Sep 1, 2014

There are two words with the power to make most employers and recruiters shiver: skills gap.

The skills gap continues to plague employers, even as unemployment remains high and more candidates flood into the job market. An article by Dr. John Sullivan on cited the number of resumes per corporate job listing as a whopping 250. Yet, employers are having a more and more difficult time finding the right candidates.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 38 percent of companies have open positions they just cannot seem to fill with skilled talent — but 60 percent of companies aren’t doing much of anything to bridge the skills gap.

One of the major problems: preoccupation with passive candidates. The continued search for passive talent certainly makes sense on paper when considering the skills gap.

Instead of taking a chance on a candidate who might not have the right stuff, look for someone already employed in the position you’re looking to hire. Unfortunately, this never-ending search for passive talent can hurt employers and recruiters looking for the best people, and just may result in unfilled positions and widen the skills gap.

Who are passive candidates?

As it turns out, there are far fewer passive candidates than you might think. In fact, the true passive candidate is something of a unicorn for recruiters to find. A survey found 74 percent of workers were actively looking or open to new opportunities in their field. In fact, 35 percent of workers claimed to start preparing for a new job mere weeks after starting their current position.

This makes sense, since job hopping is now the new normal. According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee tenure is a mere 4.4 years now. And this number is probably likely to trend down, since Millennials are the biggest job hopping generation to come into the workforce.

If passive candidates don’t really even exist, why are recruiters and employers so eager to nab them?

The truth is, the skills gap is making passive candidates already employed seem more attractive. With passive candidates there’s less onboarding, less training, and less of a gamble the candidate will have the skills you need. Of course, you’re also cutting out a majority of the available and active talent pools by looking for passive superstars.

Don’t throw out great talent

Screening through vast quantities of candidates isn’t exactly easy business. This is probably why recruiters spend, on average, a mere six seconds skimming a resume. But this weeding out process might be skimming some smart and passionate candidates off the top, and losing talent isn’t something any company can afford.

If you’re relying on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), a staggering 75 percent of resumes are probably being filtered out because they don’t contain the right keywords. Whether these are talented candidates or ones who are all wrong for the job, you’re missing the opportunity to connect nonetheless.

Plus, a passionate candidate with growth potential might be worth more to your company than a highly skilled employee looking to jump ship. According to statistics, 89 percent of small business new hires fail within 18 months due to poor company culture fit.

By focusing only on passive candidates with highly specific skills, you might be missing out on someone with true passion and the potential to grow into a leader at your company.

Jump the skills gap and connect

So how do you jump the skills gap and find the right people? Thankfully, new technology is making it easier to connect with talented candidates, even if they don’t have every item on your checklist:

  • Social media — According to the Pew Center for Research, 74 percent of online adults use some form of social media. This is a huge talent pool from which to source, and social media channels can give you a more personal feel for candidates. The most motivated and enthusiastic candidates will find your company on social media, will interact, share, and add to industry-related discussions. Social media can help you build up a talent pipeline, and see critical thinking skills in action.
  • Video interviewsSix out of 10 employers are currently using video interviews to screen talent, and it’s not hard to see why. If a picture tells a thousand words, think how much you can find out about a candidate in a 60-second video interview. Plus, because one-way video interviews are asynchronous, you can easily move on to the next person if you immediately know someone is a bad fit for the company. Candidates can show off more personality and passion, while employers and recruiters get to save time.
  • Temporary hiring — If you’re not sure of the skill level of a passionate candidate, why not try before you buy? Thanks to the skills gap, more employers are jumping on the temporary hiring bandwagon. If the candidate turns out to be a top-notch worker, you can hire the person on as full-time talent. If they’re all wrong, you can simply say goodbye at the end of their contract.

Passive candidates? They’re not the only solution

The skills gap is likely to continue to plague hiring, but passive candidates might not be the only solution. Using new tech tools, you can give smart outside-of-the-box candidates a chance, leading to more motivated and engaged workers and a more robust bottom line.

What do you think about passive candidates? How are you jumping the skills gap?