4 Reasons People Aren’t Getting Hired

I live in Michigan, a state with an 11% unemployment rate. Employers seeking qualified candidates should have no problem filling open jobs, right?

Not necessarily, according to an expert I heard speak at a local Workforce Issues panel discussion. George Bosnjak, Business Development Manager for the Grand Rapids-based economic development organization The Right Place Program, addressed a large auditorium of business professionals saying, “Leaders tell us that they’re having a hard time finding the right people” to fill their open positions.

This is not the first time I’ve heard this phenomenon reported. Every time I hear (or read) this, I think “Seriously?! How can that be?”

So, 11% unemployment (not even counting the underemployed) and employers can’t find the right people?  That begs the question: just what exactly comprises the “right people”?  If there are millions of people seeking employment in our country, yet company leaders believe there’s a dearth of employees with the “right” skills, clearly there’s a disconnect somewhere.

During the Q&A portion of the panel discussion, a lively discussion ensued about this apparent gap between desired skills and available workers. As the questions flowed to the panelists, I sensed that some of my fellow audience members were also wondering, “How can this be?”  Here are some reasons that audience members offered for the gap:

The Needle in the Haystack Effect: Finding the “needle” is even more difficult these days because the “haystack” is so enormous. With so many people out of work, the Human Resources department has to sift through giant mountains of resumes for even the most entry-level job.

50-Mile Radius Test: For higher-level positions, many executives are enamored with finding the perfect candidate– (wrongly) assuming that a candidate can only be an “expert” if they hail (like the old saying goes) from a location more than 50 miles away. So, local job seekers get the brush-off in favor of out-of-state candidates.

No Industry Experience:  Many job-seekers in the audience lamented the fact that they possessed all necessary skills to interview for a job, barring one: industry-specific experience.  Of course, in this economy, employers can afford to be picky, weeding out people with non-industry experience. Some job candidates wondered if this approach was short-sighted on the employers’ part. Many in the audience felt that industry knowledge can be acquired, but commitment to the local community may not be as easy to come by.

Wooing the Reluctant: Employers want applicants with a more global worldview. Oftentimes, this means that local talent isn’t the first choice for a prime job opening. Local candidates find themselves saying, “Pick us! We choose to live here. Don’t spend your time trying to convince someone from Spain that she’ll love the snow here in Michigan.”

These were a few of the suggested reasons for the “no talent available” challenge espoused by hiring companies. I realize that this is a complicated issue. Just because there are many people out of work doesn’t mean that their current skill set matches the needs of the current job openings.  Yet based on the robust conversation I participated in last week, it definitely appears that there is a gap. There are talented, willing and able workers ready to be employed. And there’s an employer base stymied by a perceived lack of a talent pool. To me, it seems that there’s no lack of talent, so what is the problem?

What am I missing here? Is it really that our country has a lack of talent, that the “right” people are not available? Or is something else at play?  What would you add to the list of reasons why this disconnection between the employable and the employer persists?

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Jennifer Miller

For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferVMiller.



I live in an area that typically has higher unemployment than average and am applying for jobs that are 100-125 from my current location. I guess I’m screwed.

Monica Molstad Baresh

Thank you for sharing this Jennifer. I do find it interesting that it is so hard to find employees with high unemployment, but it is understandable. A few ideas…
1) Looking for “good” vs. “qualified” is a mind shift. People have the capacity to learn, so why not train them to become industry specific? If you can find a “good” employee with potential, but without the exact specific industry skills, why not hire them for a trial period to see if they can become a “qualified” employee with the company guidance? My entire career has been getting jobs like that! I actually had more drive to become accomplished and prove myself.
2) Promote from within. Create a management trainee program and improve your existing Human Capital. Your current employees will be more engaged and therefore motivated!
3) Allow for remote employment. If companies want a “global” view employee, use technology to let them live where they want and work remotely with the expectation that they are willing to travel a certain amount of the time. You then have the entire world at your fingertips!
4) Use LinkedIn for recruiting an already employed person. Find the type of person you are looking for on LinkedIn and entice them away from where they are. There are a lot of job seekers on LinkedIn as well. This social media outlet is also growing exponentially to help the job seekers as well.
Thanks for letting me share! Monica

Jennifer V. Miller

@Clare– yes, in many ways it *is* an employer’s market out there and I agree that if candidates outside their industry want to be considered for a role, they need to be ultra creative about demonstrating their abilities.

@Emily– your 5th reason makes a lot of sense to me. I, too, know of many people stonewalled by the “no more than X years experience” barrier. There’s a misconception out there: “more years’ experience = higher salary”. Here’s the thing I would strongly urge employers to consider: just because someone has more years’ experience doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will demand a higher salary. They may be very willig to accept the salary being offered.


I would say a fifth reason we are still having a hard time hiring “the right people” here in Michigan is that most employers are looking for the same candidate with less than 10 years of professional experience. I have seen many employers who want a Bachelor’s degree and 3-10 years experience…tops…no more. It is a very frustrating thing for all of the displaced older workers in Michigan. Great post and thoughts.

clare mcinerney

great post, jennifer, and thanks for sharing your discussion!

i wonder if a contributing factor is the “simple” shift in mindset that many people in america have made (consciously or subconsciously) over the past few years.

i know some employers are of the mindset that the pool of candidates is so large that they might be imagining they can find a ” more perfect” candidate. they indeed do have a larger pool of people to think about, so weeding through resumes of people to find a person who is not under- or over-qualified for a job becomes a very different process.

employers are receiving resumes from candidates who may have been out of work for a significant amount of time who might be casting a large net to find a job. when looking at a candidate, employers might not at first glance be aligned closely enough to what they’re looking for.

i suppose then that potential employees have another great challenge, to articulately summarize their assets and experience in a way that will grab the attention of an employer. candidates need to become a gigantic needle in a haystack–to communicate their desires to work in the community that they live in and to show that while they might not have industry experience, they take initiative to show they can learn the industry.


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