Is there really a talent shortage?

Is there really a talent shortage?

Posted on July 24, 2018

What I love the most about recruiting is that I get to spend every day hearing about the best experiences people have. I hear their passion for what they do and over the years they tell me how they’ve grown into new roles.

It is a privilege to have people share their truths.

Unfortunately their truths aren’t always positive. I also hear their desperation, frustration, and disappointment. It is an even greater privilege that they trust me with their hardships. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXEq-K7jbkw&w=560&h=315]

Many major cities including Toronto aspire to be a technology center. They hope to attract and retain the best talent, the brightest minds, and the most innovative organizations. These epicenters promote entrepreneurship and support diversity and inclusion. Yet somehow we have a database of “over-qualified”, “lacks Canadian work experience”, and “not a cultural fit” candidates. Yes, those may be accurate descriptions for some individuals but certainly not all of them. We hear employers parrot the same dismissive comments over and over again and let me tell you, as a recruiter it’s tough when we have to repeat them back to our candidates because we don’t agree they are bad attributes. It’s why we ask our clients to give more constructive feedback on a rejected candidate; at least that way they can improve for their next opportunity.

Let me state for the record, I do believe our country welcomes diversity. As a society we know we’re stronger together. On any given morning you’ll find our transit systems jammed with the melting pot our country is. BUT when it comes to employment I believe we can do much better; the old biases still stand. The talent exists (and already have the required work permits), are willing to work (with amazing work ethic), and have years of experience with these hard-to-find skills (and I’ll note their English skills are fine). Don’t believe me? Here’s some recent examples:

  •  The Canadian who worked abroad throughout Asia for 10 years, returns to Canada with her family to only to find that employers feel she lacks the North American experience, despite the fact that the agencies she’s worked for are well recognized global entities, the budgets she’s managed are triple the ask, and the campaigns she created were adapted by her counterparts for the NA market.
  • The candidate who has experience working with hard-to-find software tools, is an exact match for many job descriptions and has applied to 25 of those postings recently. She hasn’t received a single call back because her name isn’t easy to pronounce. We finally secure her an interview but it truthfully took some convincing; our client agreed to meet her because of our assessment but it was met with hesitation. (She was offered the position the same day.)
  • The candidate who has been in his career for almost 20 years, has pivoted into digital knowing it would become the norm. He is happy at the level he works at because it provides him with work/life balance. He also prefers the hands-on work instead of what he feels would be a stressful leadership role. The hip start-up environment shares their concerns that he isn’t a cultural fit but they can’t explain what it is he’s missing. In fact, during his interview he addresses the ageism because he knows it’s been a concern before. He tells them that he runs marathons, loves video games, and he still loves his beer.

It is disappointing how many similar anecdotes I can personally share. Being able to advocate for these talented individuals is part of the reason I stay in recruitment. There is no greater joy for a recruiter than a placement and it means so much more when we’ve represented someone who has been waiting for the opportunity to contribute to a team again.

There is good news though.

I ask our clients to consider the missed opportunity when they bypass a candidate who isn’t exactly the individual they imagined in the role – that person rarely (never) exists – and lately employers re-evaluate. Individuals have broken into the workforce, they have excelled at what they do, and they are now in leadership roles influencing hires. And we work with procurement departments who have a mandate to question the status quo, not only of the make-up of their vendors, but also the diversity mix of their teams. I am confident we are headed in the right direction as long as we continue the dialogue, insist on specific feedback, and return to a focus whereby hard skills hold greater merit than the perceived soft skills of a candidate.

Jennifer van Amerom, Refine Recruitment, Founder & CEO

Photo credit: Eneida Hoti

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