As a job seeker, it can be tough to determine what employers are looking for. While one opportunity might stress fit within the organization, another might emphasize technical skills or education. And unfortunately, what hiring managers want and what applicants have to offer are often very different things. This is what has become known as the “skills gap”.
In a recent survey by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 40 percent of the members of the Inc. 500 (a group of the fastest-growing companies in the United States) reported that the biggest impediment to growing their companies was “finding qualified people.”
Another survey published by the Career Advisory Board September Job Preparedness Indicator of over 500 hiring managers and nearly 730 job seekers found:
• 72 percent of job seekers are overconfident and do not possess the necessary skills, while only 14 percent of hiring managers believe that job seekers have these qualities.
• 70 percent of hiring managers said that interview skills were part of the five important factors in receiving a job, while only 54 percent of job seekers believed that.
• Candidates applying for management positions barely show three out of five of the skills vital to the level of work needed.
[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]
Now the major question among both employers and job seekers is: What needs to be done in order to bridge the gap between the skills needed for the job, and the skills that job seekers actually have? Here are some ways you can help make the gap a little smaller:
Volunteer. This is a perfect, inexpensive way to gain new skills. You can volunteer for a cause that you feel strongly about, or just find someone looking for help in your community. This not only will help you obtain new abilities, but also it can change the way that you go about daily tasks.
Find jobs based on skills you already have. It is important you pick the jobs you know you absolutely have the skills necessary for, rather than trying to put yourself in a job where you don’t know what you’re doing. This will save a lot of time, effort, and stress for both you and the employer.
Demonstrate important skills. It is crucial to “show, not tell” when it comes to qualities that employers are looking for.
For example, prove that you are organized by showing up on time, dressing professionally, having everything ready prior to an interview (resumes, portfolio, business cards, etc.), and practicing what you’re going to say. This way you don’t have to tell the hiring manager that you’re organized because they’ll already be able to tell.
Other important skills to display include: dependable, work well with others, integrity, and flexibility.
There are plenty of jobs out there; it is just a matter of proving you are the right candidate for the position. Demonstrate that you possess the right qualities, and you will be one step closer on bridging the workplace skills gap.
How has the workplace skills gap affected your job search and/or career?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.