Is there a shortage of good candidates or a lack of brave employers?

Published: 26 November 2013

Deloitte have recently conducted a study to show that London has more people employed in highly skilled sectors than any other city in the world. This is clearly positive reading and a sign that something is working; whether this be education, the attractiveness of London as a place to live and work, or a city where much of the commerce is driven by services delivered by skilled workers.

This week I have read more news on the lack of opportunities for graduates with 8.8% remaining unemployed and 47% working in roles that do not require a degree.

I couldn’t find a more recent statistic but last year, the CIPD reported that 2.7million people have been made redundant since 2008.

So we have the highest number of skilled workers in the world, lots of graduates coming in to the market and people becoming available due to circumstances beyond their control. So why are people talking of a “talent shortage” and using the very well-used term “war for talent” once more?

Two things are happening: The first is an obvious one in that some of the positions on offer require a particular skill-set which not everyone will possess. O2 have recently carried out a study suggesting that the UK will need a further 750,000 people in digital roles by the year 2017 and clearly not everyone is a digital expert! Equally there are professions where you need to be professionally qualified with the relevant academics - see Lawyers, Accountants and Doctors. So what is the excuse where roles do not have a legal or academic requirement?

I think organisations can show more bravery in the recruitment process and hire with a focus on potential rather than just experience. I am not naïve; I recognise that there will be certain parts of a job that a candidate needs to have experienced in order to function effectively. However, aiming to hire someone who has done the same role in the same industry will not drive innovation, will limit the talent pool, and will cause the vacancy to remain open whilst the finite number of potential candidates are approached, perhaps over a number of months.

It is easy to ask someone to talk through their experience and if they have not done everything that they will be doing in this new role, reject them. Hiring on potential requires more thought, more probing and a more skilled interviewing technique.

People can quite clearly do new things when given the opportunity. Every year 24,000 people leave the armed forces and most of these join the workforce. This is because an employer was brave, recognised their core strengths and understood that, although the role was probably very different, they had potential. Professional athletes come to the end of their careers and unless at the highest professional level, they need to go down a different route and become employed in something that’s often non-sporting, again by someone who sees their potential.

The benefits are clear; you will have access to a wider talent pool and you will hire an ambitious individual who will demonstrate loyalty because you recognised their potential. They will bring new thinking to the team and company, and that vacancy may close more quickly than before. Try it.

Tim Baker is a Consultant in the HR Practice at Berwick Partners

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