Finding the right employee has never been an easy task, but in the current job market, with money tight and an enormous pool of qualified candidates to choose from, many employers have been content to wait it out until they found a near-perfect match for open positions.
While there will always be a gap between the skills of job-seekers and the capabilities desired by employers, that divide will matter less as the job market improves, said Sean Koppelman, president of The Talent Magnet, a New York-based executive recruitment firm.
"The gap is closing," Koppelman said. "I think that in order to have a continual growth in job market, there have to be compromise on both sides. The employer and candidate have to make a leap of faith. If the candidate has 90 percent of what I need, I have to trust that the other 10 percent will be there. We're beginning to see that happen."
He said that employers have had unrealistic expectations of candidates during the downturn in the market.
"This has been driven by the large number of A-caliber candidates competing for same job," he said. "After nearly three years, that is changing. Employers are adding budgets and head counts. People are moving. The competition for talent is greater."
Specialization is key
Koppelman said one of the biggest shifts is that employers are no longer looking for a "Jack of all trades."
While having a varied background has been a plus as employees have had to fill multiple roles, he said employers are now favoring candidates who have deep skill sets in a particular area.
"For a number of years, companies and professionals thought that having many skills in many different areas was desirable," he said. "When the employee had to wear many hats due to understaffing, that strategy made sense. But now that many companies are closer to being fully staffed, they want candidates with expertise in a particular area so that they can have an immediate impact on the way the company does business. Hiring someone who can have an immediate impact is especially important in a smaller organization."
Employers are taking into account a potential employee's track record when it comes to adapting to new technologies and trends.
"If they have been out of the work force for a while, have they taken the time to keep their skills sharp and amassed new skills?" Koppelman said.
But it isn't just technical prowess that employers will embrace. "They want a potent combination of superior analytic skills and business acumen coupled with strong interpersonal skill sets," he said.
In other words, employers want someone who has technical ability and is a "people person." But Koppelman also cautioned that candidates not use that phrase during a job interview. He also added that employers should be wary of candidates who tout themselves as social media experts .
"That is today's version of 'people person,'" he said. "Everyone is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Think about how much of that social media expertise will be necessary for the role. Very often, people believe if they become experts in using Facebook and Twitter, it will ensure their professional advancement. They have to think about the specific needs of the employer and the role they are applying for rather than just blindly touting those skills in their cover letters and resumes."
Koppelman said employers are not necessarily rejecting candidates with gaps in their resumes, as long as they have remained involved in the industry. "They want to see that you have been working to keep yourself marketable and a valuable employee," he said.
Volunteering, doing internships and being involved in professional organizations are some ways to keep your skills fresh and remain desirable to potential employers, he said.
What are some causes for immediate rejection of a candidate? Spelling and grammatical errors on a resume or other communication, for one thing. A cover letter that is not tailored to the position for which they are applying is another big no-no.
"Don't send a cover letter that mentions why you are a great candidate for a particular position when that is not the position you're applying for," Koppelman said. "Also, I can't coach enthusiasm or a positive frame of mind. If you don't exhibit the right attitude, it is an interview-killer."The Best Job Interview Questions You Should Ask
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