A management expert has blasted recruiters for demanding too much of young candidates – and suggested that companies invest more in training and developing their new staff.

He was talking about the American job market – but his comments are likely to chime with job-hunting graduates in the UK, who have been complaining for many months that employers’ expectations are unreasonable. To be eligible even to apply for many permanent ‘first jobs’, many graduates are being told they need to have around a year of experience under their belt.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Peter Cappelli – professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania – said:

“Everybody’s heard the complaints about recruiting lately… that they can’t find skilled workers, and filling a job can take months of hunting. Employers are quick to lay the blame. Schools aren’t giving kids the right kind of training. The government isn’t letting in enough high-skilled immigrants. The list goes on and on.

“But I believe that the real culprits are the employers themselves. With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time.”

He also claims the supposed “skills gap” – between what employers want and what skills workers can supply – is a myth. Employers simply aren’t offering high enough wages for the skills they demand, he says. That’s why they can’t get the staff they want:

“Some of the complaints about skills shortages boil down to the fact that employers can’t get candidates to accept jobs at the wages offered. That’s an affordability problem, not a skills shortage… And makes no mistake: There are plenty of people who could step into jobs with just a bit of training – even recent graduates who don’t have much experience.

“Unfortunately, American companies don’t seem to do training anymore… The amount of training that the average new hire gets in the first year or so could be measured in hours and counted on the fingers of one hand…

“The shortage of opportunities to learn on the job helps explain the phenomenon of people queuing up for unpaid internships, in some cases even paying to get access to a situation where they can work for free to get access to valuable on-the-job experience.”

Placing unreasonable demands on candidates isn’t only damaging for individuals, it is also stopping the economy from growing, Cappelli argues:

“To get America’s job engine revving again, companies need to stop pinning so much of the blame on our nation’s education system. They need to drop the idea of finding perfect candidates and look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice.”

Cappelli says there are plenty of ways to get workers up to speed without investing too much time and money. One idea is to put new employees on extended probationary periods, to give both parties the option of calling it a day of things don’t work out. That sounds like a good idea to us…

*Do recruiters demand too much from graduates?
What skills and experience do they say they require – and are their requests reasonable? What’s the most outrageous demand you’ve seen in an advert for a graduate role? And if it’s true that recruiters are demanding more of their young staff, do you think the should start paying more?

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