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Job Seekers Unaware of What Employers Value in Applicants

Recruiters and job seekers aren't on the same page about what's important to employers.

​Millions of jobs are going unfilled every month. So why do recruiters have such a hard time identifying the best people for those open positions? More importantly, why aren’t the “right” people landing interviews at the places recruiters are touting?

Data suggest that when trying to secure that all-important job interview, many job seekers have one idea of what it takes, while the recruiter scouting for the position or the hiring manager conducting the interviews has another.

In its 2018 year-end Omnibus Workforce Survey, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) asked 1,000 U.S. job seekers to identify the critical factors for landing a job interview. Just over 37 percent said recruiters look for “work experience” over all other factors when considering candidates.

But hiring managers and recruiters disagree on this—and in a big way. In separate research, 2,100 supervisors named “accomplishments” and “service assignments” as the two most important factors hiring managers consider when making recruitment decisions. These were followed closely by “skills and abilities,” according to 2018 research from Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Insights. Not as important: “work experience” and “educational attainment.”

Why is there such misalignment between the recruiters and hiring managers who have jobs to fill and the job seekers who want to fill those positions? Here are three possible reasons:

Job seekers lack resume-writing skills. We can surmise that most people, especially those just starting out, have not been exposed to the most effective resumes or the best techniques for writing them.

Applicants lack an understanding of the importance of biographical data. Perhaps job seekers don’t understand how much their biographies matter to organizations that are recruiting based on a candidate’s qualifications and “fit.” 

Job postings aren’t effective. Writing a lucid job posting has become a lost art. This is the most likely reason there’s a disconnect between hiring managers and job seekers. That means the ball is in the court of recruiters and hiring managers to do better here.

What Does It Take to Land a Job Interview?
​It depends on whom you ask. There’s a disconnect between what job applicants and hiring managers identify as the top factors for getting noticed.
1. Work experience
1. Accomplishments
2. Skills and abilities
2. Service assignments
3. Alignment with job requirements
3. Skills and abilities
​Sources: SHRM; Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Insights (2018).

Recent SHRM research involving people managers and talent acquisition professionals mirrors this conclusion. Here’s what recruiters said they want most from hiring managers in order to fill jobs:

  • More comprehensive detail about the skills needed for openings.
  • More explicit detail about what factors are most important when screening potential talent.

How are organizations going to find top talent if recruiters and hiring managers cannot fully articulate in job postings what they need in potential hires?

Once recruiters can clearly communicate what they’re looking for, the right candidates will materialize. The problem is that recruiters aren’t always sure what they need.

For job seekers’ sake as well as their own, they need to figure it out.  

Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP, is chief knowledge officer for SHRM.


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