Employers are struggling to recruit quality candidates. Employees are seeking good jobs but are struggling to find and get job opportunities that meet their family’s needs.

To examine this gap, United Way of Central Iowa asked Central Iowa residents and employers to tell us what matters most to them in the hiring process and in a job. A research firm held focus group conversations with residents who currently do not earn a living wage, as well as human resources (HR) managers and business owners from companies of varying sizes.

Here’s what we learned:

Residents want good jobs. Employers want qualified candidates.

Most residents believe good jobs are available but getting hired is difficult. “If you want to work, there are jobs,” says one resident. “The pay is not good. If you have a college degree, you will get hired. Employers don’t look for ‘hands-on’ experience.” Residents say some of the biggest barriers to getting a job are lack of experience, not having a college degree, or having a criminal record.

Many employers say they are experiencing a workforce shortage: “It’s a tight job market right now with low unemployment,” says one employer. “It’s tough to find qualified candidates.” While hiring managers receive many applications, they say most candidates do not have the right skills or education for the job, and some would likely expect pay higher than the range for the position.

Employers see opportunities to change the hiring practices. Residents do, too.

One spelling or grammar error on an application could immediately discard someone from being considered, say hiring managers. For some open positions, a hiring manager could receive hundreds of applications, so they have to make decisions like this to quickly narrow down the field.

But how can applicants have a better chance? Both residents and employers suggested looking at applicants’ skills over education requirements, reconsidering the relevance of criminal background checks and drug testing, and providing on-site training, especially for entry-level positions.

“If college is not required, as HR managers, we must do better job of posting the preferred skills required, rather than stressing the required education,” says one employer.

Residents say getting along with co-workers matters. Employers say it’s less important.

Residents emphasized that beyond livable wages and benefits, they want to feel appreciated, have positive relationships with co-workers, a flexible schedule, and job security. “In addition to money, I want to like my job and my co-workers,” one Central Iowan says. “I want to build relationships outside of work. I want the managers to care about their employees; don’t hire bodies just to fill the job vacancies.”

Hiring managers agree that total compensation package, flexibility, and company stability matter in a job, but believe getting along with co-workers and direct supervisors is less important.

Both agreed that a company’s location and transportation to that location was a less important factor in taking a job.

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TAGS: Thriving Workforce

About The Author: Sarah Welch

Sarah Welch is the former Strategic Communications Officer at United Way of Central Iowa.