The Talent Forecast: Toughest Job to Fill

The job market is tightening, the surprisingly difficult role to recruit and more insights from Korn Ferry's latest Talent Forecast survey.

Willy Loman might have found himself a hot commodity in today’s job market. The world’s recruiters say sales roles are the most difficult to fill today.

That’s the surprising result from the new Talent Forecast survey produced by Korn Ferry Futurestep. The survey asked more than 1,000 talent acquisition professionals around the world about the overall market for talent. More than half of the respondents said it’s more difficult to find qualified candidates now than it was a year ago. What’s more, the recruiters say that more candidates are making final job decisions based on a company’s culture rather than the actual benefits package. (Download the whole survey below). “While the severity of the issue varies among organizations, industries, and geographies, it’s clear that the changing global economy has created a demand for new jobs, new skills, and new capabilities — and organizations are scrambling to find the best workers to fill these positions,” says Byrne Mulrooney, CEO of Korn Ferry Futurestep.

But the fact that recruiters say sales roles are the hardest positions to fill — tougher than even traditionally challenging research and development jobs and information technology roles — stands out. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like finding qualified people to sell something should be that difficult. After all, there are more than 15 million people with sales-related occupations in the United States alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and millions more worldwide.

But neither business clients nor retail consumers need a salesperson to tell them about a product’s attributes or pricing — that’s information readily found online. So a growing number of firms want their salespeople to act more like consultants, having both technical expertise and superior relationship skills as well as the ability to offer customers complete solutions, not just pitch a single product.

While sales managers understand they need to hire to a different skill set than several years ago, many are unwilling to extend an opportunity to candidates who have great potential but don’t have exactly the right background. Sebra recommends that organizations look beyond experiences to determine how the candidate could fit into the organization for the long term. “Hard skills, like understanding a product the company sells, can be taught,” says Sebra. “Smart companies look at the softer skills and drivers that will indicate whether that person has what it takes to succeed over time.”

The challenge for organizations in recruiting salespeople is to define precisely the kind of skills, abilities, and experiences that are critical to succeed in the position and to recruit and hire to those criteria. The Korn Ferry Futurestep survey recommends that organizations should develop an onboarding and training program that maximizes the chances that newly hired sales professionals will succeed.

Complete the form below to download the full report.