The Skills Gap: One Expert’s Opinion

by Ellie Schriner

Recently, the skills gap has been getting more attention in the media, both nationally and locally. There are many opinions out there on this subject, so to get more information I read the book “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs” by Peter Cappelli. As a Professor at The Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania, Cappelli has had hands-on experience in both hiring and training.


The skills gap and education have been linked together before, but Cappelli reasons they should not be. He Cappelli has observed that the hardest to fill positions typically require unskilled or semi-skilled workers, which shows a need for more apprenticeship programs instead of college degrees.


Cappelli asserts that there has not been a change in the level of education needed, but rather, in the hiring practices of businesses. Employers tend to look for more specific qualifications for a position, so they spend more time filling the vacancy. Often they are looking for someone who already has experience in the specific job they are hiring for. This makes the situation more difficult for entry-level applicants, who have not had the chance for on-the-job training.


Another problem Cappelli mentions involves matching applications to positions. The Internet has made applying for jobs much easier than the old process of finding and replying to an ad in the newspaper. Many companies now use online application submission systems that use sorting software. The downside is that these programs can be very finicky and can throw out up to 50 percent of the qualified applications with each question. After only a couple of questions, the number of applications has been drastically diminished. This happens because the software is programmed to look for specific key words and terms that may be used by only that company.


The author gives his insight on how to “beat the software.” He recommends:

  • Don’t use headers or footers
  • Use the same language used in the job description posted by the company
  • Use regular fonts and formatting since the computer software will have trouble with fancy fonts or complicated formatting
  • Put keywords in context instead of just listing them
  • Submit the resume in a text format like Microsoft Word instead of a PDF
  • Don’t include graphics or pictures
  • Include your postal address


Cappelli’s points make a compelling argument against the skills gap, but there are many different opinions out there. For further reading on the skills gap, check out the New York Times’ Room for Debate on the issue, which features opinions from Cappelli and four other experts.


Ellie Schriner is an intern with Minnesota’s Labor Market Information Office.


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