined as those jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four year college degree. They found that employers demanded a college degree because the requirements and skills for the position were constantly fluctuating and company leadership preferred not to pay for job training. But at what cost? The Accenture study supports that hiring college grads to do jobs that non-college grads can do carries numerous hidden costs. Examples include paying as much as 30% more to hire degreed applicants versus non-degreed, positions going unfilled for extensive periods of time, as well as high turnover rates.

These increased selectivity challenges also have hit applicants hard. Companies using online job application websites have automatic filters set to discard applications without a college degree. Professor Fuller of the Harvard study states that, “Even workers who have relevant experience are excluded in these scenarios.”

Fuller suggests companies partner with community colleges or job training centers to better prepare new workers to fill their most demanding positions. He also suggested the removal of automatic filters in online job application websites that discard applicants without a college degree and instead used a customized examination process that includes applicants without a college degree.

The QualiFind Group’s technical recruiters often get to observe these dynamics at play when supporting clients with more specialized recruiting assignments. In addition to the previous suggestions being done, HR leaders in some industrial organizations are getting more creative by actively recruiting non-degreed specialists that have evolved through on-the-job and more targeted technical or vocational training. To do so, they seem to be employing more customized examinations of the applicant’s technical knowledge, work skills and cognitive ability. The payoff from employing the higher performing element of this adversely impacted population often comes in the form of greater on-the-job commitment and lower turnover among this population.

In any event, in a job market with so many unfilled positions, it’s interesting to see how HR leaders can employ creativity to fill more of these spots.