FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Companies across the country are desperate to hire, and yet some workers still can’t seem to find a job.
“I think there isn’t an employee shortage, I think there is a process and a system which are in place that disqualify people,” said Lisa Mungovan, owner of Mungovan HR Consulting, LLC.
Most companies require job seekers to apply for available jobs online, but often applicants don’t appear to have the skills that employers say they’re looking for to fill some of those positions.
“The applicant tracking systems are automated and the employer puts their ad out there defining what they need,” said Mungovan, who has spent over 30 years in the human resources field. “When an applicant submits their resume, if their words don’t have enough matching words, they can get disqualified in less than a second.”
Today’s employers use increasing levels of automation to efficiently fill jobs, utilizing software to source candidates, manage the application process, schedule interviews, perform background checks and more.
“The applicant’s system is meant to be a resource to help employers to expedite things and, in theory, it would send the most qualified candidates to the hiring manager,” Mungovan said. “But because they are disqualifying people, a person may never see the resume. And a lot of systems have a default filter that employers aren’t aware of, so there may be a larger number of candidates who are capable of performing a job who are disqualified.”
According to a Harvard Business School report, over 10 million workers are barred from hiring opportunities because of the widespread adoption of computer software programs. The report said applicant tracking systems are utilized by 99% of Fortune 500 companies and 75% of the 760 U.S. employers Harvard surveyed.
With applicants’ resumes being put aside by the system, Mungovan said, some businesses are going back to the old-fashioned paper resume.
However, Dr. Michael Kirchner, professor of organizational leadership at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said there are tips to get your resume to the top of the list.
“When we apply for a job, it’s a lot like playing a game,” Kirchner said. “A job description is almost like a cheat sheet for applicants to closely review and break down the job description and then go back to our resume to make sure I am including all of this relevant information.”
Another thing that’s throwing a wrench into the hiring process is candidates who are too qualified for the job they’re seeking.
Mungovan said employers invest in training with new and current employees, and employers assess the risk of developing a new person but have a concern that the overqualified candidates will leave when an opportunity becomes available that better suits their skills and experience, something that’s considered cost-prohibitive.
However, an overqualified applicant could be someone who can be considered for other positions and help the business build its bench strength.
Mungovan said many candidates are leaving out parts of their resumes that would make them overqualified or removing skills that don’t apply to the job.
“It’s important (that candidates) know the company well and that they know the job they are applying for,” Mungovan said. “When I recruit for my clients and in my past positions, I would be upfront with them regarding the wage. It’s important that employers and candidates are transparent, especially if the candidate is overqualified.”
Kirchner stressed the usefulness of cover letters.
“I think it’s important that in the cover letters, candidates acknowledge they have all the qualifications but here’s why I’m interested in this position or industry,” Kirchner said. “Maybe they have a master’s but want to go into a field that’s different and they want to learn or want more flexibility. Comments like that give the hiring manager someone who is interested and not just someone who is overqualified.”
Labor shortages have persisted longer than many economists expected, deepening a mystery at the heart of the job market. Companies are eager to add workers and have posted a near-record number of available jobs. Unemployment remains elevated. The economy still has 5 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic.
Hiring slowed sharply last month — to just 194,000 new jobs after averaging 607,000 a month the first eight months of the year. That is partly because companies can’t find enough people to fill their job openings — 10.4 million in August, the second-highest in records going back to 2000.
Exacerbating the labor shortfall, a record number of people quit their jobs in August, in some cases spurred by the prospect of higher pay elsewhere.
Though the hiring market is “hot” right now, employers have seen some trends, including retirement and a search for more flexible hours, better pay and more opportunities.
Others are still wary of the pandemic outlook or struggling with day care issues, while some are rethinking their lives and careers after spending months locked down at home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.