Finding, Landing and Loving a Hard-to-Fill Job

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By Hannah Morgan

Is there really a talent shortage or are employers being picky? ManpowerGroup's ninth annual Talent Shortage Survey identified the top reason employers couldn't fill jobs. While you can't change how companies screen candidates, you can do these five things to help convince a potential employer to grant you an interview.

First, take a look at the 10 jobs companies are having problems filling. You may not have considered these before, but if you're thinking of retraining, changing careers or if you're looking for your first job out of college, these could make good targets.
  • Skilled trade workers
  • Restaurant and hotel staff
  • Sales representatives
  • Teachers
  • Drivers
  • Accounting and finance staff
  • Laborers
  • IT staff
  • Engineers
  • Nurses

Quick Tip: These are broad job categories. Each job has its own subcategory or specialty. Be sure you conduct in-depth research to learn more about them. Also think about the potential for advancement, earning potential and how transferable your skills might be to perform these jobs. Base your decision on information and realistic data.

> Opportunities abound in fields requiring vocational training

Build and Highlight Technical Expertise
First and foremost, employers cite lack of technical skills as the reason most of these jobs go unfilled. You can learn what the required technical skills are by reading job postings and reading the occupational description on O*NET Online, an online database sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. For example, O*NET reports "considerable preparation is needed" for engineers, and that most engineering jobs require a four-year degree. It also explains that most laborer positions require some preparation and an apprenticeship. By developing a thorough understanding of the technical skills in demand, you'll have a better understanding of what you need to develop and highlight in your job-search marketing materials.

Quick Tip: Use job postings and O*NET to create a list of skills and areas of knowledge required for the type of job you're interested in, and include as many as possible on your résumé, LinkedIn profile and cover letters to show you meet the requirements.

Don't Overlook Soft Skills
According to the ManpowerGroup survey, 39 percent of employers cite soft skills, or a "lack of workplace competencies," as a reason for not being able to fill jobs. Good grammar, punctuation and spelling should always be a priority when job searching. Your soft skills are also evaluated during the interview process. Put your best foot forward and polish up these top 10 soft skills, as reported by a recent CareerBuilder study:
  • Strong work ethic
  • Dependable
  • Positive attitude
  • Self-motivated
  • Team-oriented
  • Organized
  • Works well under pressure
  • Effective communicator
  • Flexible
  • Confident

Quick Tip: Practice telling short accomplishment stories using specific examples of instances where you demonstrate these skills. It isn't enough to list these words on your résumé – you need to include these stories as well.

Search and Find Your Job
ManpowerGroup's survey found that 36 percent of employers had difficulty finding applicants for vacant jobs. Every company has a different recruiting budget and strategy. To find these hard-to-fill jobs, change how you search – identify companies you know are likely to need your skills. This proactive approach allows you to monitor their career site, set up search filters and network with people who work inside your target companies.

Quick Tip: Diversify your job search to include more word-of-mouth marketing, staffing agencies and specialty job boards.

> Who's hiring in June?

Recalibrate Salary Expectations
The bottom line – you're worth what someone is willing to pay. ManpowerGroup's survey reports 30 percent of employers can't fill jobs because candidates' salary expectations exceed what is offered. Before you begin applying to jobs, take time to research starting salaries. You can easily use tools like,, and others to research salaries, but don't stop there. Ask people what the going rate or current salary range is for jobs in your region. You can also talk to recruiters within staffing agencies who can tell you what salaries and rates their clients are offering.

Quick Tip: Even though the salary may be less than you want, consider health insurance benefits and other company perks as you evaluate job opportunities. Realistic salary expectations will help both you and the employer establish a good fit.

Gain Experience
It's difficult to prove you can do the job you're applying for if you don't have previous on-the-job experience. Twenty-five percent of employers report lack of experience as a reason they're unable to fill jobs. The more obstacles you can remove, the greater your chance of getting hired. Acquiring experience, paid or unpaid, is a valuable asset.

Quick Tip: It's never too late to secure an internship or even volunteer to gain firsthand experience and help improve your chances over other applicants.

More is Better
Finding and landing your next job takes a multi-pronged approach. You will need as many of the required skills as possible, develop your soft skills, set realistic salary expectations, diversify your search strategy, acquire experience or exposure to the job and industry. The more of these qualifications you possess, the greater your odds of standing out and getting hired. Take control of the parts of the equation you can control and be sure you communicate your qualifications accurately and completely.

Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored "Social Networking for Business Success," and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.
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