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Showing 1-10 of 58 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 66 reviews
on June 5, 2012
Who cares about unemployment? Books like "The Great Reset" by Richard Florida predict that jobs will be redistributed based on the skills of people around geographical centers of excellence. In his new book "Coming Apart" Charles Murray tells us that people struggle to find jobs because they have abandoned traditional American values. We hear every day in the media that our next President will be the one who convinces us that he can resolve the jobs crisis. One wonders whether there's a conspiracy going on with jobs when we hear that companies are sitting on $2 trillion but are reluctant to spend because of low demand and because they can't find candidates with the skills they need. We hear how job hunters--some with advanced degrees and years of experience--suddenly don't have what it takes to work in this economy. And let's face it ... most of us worry personally about working on our own terms, if not for ourselves then certainly for our kids. So it seems that people not only care about finding jobs but it's an emotional issue that gets more emotional every day.

In "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs" Peter Cappelli lays out how we've gotten here, not emotionally and certainly not as an issue of rich vs. poor, liberal vs. conservative, or Democrat vs. Republican as recent books about our current problems tend to do. Cappelli--a management professor at The Wharton School and director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources--is in a unique position to see what's different today than what happened when emerging from recessions in 1991 and 2001. This book is a very fast read because it is to-the-point and clearly presented.

Adapting to the global economy and having a glut of labor from the baby boom generation, Cappelli says, has the changed the expectations of employers. A confluence of events has resulted in a new system that has changed the hiring process and the way new hires are trained to do their jobs:

* HR departments--once existing largely to confront labor issues and unions--gradually downsized as those issues faded away.
* With fewer HR people, employers needed more convenient ways to recruit and handle job descriptions and applications which the Internet has provided.
* Application processing software enabled automated reviews of applications, targeting exact requirements and spitting out applications that were not a perfect match.
* As people were let go and jobs were combined, job descriptions started to look for people who had never existed before. And hiring managers added even more requirements to minimize the risk of failure.
* It has become easier and less risky to leave some vacancies open than to hire people who almost certainly lack the skills for these new super jobs.

This is technology enabling new behaviors that have met the needs of employers but at the detriment not just of job applicants and new employees but mostly to the employers themselves. Cappelli describes how many companies are very aware of how much their jobs are costing them but not so sure about how their profit and cost centers--much less their individual jobs--actually contribute to their revenues. So when they lose people, they can convince themselves that they don't really need to replace those people and their tasks get redistributed to other employees or just don't get done at all. The end result is that the remaining employees get burned out (and quit themselves), new projects get delayed, expansion activities get postponed, etc.

My favorite quote in the book was "There is the simple fact that every generation believes it has experienced profound technological changes, perhaps because it was not around to witness the truly unprecedented changes of previous generations. Imagine witnessing the rise of widely available electricity, telephones, and automobiles--all in the same decade. We are constantly reminded that we live during the computer-driven Information Revolution, but there is no evidence that the current period represents one of unusual changes in technology. Likewise, no data or statistics convincingly support the claim that our job seekers are remarkably unprepared for the future, whatever it may be." It's interesting that the decade Cappelli is describing here (the 1920's) preceded the Depression. Is it a coincidence that our Information Revolution led us into what some now call the Great Recession? Did our innovations and belief in technology force us to get ahead of ourselves in a similar fashion?

In the last chapter Cappelli focuses on different training scenarios that could balance the risk between employers and employees in a job environment where there is bound to be more jockeying for position as companies and employees alike start to plan their careers and take or turn down jobs based on long-term future opportunities. "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs" shows that the path to more acceptable levels of employment is a little more complicated than the emotional arguments we're hearing in the media. Figuring out ways to involve employers and employees; to set up job training programs in-house, in community colleges and tech programs; to engage state and local governments; and to understand how job vacancies are really holding back our companies will lead to new programs that will eventually start to turn things around. Read this book to see the jobs issue in a much more realistic light.
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on July 3, 2012
_Why Good People Can't Get Jobs_ by Peter Cappelli started out as a series of articles that grew into a book. The book itself is short & very easy to read.

For all that, it's not an intellectual lightweight. It details a lot of challenges for both employers and employees in getting hired.

The biggest overall problems are an overreliance on technology and an unwillingness to spend time or money on training. So prospective employees find it very difficult to get hired because they likely up against a computer algorithm which prescans their resume and is looking for very specific terms, qualifications and experience. If their resume doesn't include those specific terms, their resume is kicked out. The search terms are only as good as the hiring manager (or possibly human resources manager) who selected the terms to search for in the first place. Which leads to rather ludicrous events such as 25 000 people applying for a position and yet the computer algorithm said not a single one of those 25 000 was even qualified for the job.

Unwillingness to spend money on training is a separate problem and gets into a much more complicated issue of so many individual actors acting in exactly the same way they have all made the system as a whole less efficient. Because employers want someone who is a drop-in fit, they don't want someone straight from college who has knowledge of theory but no actual work experience. So most employers want someone who has "3-5 years" work experience in the field, often a narrowly defined field (maybe not just a profession but a particular specialist subset of that profession) so anyone who does meet those requirements is expensive to hire as everyone is looking for that same narrow range of experience, and while that perfect employee is being searched for the position remains open. Often, the position remains open for so long that actually hiring someone without prior experience and training them would have take less time than waiting for the perfect employee with prior experience.

This gets into another larger organizational problem that Cappelli identifies for most employers -- they have no method of assigning a cost to leaving a position open. They can tell down to a cent how much it will cost to fill a position, and will have a detailed analysis of how much it costs to make a certain part in-house versus buying it premade from an outside vendor. But the cost of leaving a position unfilled by anybody because they want to find a "perfect" candidate? That cost is never looked at. At one point he even issues a challenge to any executives reading his book, to go to their HR department and ask for evidence that the last round of layoffs saved more money than they cost, what does it cost to leave a position vacant and have any positions been left open too long. Cappelli's point is not that executives might get a *wrong* answer, but that they will likely find they cannot get *any* answer. Most companies have no methodology for calculating those costs, so it is easy to see the immediate & visible cost of filling a position but also easy to ignore the long-term & hidden cost of leaving a position vacant.

There is a long discussion about lack of training in companies today, and also in general a lack of apprenticeship programs and lack of collaboration between employers who want to fill positions that require college graduates and the colleges that produce those graduates. Cappelli likens it to outsourcing production of a key component and then neglecting to tell the outsourcing vendors the component had been outsourced to them.

Cappelli takes a hard look at the claim that colleges are turning out graduates who don't know enough & are therefore unemployable. He does a good job of convincing the reader this is likely not the case as much as it is made out to be: for multiple decades now when employers list the qualities in employees they are most concerned about, it is things like ability to work with others, punctuality, accountability, problem-solving skills & work ethic that are at the tops of their lists. But none of these are things that are taught in college, nor are they things colleges are expected to teach. And again this comes back to close collaboration between employers and schools, or establishing apprenticeship or training programs, or more vocational schools. But to simply say "it is the colleges' fault" is more than a bit misleading in his opinion.

Not all is doom & gloom, Cappelli does have examples of companies that have found ways to make training and apprenticeship programs both affordable and beneficial for all concerned. He says many companies are reluctant to offer training programs as no one else in their industry does so any money spent on training will likely walk out the door as employees are poached away by other companies. But he says one company accepted that and found that filling positions with trainees was better than leaving them completely unfilled. He also gave an example of a trucking firm that had a free training class for drivers; prospective drivers weren't charged for it, but also had to take it on their own time. And if after the end of three months they trainees for that driving program passed, they got hired, ensuring a steady supply of prospective new hires for the firm.

There are also some tips at the end of one section about things that will cause problems or glitches for resume-scanning software.

It was a very good book and I think it is one prospective employees should take a look at and prospective employers should read a couple of times.
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on October 30, 2014
If you read the earlier books of Peter Capelli (I challenge you to do so) you will find he supported the business models and human capital strategies that served to create the “myth of the skills gap.” Capelli would seem to have predicted or supported the thinking that employees were becoming modular externalities (commodities) within organizations rather than internally mentored and developed “members.” Nonetheless, he is one of the most authoritative thinkers in this in the field of employment and human capital today. The “myth of the skills gap” has been discussed at length in every substantial business periodical because it is indeed a myth. Every “established” school and organization in America has been teaching sound course work fundamentally geared to the “digital” age and not some esoteric “liberal arts” banality beyond the scope of logical employability. Many if not most of the recently established “privatized for profit” ….universities….ARE more interested in acquiring you student loan proceeds than developing and delivering the capability for marketable skills and meaningful degrees. Companies have diminished their own internal capabilities for human capital management while relying on distant, simplistic algorithms and software to evaluate human beings approaching their organizations for employment. The “HR Agency Industry” is self served by promoting the “myth of the skills gap” while simultaneously soaking up the labor dollars manufacturers have available for employment. A percentage of the cost of every position hired through an agency goes to this industry rather than the incomes of employees…further driving down household incomes. Because Peter Capelli has discussed and researched these topics for the last several decades he is unquestionably positioned to debunk the “myth of the skills gap” as more perception management than reality. His conclusions are logical and data based and researched…..not some self promoting rhetoric defining 80 to 90 percent of Americans seeking employment as being deficient and unemployable. Peter Capelli has in essence statistically synthesized Peter Drucker and Studs Terkel in refuting the “skills gap” promoted by the software susceptible human capital sweat shop industry. Capelli correctly warns that the “HR industry” has effectively degraded and declined into the business of resume parsing rather than developing value added human capital capabilities internally.
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on September 19, 2012
Since I have been looking for a job (half-heartedly) for over a year, I was interested in Cappeli's reasons. I am currently under-employed and had resigned myself to just waiting for the economy to improve before trying again. The basic argument in this book is that there is no skills gap -- the problem is that in an attempt to streamline the hiring process, companies are defining job duties too narrowly. The automation of resume checking leads to some companies complaining that no applicants are qualified despite receiving hundreds of applications for each opening. The necessity to have someone "up and running" on day one means that prior experience is imperative. Attempts to trim payrolls mean that workers who once would have been mentored and promoted, are often laid off instead.
Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions for the problem. If you are a job seeker, you will not get advice on how to get a job (except to work on matching the job description as much as possible.) Employers would do well to take a closer look at "almost" matches to see if they could do the job, and to offer some training for job skills that are needed. It was interesting, well-researched, and easy to read. I can see this being useful for business classes or HR employees.
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on October 19, 2012
I'm a professional observer and analyst of the scientific and technical job market, and I've long been suspicious that there were some strange things going on. Job markets always have friction--a matching problem between employers and potential employees--but it has seemed to get worse in recent years. How could it be that companies are clamoring for more technical workers (better education! Higher H-1B caps!) even as qualified people tried and failed to find jobs, in large numbers? Also, why do employers now seem to insist on a precise match, when they used to hire good people and teach them what they needed to know to do the work?

Apparently Cappelli was wondering that too, and had the expertise to figure it out. I won't ape his explanation here--you can read the book; it's short and cheap--but in a nutshell, its mismanagement. There is some dishonesty--employers, who view employees as interchangeable cogs, think they're better off if they have many people to choose from for each job (they're wrong but that's what they think) try to get government to cooperate in their efforts to dominate the employment transaction--but for the most part it's because employers have lost the ability to find and train good workers.

No, we do not need higher H-1B caps. No, America's schools are not failing to provide sufficient numbers of people who can do the work companies need them to do. The problem is that companies are inept at HR.

Jim Austin
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on September 15, 2012
As someone who has just left the job-seeking race (by becoming, I should mention, self-employed), I could see all of the brick walls I ran into described perfectly. Automated online questionnaires are the worst--imagine being rejected for a job by a computer--but it's obvious that what Prof. Cappelli says about employers unwillingness to let someone grow into a job based on skills they already have is very true.

The only thing he might have delved further into is the current corporate culture of thinking only of this quarter's earnings instead of considering the long-term interests of business. It's responsible for the low wages being offered (and sometimes wages being lowered for current employees) because it makes the current bottom line look good enough to generate bonuses in the home office even if the business eventually fails because it can't thrive without good workers.

This is a must-read for anyone in the employment market, whether on the supply side or the demand side.
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on August 16, 2012
A refreshing short book by Peter Cappelli, Director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources! This is a must read for any HR Professional, of course, but even more for anyone who is in a management position and has the power, or simply the will, to put an end the current "crippling employer-employee standoff." The purpose of Peter Cappelli's book is to get "America's job engine revved up again."

We are all familiar with the litany of complaints: Companies can't find skilled workers, schools are not providing the right kind of training, the government doesn't let in enough highly skilled immigrants, prospective employees don't want jobs at the wages that are offered, etc. If perception and scattered research might give some weight to such complaints, Cappelli demonstrates that they don't add up when looked at holistically, and that they come across as urban myths.

Are we a nation of un-qualified people? In a market with a lot of job applicants, companies tend to look for purple squirrels or unicorns. Are job seekers unqualified for not fitting a paranormal job description? Does it allow us to jump to the conclusion that "there is a skills gap" when the hardest-to-fill jobs appear to be those that often require the least skills? In reality, lots of job seekers are overqualified: "When applicants far outnumber job openings, the overqualified bump out those only adequately qualified... And the proportion of overqualified has more than doubled over the past generation." Cappelli sees very little evidence of an actual supply problem and asks a valid question: Isn't it a paradox that the US would rank seven among 39 countries (survey performed by Manpower in 2011) in terms of employers' complaints about an inability to fill jobs, while in China, the new global rising power, these complaints are half as frequent? Does China have a larger pull of "qualified" people? No -- simply millions learn on the job and do so very quickly, just as generations of Americans have. In the end, the analysis shows that skills aren't the issue, but market-determined wages are...

Are your kids less intelligent that you were at their age? Nobody wants to believe this, but businesses are quick to assume that today's workforce is more flawed than 20 years ago. There is no evidence to support this "good old days bias" either. Cappelli indicates that US student performance has actually improved over the past decades. In addition, studies by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OCDE) do not show any absolute decline in US scores. Emerging countries are simply catching up -- and they do not belittle their workforce nearly as much as we do. Another great point: the history of Russia "reminds us that an economy's success is not related to education in any simple fashion."

So what's wrong? Job seekers and employers talk at cross purposes. Is it reasonable to expect job seekers to have done the work before because companies don't want to train people? While it's certainly valid to fear that a newly trained employee might go to the competition, it's equally logical to wonder why a newly trained employee would leave... Maybe this was not the right hire in the first place... Maybe the very culture or a non-existent culture of the company is the problem. Is it reasonable to assume that filling a job vacancy is akin to replacing a part in a washing machine -- what Peter Cappelli calls the "Home Depot Syndrome" -- and assume that people are mere cogs in the industrial machine? This may not be the safest angle to increase a company's productivity or creativity, or to even motivate people to join a company.

Cappelli mentions two major problems: The first one is the automated software used to filter job seekers -- it allegedly complies with the mandate of equal treatment of all candidates, yet ends up generating pervasive unfairness: people can't find jobs even though there are millions of open positions. How long will the legal requirements be an excuse for using antiquated software? The second one is the loss of power of the HR function: "Not coincidentally, the United States has the weakest human resources in the industrialized world." The ultimate call is certainly to re-empower human resources, and re-empower recruiters --give them a strategic role. Brain drain is the death of companies, and so is brain blindness: "Millions of unfilled jobs are costing the economy billions of dollars in lost business," reminds Cappelli.

This short book is a powerful eye-opener. As I was reading through it, it seemed to me that what is initially presented as a sort of standoff between job seekers and employers may not be that willingly created by employers, and may raise a broader question about the ability for established companies to realize that economic survival in a global economy is more about building and nurturing talent and less about "filling" positions. The vast majority of the people who look for the perfect match today would not be hired in their own company. They benefited from a system when trust in people and intra-entrepreneurship mattered, which is the deep history of this country: the US started the modern industrial revolution thanks to millions of "unqualified" people -- and Cornelius Vanderbilt left school when he was 11.
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on September 14, 2013
I bought this book to see if I could get a handle on the current conditions that are affecting my potential as a job seeker. This book gave very good insight into the WHY of today's employment search frustrations. I have been sending out my resume, updating it regularly, sending excellent cover letters, but getting very few hits or interviews. I had some idea of why but this book has helped me see things from the employer point of view. If you are struggling to understand why it is so tough to get even a first interview-this book is a very good tool.And it is very timely-the information is very current to what's happening in the job market today
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on December 20, 2012
In this book, Dr. Cappelli debunks the theory that a skills gap is preventing many of the unemployed from landing jobs. Dr. Cappelli discusses the disconnect between employers unable to fill jobs and workers unable to land jobs. He lays much of the blame for the so-called skills gap at the feet of employers, stating that the employer is unwilling to consider the applicants unless they fit the job description perfectly. Many employers depend on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that eliminate otherwise qualified job applicants. Dr. Cappelli suggests that employers are reluctant to pay the wages that would attract well-qualified workers. The author also writes that another cause of the skills gap is that employers are unwilling to offer training, instead expecting prospective employees to already know how to do the job without training. In the final chapter, Dr. Cappelli suggests possible solutions to eliminate the perception of a skills gap and in turn increase employment through programs like apprenticeships and cooperative arrangements between employers and technical and community colleges.

This book is well written and easy to read. I highly recommend this book to Human Resource professionals, employers, and job seekers. I hope this book will be a wake-up call for employers to take a hard look at their recruitment efforts with the goal of decreasing unemployment.
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Capelli's book debunks a lot of myths about lazy people who just don't want to work. His example of Emirates Airlines is especially graphic: this employer attracted just 50 people at US job fairs - but applicants had to move to the Middle East for a salary for $30,000 a year.

That shouldn't be a surprise. Just look on Craigslist, where you'll find thousands of jobs, calling for highly qualified people, at ridiculously low pay levels. I've seen jobs where the hourly rate - for a job requiring a graduate degree - was less than I pay my dog walker.

Additionally, companies often limit the talent pool based on age and other criteria. Many jobs could be restructured for telecommuting and flexible hours. Many hourly jobs could be paid on a project basis.

Then there are the hiring procedures. Some companies have application forms that have to be completed by hand in tiny boxes. One company asked applicants to get a bunch of documents notarized and shipped by overnight mail - at their own expense - immediately - for a short-term position paying less than $30 an hour. Only a truly desperate worker would apply, leading companies to believe there's a shortage of qualified labor.

Bottom line: it's not clear how the book benefits applicants. I believe we're in a seismic shift, comparable to the Industrial Revolution, where companies just run better with fewer people. We need to train students, from high school onwards, to think and act entrepreneurially. We need an infrastructure of taxes, legal requirements and health insurance to support micro businesses, instead of assuming any company is like General Motors.
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