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Workers Underestimate Demand, But Even the Employed Are Looking and Will Look

by
John Zappe
Jul 22, 2013, 6:54 am ET

A survey from MonsterMonster job seeker survey find a new job shows there’s a real disconnect between what job seekers think of the current employment market and what recruiters say.

While recruiters regularly report how hard it is to find quality candidates, several thousand job seekers insist it is harder to find a job today that it was last year. What’s more, by a margin approaching three to one, they agreed with the survey statement that, “The job market is saturated with qualified people in my area of expertise.”

They also believed when they took the online survey at the beginning of the year that the number of jobs hadn’t grown in a year; 62 percent thought that. The reality, according to The Conference Board, was that there were almost 600,000 more jobs being advertised in January and February when the survey was conducted.

Why the disconnect?

For one thing, overall confidence was significantly lower six months ago when the economic news was full of fiscal cliffs barely averted and impending sequestration. Another reason could be the nature the employment profile of the survey respondents; only 42 percent of the 6,000 were employed at the time they took the survey.

With recruiters reluctant if not resistant to even talking to the unemployed, it’s certainly likely that the 3,500 respondents not then working were finding it difficult to get a foot in the door. Monster didn’t break down all of the survey into employed and unemployed, but out of the 6,000 respondents, 57 percent identified “Getting an employer or recruiter to contact me” as a major challenge to their job hunting success. Close behind — at 56 percent — was finding a job that matched what they wanted.

That such a large proportion of the survey-takers were out of work was probably to be expected. The unemployed have a powerful motivation to job hunt, and indeed, 90 percent of the respondents — unemployed and those who still had jobs — agreed that looking for work was a full-time job in itself. Of the unemployed respondents, half were out of work for more than six months when they took the survey; 31 percent were unemployed for over a year.

Another telling indication is the education level of the respondents:

  • 23 percent had a high school education or less;
  • 33 percent had at least some college or an associate’s degree;
  • 44 percent were college grads.

The survey doesn’t line up educational attainment with employment status, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that the less schooling the respondents had, the more likely they were to be unemployed. In January, 12 percent of those without a high school degree were unemployed. Compare that to the 3.7 percent unemployment rate for those with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Monster job seeker survey reasons for jobhunt 2013However, what should raise yellow flags for managers and HR professionals was that 42 percent of job searchers who were employed.

We’ve been hearing for some time that workers are chafing about their jobs. Dissatisfaction runs high, by almost any measure and according to every survey. Monster’s own survey found 57 percent of the employed workers “extremely likely” to search for a new job. Add in those who said they were “very likely” and the 81 percent total isn’t far off what other surveys have found.

And why do they want to change jobs? Just over a third because they lost their last one; 32 percent for more pay. But then there’s the 27 percent who want more job fulfillment; 20 percent want more interesting work; 17 percent want to be challenged more.

These responses speak to the engagement problem too many employers have and too few address. A survey by the American Management Association found that 61 percent of business leaders see nothing urgent in the potential job changing intentions of their workforce.

Dismissing intentions expressed in a survey is easy when you think how easy it is for a survey taker to declare themselves “likely” or “extremely likely” they’ll be job hunting in the next 12 months. Actually doing it? That can be a totally different matter. Yet, the fact that currently employed workers found their way to Monster says that a sizable percentage are doing more than simply expressing an intention; just going to a job board is an action.

Of course it doesn’t mean all those employed workers who went to Monster in January and February were ready to commit then to a determined job search. But it does tell us that the intentions they express can morph into action by the right combination of factors.

The disconnect I mentioned at the beginning of this article, as well as personal inertia, may be keeping workers from turning their passive job hunt into an active one. But as personal dissatisfaction creeps up the frustration scale, and worker confidence in finding work grows, those with skills in demand, those with the best talents, will convert into active seekers and be the first to be hired away.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, John. Recruiters largely look for “the Fab 5%” and other much-in-demand skill sets, and most job-seekers (employed or otherwise) aren’t in these categories. Furthermore, more and more employees may be dissatisfied with their current position (for the reasons described above), but unless they’re in the special groups just mentioned, they’ll have to take it- they won’t be hired any time soon. (Also as we’ve seen, lately a lot of FT, well-paid, & benefited jobs are being replaced by jobs which aren’t…)

    No Cheers,

    Keith

  2. John Zappe

    @Keith – Not sure just what you are saying here. Is it that the open jobs in the U.S. are so special only 5% of the workforce is qualified for any of them? Numerically, that simply wouldn’t compute. Or is that every recruiter is seeking only the top 5% of individuals who have the skills for a specific job? Besides trying to figure out how to sort candidates into percentiles (universal assessments?), it would also leave a vast number of jobs unfilled.

    Since 85% of the labor force has a full-time job, somebody is hiring those not in the 5%.

    Unconfuse me.

  3. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, John. No, far more than the “Fab 5%” of applicants are qualified for jobs. However, ISTM to me that the vast majority of recruiting talk relates to jobs which hiring managers want only the top 5% of people with the overall qualifications, or are talking about specialized skill-sets very much in demand which most candidates don’t possess.

    I think there are a few jobs in which there are insufficient number of qualified candidates (which most of the talk is devoted to), a large number with too many qualified candidates, and some number of positions in the Goldilocks Zone with the right number of candidates.

    We still have an (un)der employment rate of ~15%, and as the stats say below- 3 people for each open job of any kind (at least as defined by the BLS). http://www.bls.gov/web/jolts/jlt_labstatgraphs.pdf

    I think that until there are millions of mid-level, FT, well-benefited, positions opened up, we’ll have an unhappy but largely captive workforce.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  4. Rob Mallery

    @ Keith I would actually argue that we have a massive amount of positions in which there is an insufficient number of qualified candidates. The reason that there is a lot of talk about these jobs is that there are actually a huge number of them. This is admittedly a bit of a focused comment on the tech industry and software/mobile/web development specifically. I won’t speak to the rest of the job environment since the problems in various sectors are often extremely variable and when looking at a general unemployment number or “The job market” as a whole, it’s extremely difficult to draw any reasonable conclusions without understanding the issues that face employers and job hunters in various regions and job capacities.

    In regards to technology hiring though…
    The entire tech and startup world right now is experiencing the tightest hiring environment ever (even tighter than in 1999 when waiters and waitresses were being hired as web developers simply because they took a course in HTML).

    The big difference between then and now is that employers and entrepreneurs have largely come to the conclusion that it is more critical than ever to hire the top 1-5% than ever before. It actually costs companies considerably more in the long-run to fill a room full of mediocre software engineers. Often these rooms full of mediocre people can’t produce the same quality of work as 2-5 elite engineers. And worse for the company’s hiring the rooms full of mediocre people, they often have to bring in consultants who are elite and then pay them excessive amounts of money to fix the problems that the room full of mediocre people created or to do projects that the mediocre staff are simply unable to even undertake from the get-go.

    This problem presents a situation where only the best engineers (top 5%) are valuable. The rest are literally producing negative output.

    More companies know this now versus 10-15 years ago when the common thinking was, “let’s fill a bunch of rooms with as many engineers we can hire and we’ll build great tech companies.”

    Now companies are built with 5-10 people and they can start loosening their hiring requirements a bit in order to scale. But this typically is something more like this… top 1% for the first 10 people and top 5% for everyone after.

    The top tech companies do this, and every startup does this for as long as they can do so.

    There are certainly companies that still hire rooms full of mediocre engineers (banks, IT departments, government etc), but more and more of these companies realize they would be better off not hiring anyone. Outsourcing to mediocre developers in foreign countries is cheaper, so they do that instead.

    The trouble with the job market right now is that the United States used to employ tons and tons of mediocre people because it worked. The world has changed drastically in the past 10 years and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out over the next decade.

    I apologize for the long-winded response and it isn’t super connected to the article in question.

    My comment on the article…
    If your source of information is a Monster.com survey of people who use their site actively and are largely unemployed, then there is certainly going to be a disconnect to what is actually happening in the job market versus what the Monster candidates feel is happening.

    My personal experience is that I used Monster for 10 years with varying degrees of success, but I haven’t used the site for over 2 years after I spent 2010 using it and never found a single software engineer who was even close to good enough to hire. The tech market has tightened even more since then, so Monster would certainly NOT be my go-to source for accurate survey information on the state of the job market. Like I said, the world has changed considerably in the past 10 years :-)

  5. Keith Halperin

    @ Rob: Thank you.
    A variety of points to address:

    I wouldn’t call people in the 80-95% percentile “mediocre”, but in most fields, their voice mails aren’t overloaded with calls, their inboxes aren’t jammed with emails, and their Twitter accounts filled with tweets from recruiters.

    Many companies seem to feel entitled to the very best, but aren’t the very best in pay, benies, QoWL, etc. You may think you deserve Dom Perignon, but all you can by is “Two-and-a-Half-Buck Chuck”. They should use the Corporate Desirability Score (http://www.ere.net/2013/02/15/recruiting-supermodels-and-a-tool-to-help-you-do-it/) to figure out who they REALLY can get.

    Finally. let’s say your Firm REALLY DOES NEED only the very best people to survive and compete. Sounds like a very unstable foundation to build a company on- what happens if any of them leave? It would be better to build a successful model based on the realities of the job market rather than the entitled, arrogant daydreams of the founders (http://www.ere.net/2013/04/30/making-your-company-stronger-the-robust-recruiting-model/).

    Cheers,

    Keith

  6. Rob Mallery

    Totally agree Keith. When I used the term “mediocre”, I was referring to the less than 60% group that is pervasive in large IT organizations at large companies. This is the segment of the Tech market that has been hit so hard by outsourcing.

    I also like your article on creating a more robust recruiting model. It will work for most established companies, especially when they have scaled to the point of being able to thrive while not having elite people. I was speaking more to the startup world. Anyone who thrives and is successful in a startup environment is almost by definition in the top 5% and generally in the top 1% due to the nature of the beast.

    In regards to the companies who have scaled and are still wanting the top 5% employees, it’s often not feasible because the people who were there when the company had 10 people are not still there when the company has 1000. There are exceptions to this generality, but these are usually companies that exhibit the quality of their people is part of their brand (Google would be a good example from the tech world, and consulting companies would usually like to make the 5% claim as well).

    I’ve always found it extremely interesting when talking to managers who are unable to properly assess their place in the hiring marketplace. There have been many, many studies that would indicate that we can’t make the assumption of rationality of hiring managers and the self-assessment of people/organizations….https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority

    Making matches in the recruiting world often comes down to nothing more than matching up expectations. Dating analogies always work well in my experience :-)

    Getting back to the article at the top of this thread, it’s not surprising that “by a margin approaching three to one, they agreed with the survey statement that, “The job market is saturated with qualified people in my area of expertise.”

    The problem is that the people in the study (Monster.com users) are not properly assessing themselves and they are disconnected to the actual market which is increasingly becoming a battle for the 5%.

  7. Viviane Yang

    The survey was not comprehensive enough to include unemployed educators, especially in California. The educators were laid off 3-4 years ago, and some of them successfully got more training in another industry. Recruiters usually don’t make enough efforts to evaluate the trainings and education backgrounds, but look at mostly experiences. Recruiters are not evaluating these laid-off educators’ transferable skills either. The experiences in the education jobs are valuable. Educators are effective and efficient because they have experience in interfacing with wide variety of people, diplomatic in dealing with red tapes, coordinating with cross functional departments, made use of time efficiently due to limited resources, and effective communicators. Educators are very patient with ambiguities. California public schools don’t have enough jobs for all their credentialed citizens or that the hiring trend favors less experience, right-out-college, credentialed educators who are so much cheaper to hire as compared to someone with 10 years of experience. The public schools’ rationale is their budget. As for a laid-off educator, getting through the door has been challenged by my public education background, not of my training and education.

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