London

There are more unfilled jobs than ever in London right now and bots are partly to blame

A spike in the number of job openings and an increasing reliance on software to post and find work has meant fewer viable applicants for employers and more job choices for people looking for work.

Instead of pounding the pavement, people are increasingly relying on software to sell their skills

A woman walks past a "help wanted" sign. London employers say it's becoming increasingly difficult to find good help and many jobs are going unfilled. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

For Coralie Waschkowski, the saying "it's hard to find good help" hits a little too close to home right now. 

The owner of the small but mighty Little Red Roaster cafe inside the London courthouse needs a part-time barista to sling lattes and espressos to the busy lawyers, judges and police officers who are her regulars. As her ad puts it, someone "polite and comfortable" and has, in capital letters, "EXPERIENCE WITH FOOD SERVICES." 

"I'm pretty specific about that," she said. 

'We're failing people'

Despite spelling it out in capital letters, Waschkowski is having trouble finding someone who has the right skills and not for a lack of resumes. 

"I have 350 of them I'm sifting through right now," she said. "A lot them are generic."

Generic, as in not tailored to any specific job or career path. Out of 350 resumes, Waschkowski said she found only five that meet the criteria she laid out in the job ad, or one in 70. She doesn't know what to think. 

"If this is what we're teaching kids in school," she said. "We're failing people." 

Job seeking has become automated

Technology is playing an increasing role in the jobs market, with employers and potential employees relying on bots to match people with work. (Maxx Satori/Shutterstock)

To anyone with a set of eyes, it's easy to see what Waschkowski values most in a potential employee. It's written in capital letters. But what if the job of matching the resume to the ad isn't being done with a set of eyes at all? 

Technology has changed everything in the last few years, according Debra Mountenay. She's the the executive director of the Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning Board. It's the provincially-funded agency that gathers intelligence about the supply and demand of the local labour market.

"You can upload your resume and it will do that matching piece when there's some key words that pop up. It will send your resume out directly." 

"So [when] the actual job seeker uploads their resume, they might not be aware of where their resume is being sent," she said. 

How job and resume aggregators work

While jobs are still sealed with a traditional handshake, a growing number of employers and applicants are relying on technology to match people with work. (Flazingo Photos/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Like employers, who use job aggregators to find employees, job seekers have started relying on resume aggregators to match them with jobs.

Unlike a jobs posting website where a list of jobs are published and applicants can search through them for something interesting, job aggregators pull from all over the Internet. Spiders and bots zero-in on key words and in some cases, republish the job ad on a website such as Indeed or LinkedIn.

Mountenay said in the last few years it's become possible to do the same with resumes and the change has meant employers, depending on how they word their ads, will either get a trickle of resumes or a flood.

"It becomes a matter of there's some key words that matched what they were looking for and that's how they ended up with the resumes," she said. 

There are over 3,600 unfilled jobs in London right now

Like in real estate, London's labour market a sellers' market. Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate for London last month was 4.9 per cent and as of Wednesday, there were 3,662 unfilled jobs in the London area. (Mike Groll/Associated Press)

"So it does create a lot more onus on the employers to have all these resumes they have to sift through," Mountenay said.

To make matters worse for employers, London's labour market is lopsided right now. Like real estate, it's a sellers' market. Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate for London last month was 4.9 per cent and as of Wednesday there were 3,662 unfilled jobs in the London area alone. 

For Mountenay, who's been gathering intelligence on London's labour market for the past two decades, it's something she's never seen before. 

"I have not seen this many jobs available all at once, no," she said. 

What's causing the change

What's causing this is the fact that many of London's large employers have either cut their workforce in the 2008 financial crisis or moved out of town completely. The jobs they once offered have been replaced by jobs at smaller companies, many of which have been created by the growing popularity of entrepreneurship. Technology is also creating new jobs in IT, development and graphic design. 

With so many jobs and so many ways to find them, job seekers can pick and choose. It's why Mountenay believes it's more important than ever for employers looking for potential staff with good people skills to rely on face-to-face communication rather than the Internet. 

"Once we have more technology, people on both sides of the equation tend to start relying on that technology to handle things for them. It seems counterintuitive to rely entirely on technology to connect you to a person you're going to spend 30 to 40 hours a week with," she said. 

She said employers like Coralie Waschkowski, who are having trouble finding good help, should know that they don't have to be in it alone. 

"I would encourage employers to check with their local Employment Ontario agencies," she said. "Those services are paid for and it's a matter of employers just using what's already being paid for."

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

with files from Travis Dolynny

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.