11:06am

Tue June 12, 2012
The Two-Way

Employers Could Fill Jobs If They Trained More, Complained Less, Prof Says

At any gathering of business owners, you're likely to hear about how hard it is to fill jobs because of a "skills gap."

Lots of employers say they want to hire welders, software engineers, nurses, oil-field workers and so many others, but can't find applicants with the right talents and education.

But Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and director of its Center for Human Resources, says these complaints are largely bunk.

Rather than continue to whine, employers might ask themselves whether it might pay "to perhaps provide some training?" Capelli told Tell Me More, host Michel Martin today.

Cappelli recently published Why Good People Can't Get Jobs. He argues that employers should stop blaming the educational system, and start rethinking their hiring practices.

He notes that ManpowerGroup, the staffing company, says more than half of employers surveyed say they are having difficulty filling positions because of skills shortages. But the real problem is, he argues, is that they are searching for the perfect candidate.

Cappelli concedes that in light of the nation's high unemployment rate (8.2 percent in May), "it's not surprising employers are picky." They get so many applications that they have computerized the screening process, and search only for key words, such as "Ph.D" or years of experience. "It's yes-no-yes-no. Did you clear the hurdle?," he said.

Also, application forms typically ask job seekers to name the wages they want. "If you guess too high, you get kicked out" of the automated screening process, even though you might be open to a lower wage, he said.

Unless you can describe your skills to perfectly match exactly what the computer software has been set to find, "your application will get kicked out," he said.

In the end, when an employer simply cannot find anyone to fill a job, he should stop blaming the applicants and recognize: "You're just not paying enough," Cappelli said.

Much more from Michel's conversation with Cappelli is on today's Tell Me More. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

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