Right now, 4.4 million Americans have been out of work for a year or more. They make up more than 40 percent of all the unemployed workers in the country. You can’t tell me none of them are worth looking at.
But that’s exactly what’s happening. Despite solid credentials and experience that may fit like a glove, those who’ve been without work for six months face the Great Wall of China as they try to find work. With the job market weighted toward employers, companies can pick and choose among candidates pretty much however they want to, so that’s what they’re doing.
Some companies say upfront that they won’t consider the unemployed or long-term unemployed from certain jobs. While some states are weighing legislation to ban ads telling those candidates to look elsewhere (New Jersey recently passed one), it’ll hard to put teeth in them. How can anyone prove someone’s obeying or disobeying the law in making their hiring decisions?
True, a long stretch without a job can raise some red flags. Someone laid off early in the recession may have been cut loose because they just weren’t good at their job, or didn’t fit with their company’s culture. Others may have let their skills slip during their downtime. Or, they may be rusty when it comes to interviewing or taking technical tests. Then there’s credit reports: When unemployed workers have trouble paying bills, their scores slip. Employers don’t like to see that.
Common advice to candidates — like going back to school or volunteering to show they remain engaged — aren’t particularly effective either, since what seekers really need are current and in-demand skills.
It’s challenge that’s not going away anytime soon. In addition to state actions, the EEOC is paying close attention, and businesses haven’t come up with particularly good reasons why qualified people shouldn’t be considered for openings just because they’ve lost their jobs. And let’s not forget: The media loves this kind of story.
Blogger Laurie Ruettimann suggests that HR refuse to run ads dismissing unemployed candidates, or simply leave the notice out and bet management won’t pick up on it. Strong and courageous advice, sure, but it has as much chance of fomenting change as cardboard does. Confrontations like that tend not to go over very well, or accomplish very much.
A better way might be to look at resumes from those without work and include good ones in the stack you provide to hiring managers. Tell them “they looked like too good a fit to ignore.” You’re going to get these resumes, anyway, so you may as well take advantage of them.
And that’s they key: There are people in this group who are good at what they do and will be all kinds of flexible when you get down to the offer. This isn’t all about altruism. It’s about finding good candidates in a pool that’s been arbitrarily eliminated. That’s a good argument to make, too.