Should These Traditional Resume Red Flags Be Retired?

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Hand pushing red warning button on the keyboard The idea of a talent shortage is undeniable according to employers and analysts. Kelly Services reports that 61 percent of employers are struggling to hire staff in 2014, and the Manpower Talent Shortage report shows that 35 percent of employers are struggling to find talent.

But, despite this hard data, there are constant rumblings and grumblings around the topic of talent shortages, which show there is some contention around it. It seems there are a growing number of detractors from this theory of talent shortages, many of whom are skilled and capable candidates who believe that employers are on a “purple squirrel” hunt. That is, employers have unrealistically high expectations given the climate and are creating their own talent shortages by refusing to accept “imperfect,” but capable employees.

Is there any evidence for this?

Well, in terms of the long-term unemployed, yes. Several articles, including this one from CNN, have reported that there is a kind of unemployed discrimination going on in America, with many employment experts saying that employers are increasingly only interested in applicants who have a job. Many even go to the lengths of posting ads, which indicate that unemployed applicants need not apply.

Also, this detailed study from Federal Reserve Bank of Boston shows that the long-term unemployed, (27 weeks or more), face greater employment discrimination than the short-term unemployed or employed. This was also backed up by a Bullhorn study reported in Forbes, which found that 17 percent of employers start to discriminate negatively against those who have been unemployed for six months or less and 36 percent start discriminating negatively against those who have been unemployed between six months and one year.

Because there are around 25 million unemployed/underemployed people in the U.S., there is certainly a strong argument that employers may be to some degree creating their own talent shortages by disregarding the vast unemployed resource pool, just because they are unemployed and not because they are not incapable workers.

It suggests to me that the traditional resume red flag of being unemployed should no longer be a reason in itself to scratch the applicant, given the current climate and should be an amber if not green flag. Instead, the candidate should be evaluated based on the content of his/her application.

But, there are additional traditional resume red flags that should also be softened to amber or green, such as:

  • Being over qualified (Amber/Green)
  • Lacking industry experience (Amber/Green)
  • Job Hopping (Amber)
  • Lacking the correct skills (Amber)

Why should we overlook these traditional resume red flags?

Well, because there are talent shortages and employers can’t afford to dismiss so much talent, but also because many of these are related to a lack of technical/related skills; yet, studies such as this one from Leadership IQ  shows that just 11 percent of new hires fail due to lack of skills and a massive 89 percent fail due to a poor or unsuitable attitude. This means employers may be over reliant on job-related skills as an assessment criteria.

So, the traditional red flags of lack of skills can be overlooked to a degree as long as candidates can demonstrate a positive and appropriate attitude for the role, hopefully widening the potential resource pool for employers.

As for job hoppers being a red flag, studies show that shorter tenures are becoming the norm due to job and market instability and so this should arguably be an amber flag, depending on the scale of job hopping.

So, while there is no doubting there is a talent shortage, employers can play a part in alleviating this talent shortage by discarding overly restrictive and increasingly unreliable selection criterion and at the same widening their potential resource pool.

By Kazim Ladimeji