Hiring Challenges: Three Tips to Beat the Skills Gap

With job openings at record-breaking highs and unemployment at a historic low, the tight labor market has become a familiar headache throughout all industries across the globe. The dilemma particularly affects staffing agencies that are struggling to fill job orders. There simply aren’t enough workers to fill the openings—and from the job candidates that are available, employers face another recurring problem: the skills gap.

The “skills gap” refers to the widespread shortage of qualified talent among job seekers. In fact, 42% of resumes that companies receive are from candidates who do not meet skill requirements, and 78% of job seekers say they would apply for a job where they do not match qualifications.1 Given these obstacles, how can employers choose the best candidates to ensure their company’s success?

The solutions require some creativity and flexibility in the hiring process. Here are a few tips to help you think outside the box when it comes to overcoming the skills gap.

Focus on Soft Skills

Candidates are unlikely to have all the hard skills necessary for an advertised job, which means assessing a candidate’s soft skills is becoming increasingly important. In fact, a recent survey reported that 80% of employers believe soft skills to be equal to or even more important than hard skills when they consider a candidate’s qualifications2. Is the candidate team-oriented? Do they pay close attention to detail? Are they capable of critical thinking? Do they communicate effectively? You can assess these traits by asking behavioral questions during interviews and speaking with a candidate’s references3. Though candidates might not match every job qualification, those with excellent soft skills often have the capabilities to effectively learn hard skills on the job.

Widen Your Search

Expand your search for workers to candidates you might not usually consider, such as those with disabilities. Workers with disabilities often bring unique perspectives and skills to the workplace—as well as a higher loyalty rate. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reported that one company saw a fall in its turnover rate from 72% to 7% when it began hiring more people with disabilities4. Candidates with disabilities often bring amazing problem-solving skills and fresh perspectives that can benefit your company.

Upskill Your Workers

“Upskilling” and “Reskilling” are recent buzzwords that refer to employers training their current or prospective employees in the skills their company needs. The idea is still gaining traction, but many companies are embracing the idea. Amazon recently pledged to spend $700 million on upskilling its workers, and Google announced a $1 billion IT initiative aimed at upskilling its employees5.

What makes upskilling worth investing in? It generally conserves precious resources, namely the time and money spent hiring new talent. Losing an employee and hiring someone to replace them can cost up to 150% of that employee’s salary5. Training and reskilling a current employee generally costs significantly less. You’re also likely to gain higher employee satisfaction through the upskilling process. Over half of employed adults believe that happiness in their job is tied to learning and development opportunities. One in three say they’re more likely to leave a job if such opportunities aren’t provided6. Upskilling goes beyond helping you bridge the ever-widening skills gap, it may also give you happier employees!

Upskilling in the Staffing Industry

Although the tight labor market and skills shortage has dogged the staffing industry for many years, staffing firms are in a unique place of opportunity when it comes to reskilling employees. The American Staffing Association recently committed to upskilling 700,000 temporary and contract employees and job seekers by 20247. One staffing firm now offers its associates upskilling courses designed to help them gain highly sought-after qualifications for jobs.8

Given the fast pace of ever-evolving technologies and computer systems, we can expect hard skills to have a shorter shelf life in the oncoming years, which means the skills shortage is unlikely to go away anytime soon. It’s best to invest in solutions like upskilling—solutions that will not only help your company in the long run and add to your profit margins, but also bring workplace happiness to your employees.

As the skills gap and tight labor market continue to present difficulties to staffing agencies around the country, it might be helpful for your company to pursue connections that can help keep your business on track. With more than a decade of experience serving the staffing industry, the Lone Oak Payroll team helps staffing agencies with every day challenges facing their business. Contact us for more information on how our staffing experience, payroll funding services, and payroll processing services can help your company achieve operational efficiency and combat current staffing challenges.

Read more: Want to Expand Your Talent Pool? Simplify Your Application Process


  1. Robert Half, Hiring Skills Challenge
  2. CareerBuilder, 2019 Hiring by Numbers
  3. CPA Practice Advisor, You May Be Overlooking Potential Top Performers When Hiring
  4. Star Tribune, Why Hiring People with Disabilities Will Improve Your Bottom Line
  5. Training Industry, Upskilling Employees for the Future of Work
  6. G2, 7 Reasons for Upskilling and Reskilling Your Workforce
  7. American Staffing Association, Staffing Industry Commits to Training 700,000 Adults by 2024
  8. US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Can Next Gen Staffing Agencies Close the Skills Gap?