3 Reasons Good Workers Don't Get Jobs (And What They Can Do About It)

With nearly 13 million unemployed Americans, you'd think there be no such thing as a worker shortage. But many U.S. employers continue to say that they can't find people to fill certain jobs.

A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that despite the nation's high 8.2 percent unemployment rate, 38 percent of employers said they have positions for which they can't find qualified candidates.


But Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Wharton School Center for Human Resources, argues that employers should stop whining about the shortage of workers and do something about it, such as offering to train newly hired workers -- something many companies aren't willing to do.

AOL Jobs asked Cappelli, author of the new book, "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It," why employers are reluctant hire more workers. Here's what he had to say:

  1. Employers are too picky. With so many people out of work, companies are just holding out until they find the exactly right fit -- someone who doesn't require any training and has done the exact job before. In the meantime, they're burdening existing workers with more work. CareerBuilder's survey showed that 34 percent of employers said the inability to fill vacancies has resulted in overworked employees producing lower quality products and services, and a similar percentage say the need for existing staff to work long hours has reduced morale.

  2. They rely too much on computers to sort candidates. Cappelli says companies today are simply overwhelmed by the number of applicants for jobs and rely too heavily on applicant-tracking software. "Software is by definition a pretty clumsy way to sort out something as complex as people and particularly how they fit jobs," he says. One benefit of applicant tracking system, or ATS, software is that it reduces employers' cost of hiring, so employers will continue to use it. Still Cappelli says, it's a prime example of companies "being penny wise and pound foolish."

  3. Companies aren't focused on the cost of leaving jobs unfilled. Employers are acutely aware of how much it costs to hire and train workers, but they don't weigh actual and other costs of keeping unfilled positions open. The way in which most businesses' internal accounting is set up, Cappelli says, "there doesn't appear that there are any costs in keeping positions vacant." In fact, he adds, it's often perceived as a cost saver.

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Despite these obstacles, Cappelli says there are strategies that job seekers can utilize to make themselves more viable candidates -- though they involve work:

  1. Customize resumes and cover letters to include keywords used in job listings. Job seekers who include keywords increase the chances that their application will make it through a company's ATS and onto a hiring manager's desk. But it's important to include only those words that are unique or peculiar to the job being applied for. In other words, just because a job posting seeks candidates who are "talented," say, doesn't make it a good keyword to include in your resume or cover letter.

  2. Be prepared to explain why you're the ideal candidate even if you aren't. Say you've applied for a job that you know you can do but the description of the position requires experience that you don't have. That may not rule out your candidacy altogether if you can explain to the hiring manager how your skills are translatable to the new position.

  3. Be selective about where you apply. Panicked job seekers often think sending out thousands of resumes is key to landing a job. But with so many people looking for work, it is no longer an effective strategy. Instead, hone in on those employers and positions you really think you have a shot at. Then use your social network to find someone within those companies who can tell who the hiring managers are and reach out to them directly.

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