Where Are All the Job Applicants?

There may be more jobs available today than there are applicants to fill them. This is a frustrating scenario for employers. Organizations trying to grow, or even simply keep up with current demand, are finding it more and more difficult to keep employees, and they’re finding it’s more and more difficult to find new employees when a role becomes vacant.

empty officeWhere are all the applicants? Why are there no longer enough?

Some of this can be chalked up to a growing economy. New jobs are being added that didn’t exist before. But that doesn’t explain everything. The economy is fine, but it’s not growing at such a high pace that it explains the lack of applicants across various sectors. There are a lot more factors at play here. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

  • A lot of people who are of working age are not actually looking for a job. This includes examples like:
    • Parents who are out of the workforce while raising children;
    • People who have chosen to start or return to school and not work while doing so;
    • Those who are disabled and unable to take on a traditional job;
    • People with medical issues who are temporarily unable to work, such as those who are not disabled but are dealing with a short-term but debilitating illness or injury; and
    • People who may be suffering from addiction, which has impacted their life in such a way that they cannot currently join the workforce.
  • Employers may be excluding people from applying—people who are otherwise qualified—without even realizing it. Employers often do this inadvertently by having application requirements that go beyond what is truly necessary to do the job. For example, these issues can discourage applicants:
    • Only allowing applications from individuals with X years of experience, without exception. That may exclude someone perfectly qualified who only misses the requirement by, say, 1 year.
    • Requiring experience in a specific industry or specific department when, in fact, the skills required may be easily transferrable from other industries or departments.
    • Requiring a specific degree without allowing for the idea that someone’s experience may qualify him or her without the degree.
    • Requiring any experience (especially if it’s lengthy or specific) that could actually be covered with training provided by the employer.
  • Employers may be discouraging applicants for other reasons, such as:
    • Not staying in alignment with pay or benefit expectations on offer with other employers. Pay usually has to rise as the labor market tightens. Benefits are something that can be negotiated, but if the organization has a history of being stingy with pay or benefits, it may mean it’s getting fewer than its share of applicants now.
    • Not taking steps to address problems with the employment brand—which can impact how favorably the organization is viewed. If the organization has had problems with negative associations either from the customer or employee standpoint, this can be tough to overcome in a tight labor market. Today there are lots of ways potential applicants can get input about what it’s like to work for an organization—which will definitely have an impact on how many applicants are interested in applying for a given role.
    • Being too quick to dismiss someone who has a criminal history, which may not even be relevant to the job.
    • Not allowing workplace flexibility, like remote workdays when possible, or not offering something that is critical for an employee to make his or her move, like relocation benefits or health insurance.

This list is just a start. In part 2 of this article, we’ll continue to outline more aspects that affect the number of applicants employers are seeing today.

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