As shown in the graphic below from the U.S. Department of Labor’s JOLTs report (Job Openings and Labor Turnover), there were almost 5 million open jobs in the U.S. at the end of November 2014 – an increase of more than one million since January. This growth comes on top of the 3 million jobs that were filled in 2014.


While the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6%, the total labor force participation rate remains at only 63%. That means there are 92 million working age adults in the U.S. who are either not looking for jobs or who do not want to work. Regardless, we still need to fill some of the 5 million currently open jobs with people who do. Given this objective, following are some ideas on how to get it done.

Some Out-of-the-Box Thinking for Getting 5 Million People Hired in 2015

  • Convert people descriptions into job descriptions. Most traditional job descriptions emphasize what a person must have in terms of skills, competencies and experience rather than what he or she must do or accomplish. By defining the work instead of the person doing the work, half of the skills gap will be instantly eliminated. A top U.S. labor attorneys recently suggested that this approach is more objective, more effective and more legally sound.
  • Use Marketing 101 ideas to advertise these jobs more creatively. Most job descriptions are written to weed out the unqualified. Aside from the fact that these posts are boring and ineffective, they also repel every qualified person who isn’t desperate. Here’s some advice on how to write job descriptions to attract the fully qualified by emphasizing what the person can learn, do and become.
  • Implement a transformational hiring process vs. a transactional one. It takes extra time for a top person to understand the career merits of a job change. When jobs are bought and sold like cars and appliances, everyone winds up using short-term factors to make long-term decisions. This videohighlights the dilemma and offers a step-by-step guide on implementing a transformational hiring process.
  • Expand the use of non-resumes to gain entry through the front door. In this post I provide job seekers some ideas on how to get noticed using the backdoor by presenting their skills in some unusual way. This could be in the form of a one-page job proposal, a video describing some big project they’ve handled, or some analysis that demonstrates their ability to handle the job. There’s no reason companies can’t use these same tools to reconsider potentially strong candidates who don’t pass through the standard skills and experience filters and assessment questionnaires.
  • Give candidates the answers to the questions ahead of time. As part of point 4 above, why not describe a big job challenge and have the candidate respond with a write-up of something the person accomplished that’s most related? Then invite those who have accomplished the most comparable work in for an interview. Here’s a sample email incorporating this idea plus the Marketing 101 advice above.
  • Give candidates and interviewers a loosely pre-scripted interview to follow. The problem with behavioral interviewing is that it’s cold, inflexible, unnatural and anti-EQ. The use of a Performance-based Interview in combination with a PowerPoint or Prezi template overcomes this problem. (Here’s a video description of this process). Using this format, candidates prepare their answers to basic job-related questions with the interviewer asking about specific details. This ensures all candidates are assessed on their ability to do the job, not their ability to get the job.
  • Separate the job offer from the compensation discussion. The interview process described here ensures that candidates fully understand the career opportunity inherent in an open job. This is not possible using skills-laden job descriptions and competency models in combination with behavioral interviewing. When a job represents a true career move, compensation becomes less important. On the other hand, price, i.e., salary, becomes the primary criteria when commodity jobs are offered. To address this, it’s important to first prove and present the job as a career move, and only then negotiate the compensation. Getting this part backwards is one way to either overpay or exclude the best people on first contact.

There are now more than 5 million open jobs in the U.S. To get them filled with the right people and finally make some headway on narrowing the skills gap, we need to rethink how hiring is done at the process level. Thinking out-of-the-box starts by recognizing that the box we’re now in was one built without windows.