3 Reasons Good Workers Don't Get Jobs (And What They Can Do About It)

With nearly 13 million unemployed Americans, you'd think there be no such thing as a worker shortage. But many U.S. employers continue to say that they can't find people to fill certain jobs.

A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that despite the nation's high 8.2 percent unemployment rate, 38 percent of employers said they have positions for which they can't find qualified candidates.

But Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Wharton School Center for Human Resources, argues that employers should stop whining about the shortage of workers and do something about it, such as offering to train newly hired workers -- something many companies aren't willing to do.

AOL Jobs asked Cappelli, author of the new book, "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It," why employers are reluctant hire more workers. Here's what he had to say:

  1. Employers are too picky. With so many people out of work, companies are just holding out until they find the exactly right fit -- someone who doesn't require any training and has done the exact job before. In the meantime, they're burdening existing workers with more work. CareerBuilder's survey showed that 34 percent of employers said the inability to fill vacancies has resulted in overworked employees producing lower quality products and services, and a similar percentage say the need for existing staff to work long hours has reduced morale.

  2. They rely too much on computers to sort candidates. Cappelli says companies today are simply overwhelmed by the number of applicants for jobs and rely too heavily on applicant-tracking software. "Software is by definition a pretty clumsy way to sort out something as complex as people and particularly how they fit jobs," he says. One benefit of applicant tracking system, or ATS, software is that it reduces employers' cost of hiring, so employers will continue to use it. Still Cappelli says, it's a prime example of companies "being penny wise and pound foolish."

  3. Companies aren't focused on the cost of leaving jobs unfilled. Employers are acutely aware of how much it costs to hire and train workers, but they don't weigh actual and other costs of keeping unfilled positions open. The way in which most businesses' internal accounting is set up, Cappelli says, "there doesn't appear that there are any costs in keeping positions vacant." In fact, he adds, it's often perceived as a cost saver.

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Despite these obstacles, Cappelli says there are strategies that job seekers can utilize to make themselves more viable candidates -- though they involve work:

  1. Customize resumes and cover letters to include keywords used in job listings. Job seekers who include keywords increase the chances that their application will make it through a company's ATS and onto a hiring manager's desk. But it's important to include only those words that are unique or peculiar to the job being applied for. In other words, just because a job posting seeks candidates who are "talented," say, doesn't make it a good keyword to include in your resume or cover letter.

  2. Be prepared to explain why you're the ideal candidate even if you aren't. Say you've applied for a job that you know you can do but the description of the position requires experience that you don't have. That may not rule out your candidacy altogether if you can explain to the hiring manager how your skills are translatable to the new position.

  3. Be selective about where you apply. Panicked job seekers often think sending out thousands of resumes is key to landing a job. But with so many people looking for work, it is no longer an effective strategy. Instead, hone in on those employers and positions you really think you have a shot at. Then use your social network to find someone within those companies who can tell who the hiring managers are and reach out to them directly.

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Funny thing is that Peter Cappelli who writes this article and is a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Wharton School Center for Human Resources may want to inform Penn of this article as "they rely too much on computers to sort candidates" too! I have tried to get in there for over 50 positions, from entry to administrator and I can't even get an interview due to their recruiting system which is the same as he describes in this article.

January 26 2013 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Age discrimination is the biggest culprit. There are plenty of smart, qualified people out there. But, the only place "50 is the new 30" is true is the consumer fashion world. Until you teach the app and the HR person to not throw out the "age ceiling" you've put into it/them, you will continue to work your present workers to death and put out second-rate products. Any company relying on computers instead of their HR people to locate good candidates are not concerned with being any better than second-rate anyway. I'm guessing an HR person thought up the app in the first place. Good grief! Pick up some papers and read them. Your job should depend on that.

August 10 2012 at 6:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

1. Too picky. This should be more about how the hiring manager and HR develop the job description. Suffice it to say that there is an excellent chance that the job description doesn’t fit the job. Far, far too often the job description is written from a hodgepodge of skill sets that someone just threw together from a Google search or is a compilation of skills from the previous set of occupants.If I occupied a position that a high school dropout could perform then work on several technical certs and eventually obtain a masters degree, for some reason HR seems to think that these skills are now BFOQ (by the way, if your HR doesn’t know what that stands for, there is a good chance they don’t know their job very well.) The company will also tend to include outdated skill sets (I still see employers seeking individuals who are experts in Windows 3.11.) which tells me that either or both HR and the hiring manager really know little about the job they are trying to fill.
2. Reliance on computers. Many organizations have a resume scanning application with certain heuristics set to look for key words or phrases. The app has no way of looking at the person as a whole. (A trick to fool it is to take your resume, type in as many key words as possible, change the font color to white and mark them as hidden. The scanner picks them up and puts your resume at the top of the list.). But don’t do this.
3. Leaving a position unfilled. I would rather hire someone I can train (and that doesn’t mean a plethora of tech training but more of corporate culture training). Besides even the ideal candidate will need six months ramp-up time.
4. Most organizations want someone older than Moses for experience but want the energy of Lady GaGa so even though age discrimination is illegal, it is rampant.
5. Person interviews poorly. Brush up on this skill (start attending Toastmasters) but the hiring manager should also look beyond that to discern a good worker. Besides, you don’t need (or want) someone who is a good talker if you are looking for a code toad cloistered away with a keyboard and a Mt. Dew!
Sandy is correct in that nepotism and favoritism is very prevalent. 70 percent of the jobs filled are through some form of internal networking.
Andie482. You stated that the interview was concluded because you asked about benefits. … NEVER NEVER NEVER bring up benefits etc. in a job interview until they broach the subject first. … NEVER. … Besides, the company web site should tell you their benefits and you should always check them out before the interview so you will be able to ‘talk their language’. If the organization doesn’t have a web site (or poorly designed one) they probably can’t afford decent help anyway.
Just for clarification of background, I have a post Masters of Science and enough technical certifications that I need to use both sides of a business card for the abbreviations! Therefore, I’m either overqualified and/or over-age.

July 03 2012 at 12:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Burp de Puke

Let me boil down the three suggestions made in this article: 1) embellish like hell, 2) lie if you have to, and 3) hope to god you have good connections.

July 02 2012 at 6:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hmmm and what about the companies that are getting applications from WELL qualified - older employees? They disregard them and never respond - the whole story is not being told...

July 02 2012 at 3:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Im glad I dont hafta work.


July 02 2012 at 3:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow that really makes a LOT of sense when you think about it. WOw.


July 01 2012 at 12:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One thing I did was notice common things is jobs I looked at. I tried searching for just those words in some job sites. I found these have many hits - Oracle, web, Java, SQL. I found a much smaller number for Veriloq, Python, PLC, Ruby. This gives me an idea of possible training I could look into. Or tell an employer I'm interested in learning. I looked at more than 40 terms. I mostly did this from memeory. If I took notes while looking, I might have come up with a few more. You can, of course, do the same.

July 01 2012 at 12:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I read about a company that got 25,000 resumes, but none got through the software. The problem was that the job had an unusual name, and the software was looking for people who had previously had that job title.

I've seen a number of entry-level jobs that require 2 years experience - huh?

Maybe I need to find a way to put into my resume "I can learn xx, yy, and zz" so the software will find a match.

June 30 2012 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Training isn't a company's job. These days, the employer expects you to be able to hit the ground running. Negotiation with the employer regarding training can be important. Be open and stick to your guns. However if they have thoughts they will train you then you will take the education and leave to get a better job, you can be sunk before you even begin. They also don't want to pay you while you are training and take the time from their need of the new employee to train. If hired, work the 90 days probationary time, then approach the employer about training as a "benefit to the emplyer". Be willing to take evening/night classes if available. I have seen how becoming a salesperson "to" the employer and selling them on the benefits of training can do the trick. Also, talk to other employees once you're in the door. Listen and watch ... who can help me and what can I learn from them to make me a better employee? Oh, and be willing to be flexible in your job duties and responsibilities as well as the ability to help others with their work and staying long hours. And ask lots and lots of questions to learn your job as best as you can!

June 30 2012 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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