Don’t ignore the brown squirrels

I’ve recently read two articles that focus on how employers say they’re having a hard time filling their open positions, yet it turns out they are dismissing qualified candidates. In an Inc.com article, “Is there Really a Skills Gap?” Cait Murphy writes,

Simply put, employers pile on so many requirements that finding a match is like hunting for a white elephant: They do exist but are vanishingly rare… if they don’t find the white elephant, they will keep hunting–even though there are willing elephants ready to do the job.”

Her point is that employers are being too picky. There are plenty of candidates willing and able to fill a position, but employers are often too determined to find someone with a very specific skill set – to the detriment of all other applicants. Employers say there’s a ‘skills gap’ but Murphy and other writers agree that there is less of a lack of skills, and more of a problem with employers not willing to accept anything other than a ‘white elephant’, or ‘purple squirrel’.

A more inflammatory article directly attacks Applicant Tracking Systems for ignoring qualified candidates, filtering out good applicants and leaving what appears to be a hard-to-fill position, or skills gap. A headhunter, Nick Corcodilos, writes on pbs.org that job boards and HR software are taking recruiting away from managers and automating the process. He argues that this automation is done poorly rejecting many qualified and high-level applicants unnecessarily, placing the ‘skills gap’ shortage phenomenon squarely on the shoulders of the software systems.

An ATS is simply a hiring tool

Guess what? It’s not the applicant tracking software that makes hiring, filtering and rejecting decisions; it’s the people using the system. An ATS is simply a tool, and this tool can be a reflection of a company’s stringent hiring practices and overly strict keyword matching. It can also be a reflection of openness, and wider acceptance – it all depends on how it is used by the employer. An ATS is not simply a “database server,” it is a way of comparing hundreds of applicants in a sane way, it is about communicating between managers and HR and it is about learning more about applicants without being buried in emails.

A manual process is time consuming, especially for large companies and competitive industries. Job boards and HR software help manage an employer’s hiring by doing those robotic tasks that software does best. Contrary to Corcodilos’ assumption that managers are taking a back seat to their ATS, managers can use these systems to take a more active and collaborative role.

To sum up, employers may be too strict with their recruiting efforts – don’t ignore qualified candidates who are ready to start work in the hopes that a ‘purple squirrel’ will walk through your door. There are plenty of bright, skilled people looking for work who will excel at the opportunity you offer. If an employer is rejecting too many seemingly good candidates – this is not the fault of their software system, technology is only a tool to help us in our jobs, it should not be used instead of human care and consideration.