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What exactly is the war for talent? Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Question: I have been struggling to find work for months in my field, even though I have lots of experience, good references and the right education. It is really getting me down because on the one hand I keep reading in the paper and seeing on TV that there is a shortage of ''talent,'' and that companies are going to great lengths to find and hire good people. Am I the only person who can't find a decent job even though everyone else is a hot commodity?
Jackson S, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Dear Jackson,

Do not get discouraged - the ''war for talent'' that you have been hearing about is leading many people to believe that employers are becoming increasingly desperate to find qualified candidates whenever it comes to hiring someone new. However with notable exceptions, nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, the bulk of employers get buried in resumés from hundreds of applicants for just about any job they post widely (in urban centres, anyway). And in between, they are receiving more resumés from job seekers who are trying their luck by sending in their applications cold in the hopes of hitting the right person at the right time. Meanwhile, organizations tap into their existing staff to ask for leads in finding qualified applicants, not to mention that there are millions of searchable resumés available on Workopolis and numerous other job banks for employers who are looking for candidates with specific work experience, credentials, degrees, location, etc.

So the so-called ''war for talent'' is, in large part, a battle among employers to get the best, hardest working people on board...for around the same price as they'd be willing to pay anyone else. Which leaves someone like you, Jackson, who has a solid track record and strong desire to work, in competition with those who have a somewhat better work history, even stronger desire to work, and/or willingness to do whatever is necessary in order to get the job done.

Given what I'm seeing, I believe it's more accurate to describe the current situation as a shortage of decent paying, somewhat stable jobs, as opposed toa shortfall in reasonably qualified applicants. In other words, there are not enough jobs that pay appropriate wages and provide benefits, to go around. This essentially gives employers an advantage because they get to cherry pick from a wide pool of candidates.

This is why I urge you not to get easily discouraged. The only real ''war for talent'' is taking place where the number of qualified candidates is far less than the number of jobs available (these days engineering, accounting, physicians and oil rig workers are in ultra-high demand in Canada), such that employers really are in desperate straights to find anyone who is credentialed and available for work.

As for your own job hunt Jackson, the good news is that there is a rather limited supply of ''superstar'' job seekers out there. Therefore, if you persist, and conduct your own search in a systematic, strategic way, your chances of finding something appropriate for yourself increase dramatically over a period of time.

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