Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Unemployed need not apply

Here's a trend that frightens me. Companies are hiring, but not those who are currently unemployed. I have a lot of good friends who are out of work due to the lousy economy, not through any fault of their own but they are being discriminated against by hiring organizations who are assuming that these people are no good.

Ads like those shown above are appearing in papers and job boards around the country showing the blatant discrimination. According to yesterday's Times article:
"Legal experts say that the practice probably does not violate discrimination laws because unemployment is not a protected status, like age or race. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently held a hearing, though, on whether discriminating against the jobless might be illegal because it disproportionately hurts older people and blacks."

Even if it is declared illegal, this won't stop companies for simply sorting resumes for people with current work history or length of time lingering on the job boards. The latter, by the way, is currently a default search criteria within the job boards. Anyone searching for candidates will have them presented with the most recent uploaded resumes sorted first.

So here is my first piece of advice to anyone unemployed and reading this article. Update your resume weekly on the job boards and reload it. This update could be as simple as adding or removing an extra space that no-one sees. The job boards will think it is new and sort you out ahead of someone who uploaded their resume two weeks ago.

But this type of thinking is very short-sighted. Here are four very good reasons to pick up people who are unemployed rather than currently employed, if both have the same skills.
  1. Unemployed people are eager to get out of this state so they will be more likely to accept a lower starting salary than someone with a current job
  2. They can start right away, not having to give up to two months notice
  3. Their previous supervisors are available to give references, rather than having to maintain confidentiality with their current supervisors
  4. They are so eager to get started again, they make ideal employees
You can weigh these four advantages against the only disadvantages such as their having not-perfectly-current skills and the risk that they were laid off for incompetence and the advantages will come out on top.

And here's my second piece of advice: To address any skills lag, spend some of your unemployment time and the training dollars offered by the state to take a relevant class in your field.

But the graph that really shocked me is the one shown below. Look at how long the unemployed are staying unemployed these days:

Wow! That curve doesn't show any signs of letting up either. I remember the two times I was laid off, in 1993 and 2001, both previous peaks and I was out of work for five months each time, around the average. I really wouldn't want to be in the shoes of anyone unemployed today.

So what can I do to help? I've been giving my presentation on resume writing and interviewing a lot and spending a good deal of one-on-one time with friends getting their resumes in shape. But there are those readers who are not close enough to hear my words of wisdom so I'll place them up on this blog for everyone to see. Even though it doesn't strictly fall in the categories of Project Management or Leadership, I'll make my next post all about how to update your resume, post your resume, conduct effective Network Interviews, Interview and Negotiate for a good job. Hopefully my readers and friends will jump to the head of the pack in the next hiring rounds.


  1. Thanks, Ellen. I'm quite concerned about this economy and am doing my best to help my friends get out of unemployment.

  2. Bruce, I wanted to let you know that your advice to make sure not just WHAT I did, but quantitatively HOW it helped the company I was working for, peeked the interest of an interviewer during the interview. What's even more validating to your advice, is that the reference I made in my resume as to how I saved the company time and money during verification, was three jobs ago. Thanks for great advice. It really works!

    1. Thanks! It's always great to hear success stories. Let me know if you get the job.
      Here's the link to the specific advice you address: