Retraining the Right Way

“Retraining” is a buzzword in today’s economy, but why?

Personal computers, automation, and the internet were game changers. Advancements in information technology created new industries, eliminated or downsized others, and changed the way we do business forever.

Because of this, many of us naturally assumed that the future of skills training (and retraining) meant more computers and more STEM.  However, new findings cast doubt on what has been conventional wisdom for two decades, causing some HR professionals to ask: Is more tech and more STEM the answer? And, what skills are the right skills?  As an example, let’s look at two industries profoundly affected by advancements in IT: Manufacturing and software development.

A recent survey of manufacturers found that the most sought-after skill for customer service and help desk agents was higher level writing. For technicians on the floor is was higher level reading.

Similarly, for software help desk technicians (the second largest IT position in the country), only 15% of jobs required a deep understanding of actual programming. Again, higher level writing skills were the most sought-after.

In both industries, only one-third of workers required any higher level math skills such as algebra or statistics, demonstrating that skills requirements are not distributed equally across the workforce. That means it is up to employers to design roles that fit the proficiencies of their employees, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to training and retraining initiatives.

So when we talk about training, we have to be sure that we are talking about the right training without making assumptions about what we think our employees need. It turns out that not all training means more computers and STEM.

Weaver, Andrew. “The Myth of the Skills Gap.” MIT Technology Review, August 27, 2017.


Stop Blaming The “Skills Gap.” Finding Talent Has Always Been Hard.

Unemployment in America has dipped below 4% for the first time in almost 20 years through a combination of modest, but consistent job growth and a declining yet recently stabilized labor force participation rate. For employers, this means your pool of potential applicants is being squeezed at both ends, making it that much harder to find the talent you need.

To explain the challenges faced by employers, some have pointed to the existence of a “Skills Gap,” a mismatch between the skills employers need and the actual skills in workers’ possession. But is any of it right?

The short is: No. The long answer is: It’s complicated.

A recent survey of employers in high-demand industries such as technical manufacturing, IT and healthcare (places where the demand for specialized technical skills would, in theory, be the highest) we see that most employers can fill positions within three months of their opening. Additionally, many of the more long-term openings reported to the study were during overnight shifts or reflected other more demanding working conditions, indicating that compensation or work-life balance was more at issue than skills.

Besides, it is tough to argue the existence of a persistent skills gap in an economy at or close to full employment with little to no real wage growth. If highly skilled or specialized talent were in such high demand, then one could expect to see companies willing to pay more to attract that talent, and at the moment only professions within the healthcare industry show any meaningful wage growth.

Simply put, the idea that positions are persistently being left open due to “mismatched” candidates is more complicated than many industry groups or employers would have you believe. Despite their protestations, companies need to rethink how they compensate and incentivize new hires while at the same time ensuring that their current staffs not only obtain new skills but the right skills.

Where Did All The Summer And Holiday Jobs Go?

For America’s young people, education has become a year-round affair.

As noted elsewhere, fewer and fewer of America’s youth, both at the high school and college levels, are choosing to work summer or holiday jobs. This trend has led some writers to proclaim (and even lament) the “Death of the Summer Job.”

But this only tells us half the story, because America’s youth haven’t been filling their time with more leisure, they are filling it with more education. American students have learned that in today’s competitive, high-cost educational environment that summer classes as well as specialized training and certification programs are a better investment than the income and experience gained from short-term seasonal employment.

In fact, this is beginning to become a year-round phenomenon as students opt for more specialized and highly skilled technical fields that require more extensive education and training.

Employers, especially small to medium-sized ones, don’t have the luxury to ignore these trends as they compete for the same talent against large employers with multi-million dollar training and development budgets and the allure of continued education.

To adapt to this trend employers should begin to think about how they can offer educational or learning experiences to new employees. Employers should offer opportunities and support for workers looking to expand their skills – one close personal friend who works in manufacturing is receiving paid time off and a small stipend from his employer to obtain a certain OSHA certification. And employers must be prepared for when their workers elect to return to school to further their education, because with the right policies in place, business owners and HR professionals can incentivize the return of a highly skilled and newly trained employee.

The Dog Days of Summer: Why Summer Jobs Matter

Recent and upcoming graduates know, first hand, that many “entry level” positions aren’t really entry level – many require some amount of work experience. And for most students the best time to gain that experience is during the summer.

Internships are a great benefit to any resume, but for those who are unable to take an unpaid internship, summer work can provide the same, if not more, benefit, while still allowing you to earn an income. Even if your work experience isn’t as relevant to your desired career as an internship would be (think life guard, camp counselor or painting houses), employers will be intrigued by the skills and experience that you obtained. And since “soft skills” are always in demand, be sure to highlight the things you have learned and your positive attributes by pointing to your accomplishments and by earning recommendations from managers and mentors.

Internships (paid or unpaid) and work experience are the cornerstone of any resume. Whether you favor one or the other isn’t as important as the dedication and ability to learn and grow that you demonstrate to future employers by your willingness to work.

What You Can Learn From Giraffes to be More Effective at Work

Giraffes are one of nature’s most compelling creatures. Every day, both zoologists and ethologists (scientists who study animal behavior) learn more and more about how they live in both captivity and the wild. Here are some interesting facts about giraffes, and what lessons we can learn from them about being more effective at work:

  • Be a team player…

Giraffes are believed to be one of nature’s least territorial large animals. Multiple groups (called “towers”) will frequently inhabit the same space in order to share resources and look after calves and pregnant females. These towers often come together to form herds, which can number into the hundreds.

  • Work well individually AND as part of a team…

Despite their easy-going nature and team-focused social structure, giraffes know when it’s time to go it alone. Smaller towers of giraffes will often split off from the main herd if an area becomes overcrowded or resources begin to become depleted.

  • Embrace change…

Giraffes adapt easily to new challenges to survive in the wild. Herds of giraffes often split, merge and reform, only to do the same with new giraffes shortly thereafter. Giraffes also appear to be less sentimental about their herd-mates than other large herbivores, making it easier for them to form new alliances with new giraffes as needed.

Check out more about giraffe conservation and other animal behaviors at and

Reduce Your Time-to-Hire

When talent is in short supply, time is your enemy. Today’s job seekers have more tools and opportunities at their disposal than ever before. Put simply, finding talent is more challenging than ever.

Here are three ways you can reduce your time-to-hire.

Have clear requirements AND expectations: Having clear job requirements allows jobseekers to quickly identify if their education and experience are sufficient for the position, as well as what will be expected of a new hire. On the employer-side, clear communication regarding what your organization looks for both pre and post-hire will allow hiring managers to assess potential new hires in a way that is both constructive and specific, since the indicators for success are known to all.

Be transparent: Job seekers have more access to information about your firm than you can imagine. Employee reviews, blog posts, social media, google searches and more, all work to create an image of your company that is powerful in today’s internet-driven job search culture.  For this reason, err on the side of disclosure. Own your company’s faults (we all have them!) and demonstrate to job seekers (and customers) how you are trying to improve. Give out information on your salary and bonus / incentive structure(s). Talk about your office culture positively, but honestly. These factors will increase the number of quality job seekers you attract, and increase the chances of your offer being accepted.

Be prepared to deal with a counter-offer: As the labor market tightens, the competition for talent will only intensify. Do not assume that your offer will be the best offer received. Have a procedure in place to approach and resolve competing offers or counter-offers from current employers. Keeping in close contact with a candidate during the offer and acceptance period not only demonstrates your interest in them, it shows that you are serious about assembling a strong team.

In summary, the 2017 talent timer is ticking loudly…so don’t drag your feet!  Meet with candidates quickly, eliminate rounds and rounds of redundant interviewing, keep the lines of communication wide open and make your highest and best offer now before it’s too late!

To Search or Not to Search?

Two takes on searching for jobs during the holidays.

Why to avoid starting your job search in late November and December:

The reasons against applying for positions during the holidays tend to be better known than the reasons you should. The most obvious reason is simply the timing. Hiring managers (just like all people) tend to take time off during the holidays. Less time in the office means less time looking through resumes and scheduling interviews.

A lesser-known reason has to do with most companies’ annual budgeting process. As the year comes to a close, many hiring managers run up against the limitations of departmental budgets. A position that seemed important to fill following Halloween may be ‘rolled over’ into the New Year. End-of-year pressures may make employers less likely to commit to a new hire.

Why you should apply for jobs during late November and December:

The best reason for applying during the holidays is simple: visibility. With less people applying to positions (HR managers do, in fact, report a dip in applications during the holidays), your resume is more likely to stand out. You are also signaling to potential employers that you are serious about finding a job even if your colleagues are busy trimming the tree and sipping eggnog.

End of the year interviews are also the perfect time to get your foot in the door with potential employers. Make a positive impact in December and you may become a company’s first choice in January. Also, with holiday parties, volunteer opportunities and various community events, the holidays are the perfect time to expand your network.

The Verdict?

Despite the real or imagined headwinds faced by job seekers in November and December, one should keep in mind that making your next, best career move is an all year round opportunity.

Happy Holidays!

JobGiraffe Welcomes Two More to its “Herd”!

We would like you to meet the two newest additions to the JobGiraffe team.  Please extend a warm welcome to Lexi Quattrochi and Danielle Stoller.  Their addition completes our 2016 expansion plans!

lexiLexi comes to us from a background in sales and high-end retail. She’s looking forward to working with candidates in order to connect them with the clients who need them!  She earned her bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management in 2012, and in her free time likes spending time outdoors with her family and Bernese Mountain Dog, Scarlett. She’s also a total ‘water bug’ who spends as much time swimming, boating and fishing in Lake Michigan as possible.


danielleDanielle graduated from Illinois State University in 2014 and has spent the last two years doing specialized recruiting for the construction industry. In order to take the next step in her career, she has joined the JobGiraffe team. She’s looking forward to learning all aspects of the recruiting and staffing industry by working with both candidates and clients across all disciplines throughout Chicago and the suburbs. In her free time Danielle enjoys running and music, and even moonlights as a classical violinist for weddings and special events!

Welcome to the team guys!

Our Experience at JobGiraffe – 2016 Summer Interns

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When you think about interns, you probably think about someone who runs out to get coffee or does all of the busy work. That was not our experience at JobGiraffe. Over the course of the summer, we were heavily involved in event planning, marketing, data entry and research.

In addition, by working behind the scenes of the Recruiting and Staffing Industry, we had the rare opportunity to observe the hiring process from both the candidate and client perspective. As a result, we feel better prepared to enter the workforce.

Our first task was to plan, organize and coordinate JobGiraffe’s second annual World Giraffe Day in conjunction with Brookfield Zoo. We took the lead on all aspects of planning: budgets, marketing, delivering tickets and planning the overall logistics of the event. On the day of the event we greeted hundreds of JobGiraffe’s clients and their families to the zoo, and the day went off without a hitch!

Even after all this there was little time to rest, as we were to take the lead on JobGiraffe’s second corporate event of the year: Giraffe-A-Palooza, an evening event targeted at reaching out directly to zoo-goers and the general public. In the end, both events turned out to be a huge success, and we learned just how much planning, hard work and determination it takes to turn an idea on a piece of paper into a reality.

We were also able to save JobGiraffe thousands of dollars through effective budgeting, and feel that we have laid the groundwork for successful future events.

We would like to thank both our Intern Coordinator, Zack; President and CEO of JobGiraffe, Karen Rae and the rest of the team for assisting us throughout our internship. We can’t wait to put our new skills and experiences to work, and we wish all of them the best of luck in the future!

Thank you JobGiraffe!

The 2016 Interns

Don’t Slow Down your Job Search just because it’s Summer!

Lessons from a Recruiting and Staffing Firm

Everyone is on vacation… Companies are waiting until Fall to hire new people… It’s just too hot!

Why should I be looking for a job?

We asked three of our experienced Recruiting and Staffing Consultants why summer is a great time to start your job search.

Pam – Your resume will stand out more

PamMost recruiting and staffing professionals, as well as corporate hiring managers, are inundated with resumes throughout the year. This is frequently the reason why it feels as though your resume is constantly ending up in what we, in the industry, call the Resume Black Hole. Simply put, your resume may get more attention in the dog days of summer!

Summer is a great time to apply because – and this is backed up by data AND experience – applications dip during the summer months. Corporate hiring managers and recruiting and staffing professionals are more likely to sit down and digest what’s in your resume. And, as the resume is the primary tool with which to market yourself, this can make all the difference in finding the job you want.

Charles – It shows that you are motivated and dedicated

CharlesWhile everyone else is lounging by the pool working on their tan, you’re out looking for a job. That means something to individuals in HR and the Recruiting and Staffing Industry. Recruiting professionals are only able to work with a limited number of candidates, so finding those who are the most motivated and most serious about finding a job can frequently make a difference.

And don’t think for a second that our clients don’t notice either! They are dealing with the same summer shortage of applicants that we are, so your willingness to suit up for an interview in 100 degree weather means something to them as well.

Patti – It’s easier to start a conversation

PattiAnyone who’s ever been on an interview knows the experience can be a little awkward, especially at the beginning. After all, you’re sitting down with a complete stranger to talk about an issue that can and will affect your future, and possibly your life! It’s best to start off on a good foot and make a good first impression.

Summer is a great time for interviewing because easy conversation starters abound.  Have any big 4th of July plans? Are you doing any traveling this year? When’s the last time you made it to the beach? Isn’t summertime in Chicago just the best!? These are easy ways to establish a rapport with your interviewer and allowing them to know more about you.

Now put down that margarita, fix up your resume and put on your best summer interview outfit! If you need a place to start, visit our Job Board. Or, if you are a recent graduate, be sure to visit our Recent Grad page. We promise, all of our offices have air conditioning… And, as always, Reach Higher!