Are Employers Expecting Too Much?

There are millions of unemployed workers who are eager to find a job. Yet, there are companies still finding it difficult to fill vacancies. What is going on? Is it possible that we are not educating or training the labor force with the right skill sets that meet the society’s needs? Is it because employers are finding it challenging to screen the enormous amount of applicants for every vacant position?

According to this Wall Street Journal interview with Peter Cappelli, a Wharton School professor, there might be another possibility --- employers now have a different level of expectations. In my interpretation, employers are probably expecting too much from job candidates.

Some employers, for example, no longer want to invest in new hires. In the old times, employers were usually willing to hire candidates with good attitude and great leadership potential. Then, they would train new hires the technical skills needed at work and even let them spend time adjusting to the new organizational culture. Now, employers would rather let others do the training for them by hiring a well-established candidate who has had substantial experience in the field. They want to hire someone who can plug in and do the job immediately. In addition, employers also expect new hires to do more by adding new requirements and responsibilities, making few candidates qualified for the position. If a position is not filled, the work can be done by other employees and thus, save more labor costs.   

While this new hiring practice may help employers save money in the short term, I argue that it may cost more in the long term for a company and the society as a whole. I believe that job searching and hiring-selection is a fair game. While employers are selecting the best fit candidate, job seekers are also looking for the best fit boss. If an employer does not want to invest in new hires, why would any new hire want to invest in the employer or even feel committed to the job? Furthermore, if we look at the big picture (e.g. in the industrial level), since no one is willing to train or develop new hires, companies will end up fighting with each other for the same group of talent who has already felt less committed to their employers. One company’s gain becomes another company’s lost. Retention management and external recruits will become more expensive and difficult, which would eventually offset the training and development cost being saved.

What do you think? Is it a good strategy for a company to hire a candidate who is already doing the job in another company, or to hire someone with the right background and potential and then develop the new hires?

For job seekers, of course, it is important to understand employers’ new expectations. In addition, they may need to spend more effort and time on job search.

Relevant discussions:

The cartoon was downloaded from

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