The outbreak of COVID-19 revolutionized the job market. A pandemic was upon us in the blink of an eye, and work was ushered into our homes. The months of a remote life made many Americans question their view of careers, and the new job possibilities COVID-19 was making a reality.
However, it has been two years, and while our society is more digitalized than ever before, and there are seemingly more jobs than ever before, there has been an apparent disconnect between those who need jobs and those who offer them. In light of all the help-wanted signs, why is it so hard to get hired? This article aims to shed light on this question.
Patrick Healy is a 36-year-old designer who was laid off during the pandemic. He is said to have applied to hundreds of jobs with personalized cover letters and a resume with over a decade of experience, and yet it took him six months to find a job. During this season he said, “You get no feedback. I was still trying to experiment with what I was doing, but I just had no idea what was happening, [or] why I wasn’t moving forward. That was both stressful financially and heartbreaking psychologically.”
Healy is not the only one whose job search feels ineffective. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 8 million potential workers with a record of almost 11 million jobs available. And yet 45% of job-seekers say the job market is harder post-covid.
One reason for this is that the many available jobs are undesirable. Shelly Steward, the director of the Future of Work Initiative at the Aspen Institute said, “A lot of what people are seeing are low-paying jobs with unpredictable or not-worker-friendly scheduling practices, that don’t come with benefits, [and that] don’t come with long-term stability. And those are not the type of jobs that any worker is eager to take on.”
David Dwertmann, the associate professor of management at Rutgers University School of Business says, “to fill an unfillable job, you have to make it not only financially worthwhile but also provide some flexibility, some guarantee of safety, and find a way to generate loyalty.”
Another reason the job market seems more difficult today is because of the more digitalized hiring process. J.T O’Donnell, the founder and CEO of career coaching platform Work It Daily says, “You’re not getting rejected, you’re just never getting past the system.” Today, companies use software to filter out those who do not have the required skills. However, this has created unprecedented consequences. In many instances, job-seekers were not being rejected because of a lack of qualifications, but because they did not use the exact words the software was looking for.
Not only is the software hard to get past, but employers are also adding more to the job requirements instead of less, expecting applicants to already have the necessary skills without an adequate training opportunity. Steward says, “people are expected to come onto the job and have the experience, have the skills, have everything, and few people do.”
In my own experience, as a recently graduated student from Virginia Tech, it has been difficult to even get feedback from companies. I would receive these automated emails stating that my application has been “seen,” and then be waiting for a reply, whether positive or negative, that never comes. Just as it was hard on Healy financially and psychologically, feeling my application is ignored has made the journey to find financial security seem impossible.
However, the fault is not entirely on the employers. Companies have real needs they must meet and finding the best candidate is usually always their top priority. The digitalization of the job market has also meant that companies receive hundreds of offers, and I have seen instances where they receive over a thousand applicants, for one job opening. To expect companies to give equal time and attention to all these applications is not feasible.
Today, many workers feel that the job market is harder than before covid, and that is largely due to its mass digitalization. While remote work is on the rise, the pandemic has changed the way employees view their jobs and has paved a way for them to demand more scheduling freedom, better pay, and better working conditions.
However, these demands have led employers to screen the applicants for their job openings more thoroughly, creating a wider gap between job-seekers and those who offer them. And so, in the title of this article, I pose a question: is the hiring system in America broken? My research and personal experience point to a resounding yes, yet it is not beyond repair.
Edited by: Whitney Edna Ibe
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