Modern personnel selection vs. skilled worker shortage

Guest contribution by | 22.04.2019

In my opinion, the building blocks of modern personnel selection are a very good job analysis, structured selection processes, interviews at eye level, transparent feedback and a focus on individual communication with applicants.

We have a long time behind us in which Recruiting was mass execution with standardized processes. This may have worked well in times of industrialization, but it probably didn’t necessarily lead to finding the best employees even during this time. We are currently reading everywhere about the ever more complex, rapidly changing world. In this context buzzwords like VUCA, agility and digital transformation are mentioned. I don’t like to use the words because I think they overdramatize something that’s actually long overdue. I hope that I can still experience it in my working life, namely that the world of work is transforming itself. For me, this means that the focus of the future working world will be on communication, relationships and interaction. Exactly the things that even an AI can’t completely do for us.

Our system is currently reaching its limits and more and more companies are recognizing that they can no longer continue with their existing processes. At the same time, I also have the impression that there are companies that do not stand behind these values and only pretend to do so. Some companies that just don’t know it any better and believe that they are going in the right direction and attribute the lack of well qualified applications to a real lack. All the more reason for me to be happy about any company that has recognized that the effort is worth it.

The current generation of young employees has usually not grown up in financial poverty, always had something to eat and was well educated at school. At the same time, they have seen in their parents’ generation that a career goes hand in hand with very long working hours, which lead to much sacrifice in private and family life. That is not what they want. They want to find a job that makes sense to them, that also enables them to have a private life and gives them the opportunity to arrange both the work part and the private part of their lives according to their ideas. At the same time it plays into their hands that the birth rate is declining due to the previous social and political structures and that the companies are no longer able to offer a mass of applicants.

What is the reason for the shortage of skilled workers?

In spite of declining figures, I am of the opinion that the shortage of skilled workers is to a large extent still homemade. By this I don’t necessarily mean the people acting individually, but the organisational framework conditions. At the moment we are still at a stage where most organizations realize that it will be more difficult to win good people for their own company, but the necessary consequences will not be drawn. We still live in rigid processes and accept long reaction times with standardized communication (often caused by understaffing and/or high pressure in day-to-day operations). The expectations are also often not yet considered: each qualified applicant should take on the effort of a cumbersome application tool, the preparation of application documents adapted to the company and also be motivated to work for this company. These factors are all unbelievable hurdles that deter applicants. 

The key to strategic personnel planning

In addition to these factors, another decisive key for me is strategic personnel planning. From my point of view, it is crucial to match one’s qualification profile with the potential on the job market and to use strategic personnel planning to ensure that key positions in the company are always filled. This means looking for the qualifications that are available on the market and then developing people for the key positions both professionally and personally. Of course, this includes looking at your company’s development and taking a strategic look at your personnel strategy. In my opinion, strategic personnel planning also includes the fact that fixed-term employment contracts are only used for actually fixed-term activities such as parental leave or sickness replacement. The need for security in Germany is still great, temporary contracts are considered a shortcoming and are therefore not attractive to the really good people on the labour market. They want to decide for themselves how long they want to stay with an employer.

The key to communication, interaction and relationship

In addition to security, today’s applicants are also concerned with not being perceived as one of many. In the recruiting process, they also want to gain an impression of the company in order to decide whether it suits them. They want to have the feeling that they are not petitioners and that they are getting real insights into everyday business life. Of course, they draw their conclusions from the recruiting process.

How can a company shape this individual communication that leads to good relationships? It is advisable to offer numerous contact opportunities to get to know each other. In my opinion, these should at least be the naming of contact persons with telephone numbers in the job advertisement as well as the availability of people via platforms such as Xing and LinkedIn. In this way, individual communication can take place before and during the recruiting process.

Furthermore, esteeming selection processes at eye level are very important. Here, the particular challenge lies in the use of valid methods that provide a good forecast and at the same time create a pleasant atmosphere. I often get the feedback that applicants experience the semi-structured interview as very appreciative because the company asks very precisely and signals interest. At the same time it gives the interviewers a very good picture of the skills of the candidates.

The third point is the importance of attractive working conditions. It’s not necessarily the foosball table, but the possibility for every employee to arrange the working time and the place of work according to the requirements of the tasks at hand and to make a certain self-organisation possible. This expresses trust and that’s the basis for a good relationship.

New premises in personnel selection

Interestingly, many companies are still looking for employees who want to do just one side step. In other words, people who have previously done the same job in another company and now want to continue it in a new company. I doubt that people who are permanently satisfied with sidesteps are the ones who are innovative and continuously learn to face change, because they hardly change themselves. That is why I am clearly advocating new premises in personnel selection:

  • Looking for candidates who have thought about what their next professional step is and who are going to an interview with a curious attitude. They don’t leave the decision to the company alone and simply wait for an acceptance or rejection, but they also decide for themselves.
  • Looking for candidates who want to develop further and learn continuously. These development opportunities must either be offered or it is accepted that this is only a temporary cooperation. The topic of knowledge management plays a central role here.
  • Looking for candidates who are motivated intrinsically to follow their interests and recognize that not everything in life can be controlled. To follow one’s own inclinations and interests means to be able to perform at one’s best because it is simply fun. Even if this means deviating from the standardized career paths.
  • Take the word job interview in the figurative sense: everyone introduces themselves and there is an interview at eye level instead of an interview.


Bottom line

With old structures, the current requirements in the working world cannot be answered, not even in recruiting. This has already been recognized in many companies in the context of digital transformation. The transfer with regard to recruiting, however, has often not yet been made. Here we are at the threshold of knowing that things cannot go on this way or that we are going to the other extreme and are designing personnel recruitment as event management and a nice coffee chat. The truth seems to be in the midst. My tip at this point is to start by asking questions: What are the good reasons why the organization behaves the way it behaves and do we still achieve our corporate goal with this behavior? Are our questions in the interview still the right ones considering what applicants we are looking for?

There is one thing I have learned in order to drive change: Organizations behave in this way because they have been successful with it so far. The great art is to initiate changes before the company is seriously endangered and disappears from the market, because there are a dozen examples of this. But if you make it, you’ll have a decisive competitive advantage in attracting good people. Because most people have already recognized the value of change, even though organizations are still struggling.



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Katharina Nolden has published more articles in the t2informatik Blog:

t2informatik Blog: Resource-oriented personnel marketing

Resource-oriented personnel marketing

t2informatik Blog: New Work also needs aptitude diagnostics

New Work also needs aptitude diagnostics

t2informatik Blog: Strategic networking

Strategic networking

Katharina Nolden
Katharina Nolden

Katharina Nolden has a degree in education, is a business coach (IHK) and Scrum Master ( She brings several years of experience from management consultancy and the education, energy, service and health sectors. Her goal is to change the world of work as an expert for modern forms of work. She advises organisations on the topics of new forms of work, digital collaboration, recruiting and personnel marketing.