With nearly 6,000,000 open jobs in America right now, why are some many people complaining about finding a job? The biggest reason is the Skills Gap, a.k.a. the Talent Gap. But what does it REALLY mean?

The ACT.org defines skills gap as “the difference between skills needed for a job versus skills possessed by a worker.” I believe that definition is an oversimplification of the Skills Gap. The true definition of the Skills Gap is far more complex, expensive and complicated.

The Gap Works Both Ways

First, let’s all agree that Skills Gap is not only about applicants. Employers are part of the problem as well. I spend a lot of time reading job descriptions on job boards and researching companies. Most of the job descriptions and company missions are boring, uninspiring, and undesirable. However, people need jobs and not everyone can work for companies like Tesla, Google, Amazon, NBC Universal, and Nike. Just as there are lots of unwanted workers, there are just as many unwanted employers.

Unrealistic Qualifications

Second, let’s talk about employer expectations. When I read job descriptions, I often scratch my head at what employers expect. For instance, most employers expect HR Generalists to have 3-5 years of experience and a certification. Here are the problems with those requirements:

  • Absolutely no metric or statistic supports that having 3-5 years of experience in Human Resources makes for a better Generalist.
  • The certification expectation assumes that job seekers can predict which HR association’s certificate a future employer will respect and that they can personally afford the premium prices HR associations charge to take their courses, use their resources, and earn their certificates.
  • Many employers ignore the very experience and certification requirements they ask for and just hire whomever they please.

These problems are not exclusive to the Human Resource industry. They occur in most fields, making it nearly impossible for job seekers to match the expectations of the millions of employers who have different requirements based solely on preference and not skill.

Is There REALLY a Skills Gap?



Employers complain that the biggest skills missing today are those involving communication, followed by reasoning, and then technical skills. Millennials are great examples of super smart innovators who are really bad communicators (not all, but most). The older generations (Generation X and Boomers) have good soft skills but lack the technical skills to adapt to today’s ever-changing business needs.

Combating the Skills Gap

How do you solve a problem as complicated as the Skills Gap? Step one, since everyone seems to be experiencing a talent deficiency, you must be sure your skills requirements are legitimate.  Perform a work and job analysis. Analyze the work your company needs to be done, the steps within the process and the skills needed to successfully complete the work. Then analyze the job itself. For instance, if you need an app developer, then you don’t want to hire Network Administrators. For instance, if you need an app developer, then you don’t want to hire a network administrator. Just as if you were operating an authentic pizza shop, you wouldn’t want to hire hamburger cooks.

After you have determined what kind of work needs to be done and the type of skills needed to perform that work, then you can begin developing the recruiting tools, including assessments to test for those skills. In your job advertisement, you want to include company branding that highlights your work culture, and you want to stick to the skills and qualifications you actually need. You must resist the urge to add irrelevant requirements based on non-proven skills.

Other ways to beat the Skills Gap: Use alternate methods to recruit. For example, instead of the job boards, use social media by sourcing potential candidates through talent communities. Develop assessment tests that focus on the skills and characteristics that fit your company’s culture and work needs.

If you have questions or suggestions about the Skills Gap, tell us in the comments below.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: CostofWork.com and ResumeCrusade.com , and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including PerformanceICreate.com and SmartRecruiters.com . He has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”, one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the HR Blogger Network, one of the “25 Must-Read HR Blogs in 2013”, and also featured on Oprah.com. He is very active with the Society of Human Resource Management, working closely with conference directors, communication chairs, and social media teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to develop social strategies to engage attendees and enhance their conference experience. Chris earned his master’s degree in Labor and Human Resources from Ohio State University. In 2005, he moved back to his hometown of Memphis, TN, where he has developed a reputation for helping his clients create HR strategies, and individuals master the tough economic challenges of the South.


  • Avatar Kevin says:

    I think you need to build a pipeline of talent so you can have options all the time. Bridging the skills gap is about training people and getting a wide range of people from various sectors and skill sets involved in the recruitment process.

  • Avatar Mariah says:

    One recommendation for beating the skills gap is to cross-train your employees so they are able to move in and out of areas. These teams are encouraged to work without the usual managerial supervision.

  • Avatar Megan says:

    Without a growth-oriented training and development framework at your organization, people with high potential won’t flourish. To truly beat the skills gap, you may have to devote more time to developing talent in the first several months of employment.

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