Why good people still can’t get jobs

A decade ago, the Great Recession triggered massive layoffs as companies large and small scaled back operations or shuttered. The job market was flooded with applicants, and it wasn’t uncommon for employers to receive hundreds of resumes for a single posting. Many Americans were underemployed or accepted similar positions that paid significantly less than what they were making prior to the crash. Back then, a common refrain was, “Why can’t good people get jobs?” But with a strong U.S. economy and unemployment at 3.7% (as of July 2019), employers are now grumbling that they can’t find enough qualified workers. The question seems to have inverted: “Why can’t jobs get good people?”

Five people sitting in chairs against a wall wearing suits waiting for a job interview.

Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli contends the economy doesn’t have as much to do with the hiring process as we would like to believe. Instead of relying on luck, companies should focus on trying to fix the hiring process by taking a more structured approach that is based on best practices, not subjectivity. They also should consider bringing back trained recruiters who specialize in hiring and know how to ask the right questions. Cappelli recently published an article in Harvard Business Review titled, “Your Approach to Hiring Is All Wrong.” He discusses why companies are wasting time and money chasing down a cast of thousands when they should be “narrowing the funnel” to find the right fit. 

He adds, “Most employers aren’t interested in hiring people out of unemployment. In the U.S., we fill 66 million jobs every year. If you look at the number of unemployed, it’s a tiny fraction of that—it’s a few million. So, most jobs are filled by people who already are working for somebody else.”

Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.