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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


  1. Hello Professor Linchi,
    Great post and even better short video. I have experienced the very same thing with companies using these automated systems (no reply). I find it equally irresponsible for a company to disregard a simple e-mail reply to a candidate’s application submittal. The guidance and recommendations I have been given most recently, is that after one should send a well written cover letter with your resume and a follow-up/thank you letter post an interview. I feel if this is the professional industry standard for any applicant, then why are companies not holding themselves to the same standards? Not bashing any company, but just food for thought.

    1. Thank you for leaving a nicely written comment. The supply-demand also contributes to what is going on in the job market. You provided a very good point here --- companies should also live up to the standard. By doing so, they can stand out from the crowd and be seen as the desired employers to work for. Unfortunately, some companies do not see that when there are so many employed workers rushing to their doors for opportunities. I hope things will turn around soon. Meanwhile, job seekers have to be patient and do what they are supposed to do (as what you said, cover letter and thank you note, etc.).

  2. Dr. Kwok-
    With millions of Americans remaining unemployed, there must be some sort of reason as to why they are not being hired. Surely certain business have emerged, others have expanded as well. So why are more Americans not being hired? It seems as though many companies are unwilling to spend the time and money to train new employees. Instead, they may hire someone who already has extensive experience in the industry and not new candidates with good attitudes and bursting potential.
    I agree with you that saving money on training new employees by hiring those with more experience is only a short-term solution. While young people may not have the same experience, the Millennial generation are not only fast learners but are hard workers that may bring bright new ideas to a company and a certain energy that an older, more experienced worker may not bring.

    -Sam C.

  3. Dr Kwok,

    With so many people out of jobs right now in our economy it is crucial for them to get back into the workforce and get hired. I agree that employers are expecting too much from candidates because there is such a high competition between all of the people seeking for employment. Even for me, looking for internships can be very difficult because there are so many people competing against me to just get an 8 week- non paid job.
    I also think that instead fo hiring someone from another company, it is better to hire a new person with the right background so that you can train them to be informed with how your company works and how this job will be. I also think that hiring younger people is not a bad thing. Young people looking for jobs out of college are so eager to work and get into the workforce that most of them will probably exceed all expectations and work harder than an older employee who is settled in and comfortable. The thrill of having a new job always makes people want to work harder and prove themselves.

    -India Kessler

  4. I believe that this all depends on the type of position that a company is hiring for. If a company is attempting to implement ideas and programs that they have seen in other companies then why not hire someone that has worked elsewhere with those same ideas and programs? Sometimes a job that is so specific is difficult to just hire a person that would require extensive training for the position. On the other hand there are other instances were it is completely appropriate to hire someone that is new to the business. They may be more open-minded and could possibly even bring some new and fresh ideas to the company. -Amber Jones

  5. I think it depends on the position. While there are still many Americans unemployed, this doesn’t tell us much. Do these individuals have any type of college education or any type of experience in any type of field? Another factor may be that certain jobs are increasing the need for new employees, such as Dietitians, yet cutting done on Diet Technicians for example. I do think many companies do hire experienced people rather than inexperienced ones. I think this possess advantages and disadvantages for the employers. Hire new people that have no experience in the field or that have just graduated with a specific degree can bring the employer new ideas and I would think often have more updated knowledge regarding the field. I would think they would also be more eager to start working and still have the multitasking, hardworking skills they carried in college. On the other hand people with more experience may have the advantage of learning from past mistakes, maturity and of course are less expensive to train. They may be able to take on more tasks, as they are used to doing them.

  6. I agree with this and I think you also bring up a great point. Many places are very technical about who they hire for the job because they do not have the "specific" skills they require. I think that employers need to become more flexible and interview all of their applicants because there may be something that the applicant cant give to the job aside from what is just written on their resume. For example, I applied for a simple job at a tanning salon and did not even receive an interview. I am not specifically sure why I did not get the job, but I am guessing it is because I have never worked in a tanning salon before you with computers but that doesn't mean I can learn. Employers would benefit if they would hire a smart person and train them for the position instead of constantly searching for the one specific person, which they may never find. I am a very fast learner, and a hard worker and I believe I would have done an amazing job at the tanning salon, but since they are so close minded I will never get to show them the chance. This is a problem I think that occurs with many young adults eager and ready to get out into the work force. - Alyssa Resnick


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