More Employers Finding It Difficult to Recruit for Highly Skilled Jobs, SHRM Survey Shows

Mar 12, 2013

More Employers Finding It Difficult to Recruit for Highly Skilled Jobs, SHRM Survey Shows
HR professionals say technology changes are requiring new skills from employees

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 12, 2013 — Two-thirds of organizations that are hiring full-time workers say they are having a difficult time recruiting for specific job openings — a marked increase from 2011, a new poll from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows.

SHRM’s poll,The Ongoing Impact of the Recession — Recruiting and Skill Gaps, is one in a series of survey reports measuring the impact of the U.S. and global recession that began in 2007. SHRM also released reports on Overall Financial Health and Hiring and Global Competition and Hiring Strategies today.

Difficulty in filling specific jobs varies by industry. But overall, the most difficult positions to fill are highly skilled positions such as scientists, engineers, high-skilled technical (technicians and programmers) and high-skilled medical (nurses, doctors, specialists). Sixty-six percent of respondents reported difficulty in hiring, an increase from 52 percent in 2011.

“Attracting highly skilled candidates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics presents a significant talent-management challenge for employers today. This is magnified by the ongoing recession during which companies shifted to technologies for efficiency and now require skilled professionals to support those technologies,” said Alexander Alonso, vice president for research at SHRM.

Why are employers having difficulty? A lack of relevant qualifications and competition for talent, HR professionals report. Almost one-half (48 percent) of organizations said that candidates don’t have the right skills for the job, and 40 percent said candidates don’t have the right work experience.

HR professionals continue to report gaps in basic knowledge and skills in job applicants. Critical thinking/problem solving remains the top skill gap with 53 percent of respondents saying that job applicants typically lack that skill. It is followed by professionalism/work ethic (46 percent), written communication (41 percent) and leadership (38 percent).

The most common gaps in basic knowledge are writing in English (reported by 55 percent of respondents), mathematics (38 percent) and reading comprehension (31 percent).

The research also explored technology changes and what impact they have on employee skills. Thirty percent of organizations said they made major changes in the use of technology that impacted the work of employees in the last year, and 10 percent said they planned to in the next 12 months. Of those respondents, 72 percent said these technological changes would require new skills of employees, although not the addition of new staff.

What do the survey results mean for employers and HR professionals? SHRM said in an analysis:

  • HR professionals may need to convince hiring managers that filling some jobs will be more difficult than expected. They might need to create more effective compensation packages for hard-to-fill jobs.
  • The exit from the workplace by retiring Baby Boomers might create an even bigger hiring challenge in the years ahead.
  • Technological changes (robotics, computerized systems and software) may reduce the number of full-time employees for some employers. HR professionals will need to take a lead role in driving increases in productivity while making sure employees are not at risk of burnout.
  • HR professionals will need to work with leaders in their organizations and educators to invest in education and training as a way to meet skills shortfalls.

The survey of more than 3,400 randomly selected HR professionals looked at eight industries: construction, oil, mining and gas; federal government; finance; health; manufacturing; state and local government; professional services; and high-tech. SHRM also will release industry-specific results on the skills gap.

For more information on the survey findings, visit the SHRM Research webpage. Follow the Research Department on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

Media: For more information or to schedule an interview about the survey, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260 and or Julie Malveaux at and 703-535-6273.

About the Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing about 260,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at
and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.


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