The Character Gap Is Much Worse Than The Skills Gap

A few years ago Google released an internal study that said there was no correlation that workers with four-year degree equates to successful employees. More recently, Elon Musk (The Tesla and SpaceX innovator) has said he doesn’t care if you have a degree or not.

Employers – recruiters and hiring teams – have been lamenting about the Skills or Talent Gap for over 5 years now. I should know, my day job is a resume writer. In that role, I read a lot about employment trends – what’s hot and what’s not, what’s new and what’s old. I also pay really close attention to the things that recruiters and hiring authorities discuss online and in private settings.

Over the past 6-7 years I have personally seen the job landscape shift from requiring and demanding four-year degrees – to now, a shift away from the four-year degree in favor of interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills include communication skills, reasoning skills, de-escalation skills, and creativity.

Quite frankly, I am tired of talking about the skills/talent gap – not because it doesn’t exist, because I think there is a gap but because I believe that there is something far worst at play and more sinister.  At any given point there are over 20M people who are looking for work, either in an aggressive and active manner or passively – meaning they are not active job seekers but are open to conversations and potential offers to poach them from their current employers. So there is plenty of talent. The problem I see is not so much a gap in skills but a gap in character.

Think about some of the most costly and damaging high profile hirings over the last 2-3 years, I am talking about harassers and discriminators. Companies are hiring people who are costing them lots of time and money because these folks come and sexually harass their co-workers and subordinates which causes skilled and talented workers to quit – all while the abuser keeps abusing.  This is not just ripped from the headlines, this is coming from conversations from clients who tell me exactly why they want to quit their jobs – this is coming from my friends in hiring positions who have to investigate and try to terminate managers, directors and others who mistreat their employees and abuse their power.

You might say, “terminate these folks” but it is much harder than you may think – it may seem if someone is found guilty of sexually harassment or discrimination they would be fired immediately.  Unfortunately that is not the case. It’s an uphill battle and the higher the position, the harder it is to get them terminated. And most HR people can’t talk about these things publicly so they do what they can and try to find a company that has a zero tolerance policy against sexual harassment and discrimination – however that is a lot harder to find then one might think.

Last year a young man, new to HR, hired me to update his resume because he was sick and tired of his boss’s antics. When I asked what was happening,  he told me several stories about how his boss refuses to hire anyone, male or female who isn’t attractive. He also refuses to hire anyone who is too dark, short, fat, ugly or whose name he can’t pronounce.

Now you tell me – if we remove all the discrimination from the recruiting process would these employers and recruiters who whine about the skills/talent gap really have a case?

Focus on the character of your internal leaders and the skills gap won’t be a problem.