Companies that can’t find skilled workers might need to re-evaluate their standards

    Peter Cappelli

    Peter Cappelli

    The U.S. economy is bouncing back from the depths of the recession. Still, it’s not clear how employees across the country are benefiting.



    NewsWorks Tonight host Dave Heller discussed jobs, wages, and hiring with Peter Cappelli, director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, and author of “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It.” He’s come out with some additional research on employment in a new working paper.

    “I think what we hear a lot is complaints that employers find it difficult to find what they want when they are looking for employees,” said Cappelli. “I think the issue, though, is we never press that a little farther and say: What are you actually looking for?”

    Companies are increasingly looking for workers who can “step immediately into the job and start making contributions,” Cappelli said.

    “In other words, they don’t need training,” he said.

    An overabundance of over-qualified workers since the recession hit has made some employers complacent, he said. Some will keep a job open for some time looking for the right candidate.

    “A lot of managers … are willing to just wait. ‘Well, you know, we’ll fill the position, but I’m not in a big hurry to fill it, and I’m not going to compromise what I want, so we’ll just wait for the perfect candidate to come along,’” he said of a prevailing attitude.

    As a result, Cappelli said, what appears to be a dearth of qualified candidates is simply employers holding out for something better.

    You might ask, wasn’t this the case during past recessions? Not exactly, said Cappelli.

    “You know, a generation ago, when we had lifetime employment, both the employer and the employee were kind of buffered,” he said. In the downturns, the companies didn’t lay off people, they didn’t squeeze them as hard. On the upturns, people didn’t jump around much to other companies, and the employer was kind of protected. So it’s a different environment now where there are much bigger costs to both sides.”

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