We’re hearing more and more about a supposed “skills gap” in today’s job market. Employers are desperately trying to fill positions, spending months and months on recruitment, but cannot find the right calibre of candidates with the skillset to meet their requirements.
Here at Brand, we speak to hundreds of marketers each week who are extremely talented at what they do, with an impressive skillset, CV, and attitude to boot; yet they still struggle to even get an interview for a role which they are more than qualified to do. So, is the issue here with the candidate? No, it’s with the employer who is being overly unrealistic about what he/she can expect from candidates in today’s job market.
In marketing, and other industries, graduates have long been complaining that entry level positions are harder and harder to come by; with employers expecting you to have a first-class degree, four years’ industry experience, fluency in another language and a stint volunteering at an orangutan sanctuary all by the time you’re 21. Increasingly, we are hearing this complaint from more senior level marketing candidates, too. They have an abundance of relevant industry experience, skills they have amassed from years of hands-on experience and a proven track record of success, yet still they are being told that their experience isn’t enough for roles. What are they missing?
A quick straw poll of the Brand Recruitment office shows that all of us have come across employers with impractical expectations of the market. Stories vary from employers wanting someone with 5 years’ experience for a £25,000 salary, to wanting engineering graduates with strong graphic design skills. The most common complaints are clients that expect a senior candidate on a junior salary or those who are unwilling to compromise on overly specific – and often lengthy – job descriptions. We recently recruited for a client who was adamant that they would only consider marketers that have experience in one narrow industry sector, limiting the pool of candidates considerably. Realising – after much cajoling from the exasperated recruiter – that this approach was not working, they opened-up the job search and found their perfect candidate.
It has become increasingly clear to those of us in recruitment, that often companies don’t actually know what they’re looking for at all. There are two instances where this is especially prevalent; when the role has been newly created or when the former employee has been put on a pedestal by the company. It’s understandable that when an exceptional and valued employee leaves the company that you would want to replace them with a candidate of the same calibre. Many companies forget that their employees have progressed a great deal since they started in the role, having been afforded the opportunity to learn and grow on the job. No candidate will live up to the ghost of employees past. Newly-created roles are particularly tricky, often the role changes organically once it is filled, adapting to the needs of the business. But this can be hard to predict, and hiring managers know it. They send over job descriptions more akin to a 5-year old’s Christmas list, with bullet point after bullet point of everything they MUST have. In their uncertainty, they think the broader the better and expect the perfect candidate to magically appear. But it doesn’t work that way.
Understandably, employers are looking for return on investment. If they are going to pay someone a substantial salary, they want to be sure they’re getting their bang for their buck. Not so unreasonable, I agree. However, companies are increasingly looking for people who can come straight into a role, without any training or guidance from them, and produce results from day one. In this scenario, the only way to get a job, is to already have that job. Hiring managers used to look more for potential; someone they could invest in and nurture, someone who could develop and grow with the company. In focusing solely on a candidate who hits every single box on their extensive check list, they are missing out on some hidden gem candidates who, given the right opportunity, could flourish within their organisation.
But maybe the tides are changing. If the last few weeks have shown us anything, it’s that the candidate with no relevant experience or qualifications can ultimately land the job.