August 27, 2013

Are Employees Unskilled or Picky or are Employers Too Picky?

Notice :  this is a semi-rambling, venting and opinionated article.  Just giving you fair warning.

I ran across this article Why Millions of Job Openings Are Unfilled which seems to claim in general that many jobs aren't filled due to lack of skilled applicants.   They talk of "scores of employers practically begging for new hires to fill openings to no avail". I'm not sure if they realize that score means 20 and that scores means 40 or more.   So in relation to the USA economy thats a minuscule drop in the bucket. But thats OK I will set that nitpicking aside for now so I can get on to the bigger complaint.

Here's the bit I really wonder about...

They have this quote : 

"Another cause of the supply-demand imbalance is a persisting stigma towards blue-collar jobs. Many people simply believe that certain jobs are "beneath them" and simply aren't interested.

Krystal Wells, owner of Portland, Ore.-based cleaning service The Other Woman, recalls how difficult it has been to find good workers to join her staff.

"I have gone as far as contacting over 400 different individuals that I took the time to read their profiles to see if from what I read they would be a fit and custom pick the people who most fit this job to call," Wells said. "After all the people I contacted, I had one person that was interested and never showed up to the interview

OK first of all they refer to "contacting over 400 different individuals" that she "took the time to read their profiles".    I"m not really clear whats going on there.    That sounds like she's skimming Linked-in or something looking for possible candidates.   Then she says she was looking to "custom pick the people who most fit this job to call".    It really sounds like this woman didn't put out a job ad but instead went browsing somewhere for people she might hire.  I don't know what she was looking at.  Theres no mention of where these profiles were.   I'm really confused.    Maybe she's reading the profiles of 400 applicants?    If she got 400 applicants then couldn't find someone to hire then that doesn't mean that people think the job is "beneath them" but instead means that there are literally 100's of people wanting that job.   But that doesn't match what they said, cause they are saying that many people think this job is beneath them.   So there must not be 400 applicants and so she's just browsing Linked in?    I'm confused.    If you want to hire someone you don't just go ask 400 strangers if they want to work at your company.  You post an ad to Craigslist or wherever and then sort the replies.   Pure and simple.

And the thing is that the woman is looking for people to clean houses.   I have to think that if you're looking to hire people to clean houses and you browse 400 profiles to look for the "custom fit" for the job that you *might* just be a little too picky about who you hire.    That sounds more like the job search process some Fortune 500 companies put into hiring their CEOs.

Of course there is no indication of what she wants to pay them and I have to wonder if its a minimum wage job.    I found the companies website and it doesn't list a wage and says the work is 25-30 hours with 1 week of vacation after a year and no mention of any other benefits.   I don't know, and its quite possible that she wants to pay handsomely.   But it doesn't say that anywhere.  It doesn't say "and I was going to pay $15/hr or $20/hr".    Sounds more like lowish pay with virtually no benefits and not even full time hours.     Now thats common enough for house cleaning work I'd guess, but its not really going to entice the best applicants.

I honestly doubt there are a lot of people who prefer to clean houses for a living.   Some people do enjoy that work and it can be a fine job for those who do it but I think most people really prefer other jobs if they can get them.    So yes I bet that most people aren't interested in such a job.    As an employer seeking to hire people for this work you have to understand that kind of thing.  You aren't going to get a line of 100 highly skilled people lined up with awesome resumes begging to work hard for relatively low wages.    Maybe I'm assuming too much here but the woman talks of reviewing 400 profiles (a lot of hunting) in order to get a "custom pick" for her job which sounds to me like someone who's really very particular and picky about who they want to hire.  As an employer its easier to be super picky when you have a ton of interested applicants but you don't have that luxury if there aren't as many interested people.     If you really do insist on being very particular about who you hire and only want to make sure you get the absolute best people then you really do have to pay more.   I see no mention of paying more and honestly I have to assume that the opposite is likely the case and I'm guessing its low pay.

You know what they could do to find fill that job opening?   Stop being so picky or pay more.   Its not that hard to figure out.

The article is looking at the number of unfilled jobs and trying to explain why they are unfilled.    A couple years ago I looked at that topic myself and I wrote :

Why 3.2 Million Unfilled Jobs Isn't as Big as It Sounds

Open jobs are a natural part of the work place turnover.    People come and go and jobs aren't filled immediately so there is always going to be a certain number of open jobs.   It normally takes a month or two to fill a job so there's always some empty jobs as they are emptied and filed on an ongoing basis.   

This is a simplistic way to look at it :   Is McDonalds hiring people right now?    Yes McDonalds is probably hiring.   Why is that?  Because someone is always in the process of leaving McDonalds because they have high turnover.   So that 'help wanted' sign at McDonalds does not mean that American workers  lack the skills to work at McDonalds.   Now lets just extend that idea across the entire economy and there will be naturally 2-3% of jobs open at any given time.   Its not an indication that workers are lacking the right skills.  

And actually the number of job openings goes up when times are better.  We had about 4 Million job openings back in 2007 when unemployment was under 5%.   It wasn't a problem back then.   Nobody was trying to claim there was a giant skills gap.    Its not really necessarily a problem now either.   You can't just magically fill 100% of the job openings immediately.  



  1. I think, to summarize: Manufacturing, as a skill set, has become devalued. Construction has become temporarily devalued.

    I think a lot of the skills gaps in Engineering isn't really a 'new' thing. Yeah, STEM is in high demand - but it was in high demand starting again in like 05/06, off the temporary high during the bubble times (and that's just my peers - EE/CS types).

  2. Yeah I think the structural unemployment is likely mostly in the manufacturing and construction fields mostly.



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