Applicants, bosses both blamed as jobs go unfilled

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Many potential employees don't follow directions on job postings, are no-shows at interviews and sometimes accept a job only to say, at the last minute, that they're going to work for somebody else.

It's a situation that makes small business owners wonder as they wade through piles of resumes, are many job applicants unskilled, unreliable slackers? Many of the complaints are about younger workers, but human resources consultants say it's an issue across the age spectrum and pay scale. But the problem isn't just a flippant attitude on the part of job applicants. Employers have contributed to a change in job search etiquette.

Brian Schutt is one of the frustrated bosses. His Indianapolis-based company, Homesense Heating & Cooling, got about 300 applications for an administrative position, and the office manager interviewed 25 candidates. Schutt expected to meet with a dozen people in the second round of interviews, but only one showed up. Younger applicants in particular seem to have a different work ethic, says Schutt.

"They just want to play and have fun and smoke," Schutt says. "I've gotten a very cynical view of what I've seen of folks under 25 that we've tried to bring on board."

The lackadaisical attitude of some applicants compounds a difficulty finding skilled employees that owners have reported for several years. In a 2013 survey of 1,200 local employers by St. Louis Community College, 56 percent cited applicants' poor worth ethic as a problem. In a survey last year by the not-for-profit Seattle Jobs Initiative, nearly 35 percent of employers said most applicants for entry-level positions weren't reliable.

At Vacasa, a vacation home management company, chief strategy officer Scott Breon asked applicants for a marketing position to perform a simple task: Design a sales flyer showing why they're the best one for the job. He got three emails. After he posted the job again without the assignment, applications poured in.

"If you have very few requirements, you get flooded with generic responses, the same letter they sent to 100 other companies," says Breon, chief strategy officer for the Portland, Ore.-based company.

Rob Wilson, president of a company that provides human resources services, not only hears about hiring problems from his clients, he also encounters them. Chicago-based Employco got hundreds of resumes for several open positions. Wilson and his staffers winnowed that number down to 30 and began setting up interviews. Out of six people scheduled, only three showed up. Because of their unprofessional attitude, those who stood up Wilson can forget about working for Employco in the future.

"If they're a no-show, there's no second chance," Wilson says.

Employers may be partly to blame for applicants' uncaring attitudes, says James McCoy, a vice president at the staffing company Manpower. Many human resources or hiring managers never acknowledge applications. Candidates are following their example, McCoy says.

Three-quarters of candidates surveyed last year said they never heard back from an employer after applying for a position, according to job search company CareerBuilder. Sixty percent said they went on interviews but weren't informed afterward they hadn't gotten the job.

Job-seeker Becky Cole has skipped second interviews or canceled when a would-be employer wasted her time or was condescending during an initial meeting.

"How I respond depends on the person. If they have made an effort to be a human being during the interview, I will email to cancel and let them know why I don't plan to show up," says Cole, who has been looking for a job as a technical writer in the St. Paul, Minn., area since January.

Applicants may also be burned out by the increasing demands and low chances of success in job searches since the recession.

A job posting for the lighting company Lumitec required applicants to write a cover letter that included five attributes that made them good candidates for a technical position. Many highly qualified candidates didn't take the time to comply, probably because they were applying for a number of jobs at once, says John Kujawa, president of the Delray Beach, Fla.-based company.

"They had so many things to go after, and every one of those is a long shot," he says.

Job postings probably turn some applicants off rather than inspire them to put their best foot forward, says Melissa Trocko, a managing director at human resources provider Insperity, in Kingwood, Texas.

"All these job ads, thousands of them, say, 'I need this skill and that skill and that many years of experience,'" Trocko says. "There's nothing exciting in them about the job."

But she agrees many job seekers don't make much of an effort.

"They're probably applying for jobs while at work, not reading the job postings, not following all the rules," Trocko says.

Glenn Boehmer deals with that problem as he sifts through resumes. People apply for jobs at his printing business they're not qualified for.

"We can get 40 responses, but rarely do I have one that's specifically what we're looking for," says Boehmer, owner of Sentinel Printing in Hempstead, N.Y.

Perhaps most frustrating are candidates who accept jobs and then change their minds.

One day before a new staffer was supposed to start at Erika Flora's technology consulting company, Beyond 20, he sent an email saying he'd taken another job. The work she'd put into the selection process, including four rounds of interviews, was wasted.

But Flora, whose company has offices in Washington, D.C., Phoenix and San Diego, is philosophical.

"I'm glad we found out. He didn't have much integrity," she says.


  • Black Hole
    The internet both helps and hinders the process. Too many good applicants cannot get through the first step, whatever it is. The job seeker gets no feedback and the job descriptions too often have unrealistic requirements--foreign language, technical skills, managerial skills, etc., etc.
  • I've been on both sides
    As an employer it is difficult to respond to every applicant. When you get 300+ resumes for a position and the applicant doesn't have the qualifications listed I'm not going to waste my time calling you back. However, once you have gone through the interview process I feel the employer should at least have the courtesy to call - even if they've selected another candidate. As someone who is now searching that is the most frustrating part!
  • waste of time
    It used to be you walked in and got to talk to someone about a job opening. Any boss worth his salt can size someone up within minutes. Now, most companies won't even let you in the door, requiring an online application, which more often than not does not even produce the courtesy of any type of response. You can't call to follow up, e-mails aren't answered, and you know they need workers and you are more than qualified for the job and can't even get your foot in the door. I've even sent e-mails and letters offering to work for free for a week just to show them what I could do; no response.
  • Hard to stand out
    I have been searching for an administrative job for several months and have found it quite difficult to make my resume -- with my relevant experience -- stand out amongst others in all these online applications. I have submitted literally hundreds of online applications and I have only gotten a few responses telling me the position I applied for has been filled. I have not even had an opportunity to interview for these positions. Clearly some candidates are getting a chance to interview -- and some are ultimately getting the job. It is very frustrating to say the least.
  • Employers have responsibility
    I interviewed for a job and was given an offer. I asked how long the co. needed before acceptance/rejection of the offer. They said 5 days. Then, each day after the interview, the hiring manager asked me if I accepted and could they send me a laptop? I reluctantly accepted as he had repeatedly said there were other top candidates vying for the job. In the meantime, I got a very attractive offer from another company and accepted it. I then rescinded the first acceptance. Don't judge others until you have been there.
  • Look at the application process
    I agree with many of the comments here: Too many job postings aren't actual openings, then they never notify you that you have been ruled out. Too often they are just going through the motions so they can hire the candidate they've already selected. They take 6-8 weeks to get to the first round of decisions and they wonder why the applicants aren't serious. Employers are also taking advantage of the economy, starting people much lower than normal because they can. You can't blame the guy who took a better job.
  • Erika Flora's Comment...
    Erika, he just got a better offer. Did you ask why he changed his mind? Did you doing anything to change his mind? Did you offer him more money? He simply to a better offer and took it. I'd say that is high integrity in a capitalist system. Just pick the next best person, but don't trash the guy. He is just doing what is in his best interest, what's wrong with that?
  • Middle Managers @ Fault...
    It's the middle managers fault. They want people to perform tasks for free to get a job! This is not American Idol. Just evaluate the resumes. See who has DONE the work you want DONE, interview and hire that person. Firms are just playing games. STOP using these awful resume/job SaaS to filter and process your resumes. Simply post your job opening, put an email addresses on the job posting and simply evaluate the resumes you get from that simple job post. YOU (managers/bosses) have to be the ones to evaluate YOUR candidates, not software. Firms don't want to put in the work to hire good people. Firms also use culture fit to turn away good workers.
  • Integrity from Employers is also an issue
    Keep in mind that many times employers have internal candidates for positions and just go through the motions of interviewing to fulfill a requirement. Trust is a two way street and employers at will have broken their direction to employees years ago through offshoring, outsourcing, closing plants, contracting out, etc. It works both ways, the employer must earn the trust of the employee and the employee must earn the trust of the employer. The recent Recession/Depression broke the camels back with Wall Street being bailed out and Main Street/American workers being let go and abandoned by Washington and Wall Street. Businesses came out on top and workers were relegated to the resume mills. Many HR functions were outsourced and are now run like the mortgage mills before the recession/depression, the internet has contributed to a forest of resumes and difficulty in finding matches.
  • HR dept
    Most job listings today are bogus. They want a three ring circus where you jump through a million hoops for a job they may or may not fill in the near future. I can see why applicants prefer to submit to jobs where they don't require tests, or abstract challenges to Moshe yourself stand out. Tons of people are unemployed and getting your resume out to the most people is your "real" best shot at a job. HR departments have become soulless bast$@ds!

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