How to Improve Recruitment Practices and Eliminate Skills Mismatch

January 2022 dawned with high hopes for many employers. While thousands of jobs remained vacant and millions of Americans out of work, many remained optimistic about their prospects for filling positions with highly qualified candidates. However, if current hiring practices are accurate indicators of future success, there is still much to learn.

A Harris Poll conducted from August to September 2017 revealed that employees and employers alike suffer the consequences of a poor hiring decision. Two-thirds of employees interviewed reported accepting a job that was ultimately much different from the one they were promised. 54% of employers said that new hires did not produce quality work, and 45% reported that an employee’s skills did not match the claims made on their resumé.

These situations, aptly called bad hires, are costly to all involved. Time, resources, and money are lost pursuing, hiring, and training individuals who are not a good fit for the position. Regardless of the reason, the result is often the same. A poor fit leads to high rates of disengagement and employee turnover.

The Mismatch

Avoiding hiring a candidate with a skills mismatch requires, first and foremost, an understanding of how and why these mismatches occur. The term skills mismatch describes any situation where the necessary skills to perform successfully in a given position are not equal to the actual skill set of the individual filling that position. It includes those who are underqualified, overqualified, overeducated, undereducated, or who possess a gap in crucial skills.

The majority of skills mismatches fall into two distinct categories.

1. Vertical Mismatch – Employees in this category possess a level of expertise or experience above or below the requirements for their job. Vertical mismatches may result from vertical moves among employee structuring. Individuals can find themselves with more or less opportunity or responsibility than they are accustomed to. Often described as over or underqualified, these individuals are likely to feel overwhelmed and inadequate or under-compensated and underutilized. Because they are not appropriately challenged, employees in both these groups are likely to become less motivated, disengage from their responsibilities, and leave for a job that is a better fit for their abilities.

2. Horizontal Mismatch – Also known as a field of study mismatch, these individuals have the proper level of expertise to perform their duties, but they are working in an area they know less about. This type of mismatch most often occurs when employees make a lateral move from one industry to another. While they can be successful transplants, hiring someone with another field of expertise is a gamble. You must have confidence in their ability to master new skills and acquire new knowledge. Their learning curve is steeper than someone formally trained to perform their duties.

Why Mismatch Occurs

Skills mismatches can result from various circumstances, which may be out of the control of both employee and employer.

  • Automation of a job may make a worker’s skill set obsolete.
  • The advancement of new technology may create demand for skills to increase faster than workers can be trained to fill positions.
  • Some fields of study may be unpopular, leading to higher demand and a lower supply of qualified individuals.
  • Skilled workers in niche fields may experience a swath of retirement in a short period of time.
  • Candidates interested in changing fields of work may lack the training to perform as well as peers in their new positions.

The most avoidable cause of skills mismatch lies within the steps of the recruitment process. Recruiters may fail to provide adequate details to candidates about a position or skip steps necessary to identify mismatched candidates during the screening process. However, professional job recruiters know how to mitigate these factors by refining the recruitment process.

Improving Recruitment Practices

The recruitment process allows many opportunities to weed out candidates that do not align with your organization’s culture, goals, or vision. These steps, if used correctly, will also identify those whose skills do not match the position.

Provide a Detailed Job Description

Providing a detailed description of the open position and the skills and requirements necessary to succeed ensures you start your search with the best candidates. The job title should map well to the responsibilities. Using company-specific vocabulary can be confusing to qualified candidates. Instead, focus on terms that skilled professionals will use to search for their ideal job.

Your description should also set clear expectations for applicants. Leave little room for interpretation regarding which skills are mandatory and which are preferred. If you need applicants to have prior experience, leadership skills, or proficiencies, list these upfront. Candidates who are not qualified will be less likely to apply, giving you fewer applications to sift through to find the top candidates.

Use Skill Assessment Tools

While most candidates do not intentionally lie or try to deceive recruiters, it is common to stretch the truth or divulge information in a manner that is misleading to interviewers. Recruiters can discover the true extent of an individual’s abilities by administering skills tests. These standardized online proficiencies objectively score a candidate’s abilities. Those who do not achieve a minimum score may need to be eliminated from the applicant pool despite their impressive resumé to focus on candidates whose assessment scores and experience meet your criteria.

Ask the Right Questions

Like skill assessments, interviews are an opportunity to uncover an applicant’s true abilities. Asking questions that require them to solve real world problems or think on their feet illuminate their leadership and decision-making skills. You can also use these questions to discover their depth of knowledge and experience in their field. Including co-workers in these interviews allows experts to help you find the best candidate.

Don’t Rely On Degrees

Most job descriptions contain a sentence or two about the type of education applicants should have. Some may require no degree, while others insist applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree. While a degree is a good starting point for identifying qualified candidates, graduating with a degree in a given field only indicates that the applicant completed a course of study. It does not mean the applicant is skilled or possesses the experience necessary to thrive in the workplace. Degrees are a positive indicator that a candidate has the right knowledge and skills, but it is not a guarantee.

Hire a Recruiter

Staffing companies have an established network of individuals who may be a good fit for your open position. Their years of experience successfully placing individuals with organizations gives them expert insight into identifying candidates who have the right qualifications to meet your needs and perform their job competently and confidently.

Skills gaps are a common challenge that companies face as they hire new employees. However, these mismatched placements can be minimized or eliminated by improving the recruitment process. Ensuring that applicants and employers are in sync regarding the necessary skills and expectations will help make new hires more successful additions to any organization.