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HR Staffs, Recruiters Overlook Qualified Job Seekers

Is it a skills gap — or a communications gap — that's contributing to sluggish job growth?

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Despite the 8.2 percent unemployment rate , many businesses have struggled to find qualified candidates for an abundance ofhigh-skill jobs in technology, engineering, health care, and other fields. That, along with a hesitancy by firms to add jobs amid global economic uncertainty, keeps unemployment high.

Yet a Beyond.com survey backs the view that poor communication often prevents human resource officials from identifying viable candidates.

Job descriptions are often too vague or too specific, and HR staffers may rule out qualified applicants because they don't understand what hiring managers want, says Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond.com, a job search website. "There's a gap in posting and relaying the information," he says, citing his conversations with employers.

For example, he says, recruiters miss nuances, seeking for example an accountant who's proficient at bookkeeping instead of deeper analysis. Others mistakenly assume a candidate must have all the numerous skills listed by a hiring manager.

The recruiter often "has a piece of paper with skills on it and that's what they try to get out of you," instead of a more rounded picture, says Laura Crafton, 23, of Indianapolis, who's seeking a public relations job.

Another problem: employers who do overly specific keyword searches that screen out good candidates. Companies who are seeking truck drivers on Beyond.com and recently typed in "commercial drivers license" would have seen 1,200 résumés, but missed out on the 12,800 that use the shorthand "CDL."

According to the job network's recent online survey, more than a quarter of 1,700 job seekers said their biggest frustrations were that job descriptions had limited detail and that they knew more about job requirements than recruiters.

Milgram blames heavy layoffs in HR departments and staffing agencies in the recession. As a result, he says, many new recruiters are overworked and less familiar with the employer.

Kathy Kane, senior vice president for top staffing firm Adecco, agrees. "Fewer HR people have the time to ask questions of hiring managers to get all the intricate details," she says. But she says the bigger issues are a genuine skills gap and employers that have become overly selective.

Abigail Murray, HR chief for obstetrics at University of Chicago Medicine, says she's involved in business strategy, payroll and benefits, leaving her little time to aggressively recruit. "My plate is full," she says.

This story first appeared in USA Today.

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