By Alysia Green

Southeast Michigan companies have emerged from the recession leaner and smaller and are trying to do more with less. An employee may be filling what used to be considered several roles. Employees are also dealing with a skills gap, caused in part by the rapid development of new technologies. These dynamics have created a strained relationship between employers and job seekers and a lack of understanding from both sides.

At Automation Alley, we are meeting these challenges head on. Doing so is imperative to the growth of Southeast Michigan’s economy. Our Technical Talent Development Program, funded by a $5 million federal grant, is providing funding to local companies to train current employees and new hires for high-level information technology positions, creating jobs in our region and addressing the skills gap.

In addition, Automation Alley is currently hosting a six-session employer series at our headquarters in Troy. The series has not only given a voice to the job seeker but is also showing employers how to connect to qualified talent.

The two challenges we are hearing from the employers attending our series is that in the current talent pool there is a lack of both technical or hard skills and soft/employability skills. What can we do to address these challenges? Several things. Think outside of the box.

Where are you looking for candidates?  Are you using social media? Are you using referrals from your current employees?  Have you reached out to the local workforce development organizations like Michigan Works!, JVS or others? These groups can pre-screen candidates for you.

How about the community colleges or universities? Many quality workers are in transition, taking a few courses to re-direct their career post-recession. Are you building a talent pipeline by implementing internships, apprenticeships and co-ops? These can help with technical and employability skills development because they allow you to “try out” a future employee. Also, remember that many in career transition could be taking classes, so your intern could be someone with at least 10 years of experience in the workplace.

It’s also important to remember to keep your job postings realistic. Review your posted job descriptions.  I ask employers, “Are you looking for Batman when Robin can do the job?” Meaning, are you being unrealistic in your ask? This is the reason the job description is two pages long. That position will probably stay open because the person you’re looking for doesn’t live in our galaxy.

Use the resources available to you by working closely with local workforce development organizations. Automation Alley, for example, offers workforce development opportunities through its Job Board at, which averages more than 40,000 page views monthly. Automation Alley’s Job Board is free and unlimited to all member companies and is an easy-to-use tool designed to help companies post new positions and locate the best technical talent in Michigan.

There are also things job seekers can do to build bridges in the hiring process. Even before the interview, job seekers have to network, network, network. They have to do more than search job boards and apply. Creating career opportunities is a “people sport.” You don’t go to events to simply pass out resumes. First, you have to build relationships.

How can you tailor your resume to stand out more to employers?  Be sure to use key words from the job description. You’re trying to show a potential employer how you are the ideal candidate for the job. It’s up to you to help the employer understand that; not the other way around.

Before the interview, you have to practice. Ask friends who are business professionals to conduct a mock interview. If possible, videotape yourself so you can see your posture and how you interact. Do you say, “you know” too much?  Do you say, “ummm” too much?  Do you make eye contact?

Some friends of mine who are recruiters for a large pharmaceutical company shared some great advice that I’ve shared with others. They call it the 20-10-10 rule. A first impression starts when you are 20 steps away from the person interviewing you. The second impression comes when you are 10 steps away and the third impression is the first 10 things that you say.

When in the interview, remember S.T.A.R. when answering questions so you stay on course. S: State the situation. T: What were the tasks involved? A: What were the actions you took? R: What were the results?

For more information on Automation Alley’s employer series or to register, visit or contact the Automation Alley Resource Center at or 800-427-5100. The final three sessions will be held June 26, July 17 and Aug. 14 at Automation Alley Headquarters, 2675 Bellingham in Troy. The June 26 event will focus on effective interviewing techniques. The July 17 event will focus on first impressions, employee retention and the onboarding process. The Aug. 14 session will focus on bridging the generational gap in the workplace.

Alysia Green is director of talent development for Automation Alley.


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