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Employers struggle to find skilled workers

  • Story Highlights
  • Employers looking for skilled candidates feel effects of uncertain economy
  • Specialized areas face a shortage of highly skilled job seekers
  • Majority of hiring managers says young employees most difficult to recruit
  • Many employees are able to negotiate for higher salaries, flexible schedules
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By Matt Ferguson
CEO of
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Editor's note: has a business partnership with, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to

Health care, technology and accounting are all areas that face a shortage of skilled job seekers.

Health care, technology and accounting are all areas that face a shortage of skilled job seekers.

Employers looking for skilled candidates are feeling the effects of the uncertain economy as much as job seekers are.

While employers in certain fields have the ability to choose from a large pool of applicants competing against one another, employers in specialized areas such as technology, health care and accounting are faced with a shortage of highly skilled job seekers.

In order to attract the most sought-after professionals, who need strong reasons to leave their current positions, employers have to put forward impressive job offers.

When asked to rate the level of challenge in finding a job on a one-to-five sliding scale, job seekers gave a score of 3.56. Employers responded similarly with a 3.47, according to the fourth annual Employment Dynamics and Growth (EDGE) Report by Robert Half International and

Recruiting qualified staff

The shortage of qualified workers continues to impact employers with 59 percent of hiring managers citing it as their primary recruiting challenge, up from 52 percent in 2007.

Six out of 10 employers estimate that at least a quarter of the applicants who contact them are not qualified for the positions. Thirty-one percent consider more than half of applicants unqualified.

Spiraling energy costs complicate employers' task of finding qualified talent. Twenty-nine percent of hiring managers said the rise in fuel prices and commuting expenses has negatively impacted their ability to attract skilled candidates who may want to limit their travel distance to and from the office.

Recruiting has become increasingly time consuming, taking anywhere from four weeks to 14 weeks to fill open positions. Among the emerging challenges facing employers is the inability to attract younger job seekers.

Fifty-fix percent of hiring managers said Generation Y employees (born between 1979 and 1999) are the most difficult to recruit, perhaps because of high expectations concerning pay, career advancement, flexible schedules and overall work environment.

Negotiating better compensation

For job seekers, one positive result of this hiring challenge is the eagerness for firms to win over the right candidates. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of hiring managers said they are willing to negotiate compensation for top candidates, with 19 percent very willing to do so.

Despite feeling doubtful of job prospects, professionals -- feeling the pinch of growing costs for food, fuel and health care -- are gaining confidence to negotiate better compensation levels. When asked if they were more likely to negotiate for a better compensation package with a new employer compared to 12 months ago, 63 percent said yes versus 58 percent in 2007.

Businesses, operating on leaner resources, are competing to secure the intellectual capital that will drive productivity and new revenue streams. Companies are also replacing lower performing employees to strengthen their talent bench to prepare for a time when the economy shifts into higher gear.

Recruiting highly skilled professionals, however, may require a greater financial commitment or special perks that provide a more attractive work environment. For example, nearly three-quarters of employees surveyed said the availability of flexible schedules may cause them to choose one job over another.

Keeping top performers

While employee retention may be less of a concern in a tougher economy, many employers have nonetheless taken measures in the last 12 months to prevent good workers from leaving their organizations. Among their efforts are:

• Allowing flexible work schedules -- 63 percent

• Providing funding for additional training/certification -- 62 percent

• Increasing salaries -- 56 percent

• Instituting telecommuting options -- 29 percent

Companies are willing to work with employees nearing retirement age to ease the exodus of the baby boomers from the work force by offering them flexible environments and new roles.

Forty-seven percent are likely to offer reduced work schedules as an alternative to retirement. Thirty-nine percent are likely to offer "bridge" jobs, while 37 percent are likely to offer consulting arrangements, proving that even during these trying economic times, retaining quality workers is a top priority for employers.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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