Expert Job Analyst, CareerBuilder.com
As the American economy continues its slow but steady recovery, employers continue to seek skilled workers. For every open job, employers have dozens or even hundreds of applicants eager to be hired. Yet many employers insist that finding qualified candidates is difficult, even in this economy. How can that be?
These employers don't have a shortage of applicants -- they have a shortage of qualified applicants. For most positions, the necessary skills, experience and education requirements are firm and can't be loosened because of a lack of suitable candidates. Employers need to know their workers are the best possible people for the job and they need them to come with the necessary skills.
In a recent CareerBuilder survey of the world’s 10 largest economies, employers in each location say they have difficulty filling open positions. In fact, 28 percent of employers in the U.S. say they have open positions they can’t fill. IT positions are among the most difficult for businesses to fill, alongside sales and engineering.
A separate 2012 CareerBuilder survey looked at data from its Supply and Demand Portal and found that the five IT positions most difficult to fill are application software engineers, Web developers, systems software engineers, computer systems analysts, and systems architects.
"These jobs were difficult to fill prior to the economic downturn," says Julian L. Alssid, executive director of the Workforce Strategy Center in New York, in an email interview (source: Alssid, Julian. Personal interview. June 2010.). "Hopefully, they will be less difficult to fill as we move more toward a more demand-driven workforce development system in the U.S. This means local employers working directly with community colleges, trade schools and other accredited post-secondary institutions that help people gain skills that are in demand by employers."
Education is an invaluable asset for any applicant, but as many job seekers can attest, it isn't the only prerequisite for employment. When employers are choosing the right candidate for their organizations, they want to see years of experience and an education that isn't outdated. As you can imagine, any worker who falls at extreme ends of the spectrum -- such as a new graduate or an industry veteran -- can be at a disadvantage. New graduates know the latest research and technology, but they don't have the years of firsthand experience that employers value.
"We do hear employers complain that younger workers fresh out of school often lack a practical understanding of how to apply what they have learned in their classrooms to the workplace," Alssid says. "That said, we have heard from several experienced workers that they feel they are losing out on jobs to younger -- less costly -- candidates."
Experience Matters but Is it Enough?
Don't mistake a need for experience as a reason to dismiss education. The problem is that job seekers have to take responsibility for their education because many employers no longer have the time and budget to groom new hires.
"Employers seem to be less willing to invest in training in this economy. Again, it is the combination of the right credential and practical experience they look for," Alssid says.
In this competitive and ever-changing job market, many decisions are out of your control. However, some workers might find that taking steps to improve their credentials is one way they can actively boost their résumés.
"Many job seekers can make themselves more competitive by getting industry-recognized credentials that are valued in today's workplace," Alssid says.
Are Employers Looking to Hire You?
"We hear about the skills shortage from industries including health care, advanced manufacturing, IT and energy," Alssid says. Although no specific job title is in constant need, any positions relying on math and technical expertise are consistently difficult to fill. "I have heard from several advanced manufacturers that they would hire engineers and engineering technicians in a heartbeat."
As a result, job seekers who are applying to these fields and who have the qualifications need to put their experience and skills front and center. In the cover letter, résumé and interview don't let hiring managers forget that you already have the skills they need. After all, you are just one job seeker in a competitive market; show employers that you're different from the rest.
The employment statistics and statements mentioned above are national figures. Employment conditions in your area may be different. These are national statistics and conditions in your area may vary. These are national historical statistics and are not representative or indicative of the earning potential of graduates.
Colorado Technical University cannot guarantee employment or salary.