SHRM Poll: Employers Struggle to Find Qualified Job Applicants

By Bill Leonard Nov 7, 2011
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Even with the U.S. unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent, many employers are struggling to find qualified applicants for job vacancies, according to a poll released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on Nov. 7, 2011.

Slightly more than one-half (52 percent) of the poll respondents whose organizations were hiring full-time workers reported that they faced difficulties in recruiting for certain positions.

According to the respondents, the hardest positions to fill typically require a high level of skill, education and training, such as engineers, high-skill medical jobs (such as doctors, nurses and technicians) and high-skill technology jobs (programmers and electronic technicians).

Researchers for the SHRM Poll: The Ongoing Impact of the Recession—Recruiting & Skill Gapssurveyed 2,286 HR professionals who were selected randomly from the Society’s membership and were asked questions about recruiting efforts, skill needs and the quality of job applicants. These results are the first in a series analyzing the continuing impact of the recession of 2007-2009 and the rocky U.S. economy. The poll examines the following topics: recruiting and skill gaps, financial health and hiring, and global competition and hiring strategies.

When asked about basic knowledge skills gaps, poll respondents whose organizations were having difficulty recruiting for certain types of jobs ranked language skills among the top qualifications that job applicants lacked. The top four basic skill gaps identified were: writing in English (48 percent of respondents), mathematics (38 percent), reading comprehension (30 percent) and speaking English (30 percent). The poll respondents ranked critical thinking/problem-solving (54 percent), professionalism/work ethics (44 percent), written communications (41 percent) and leadership (39 percent) as the top gaps for applied jobs skills—abilities that apply directly to job duties and performance.

The poll results revealed that employers in the high-tech and manufacturing industries were more likely to face challenges in finding qualified candidates for job openings than other industries, such as finance, federal government, state and local governments, and construction, mining, oil and gas. Seventy-one percent of respondents who worked for businesses in the high-tech industries and 68 percent of respondents working for manufacturers reported that their companies faced difficulties in recruiting for specific job openings. Approximately one-third of the respondents who worked for federal, state and local governments said that their agencies were having a difficult time recruiting for specific job openings, while 49 percent of respondents in the finance industry reported that their organizations faced challenges in finding qualified candidates.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.

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