In addition to mass layoffs and a high unemployment rate, another undesirable and somewhat lasting outcome that can be associated with the recent US recession has been a practice by some recruiters and HR departments to refuse hiring the long-term unemployed. It’s a paradox that has frustrated job seekers, riled up legislators and serves only to impede the recovery of a struggling market. It’s aptly named “unemployment bias” and, unfortunately, is not recognized as a protected class, like race, age, or gender.
It’s unprotected status is not expected to last. California, along with other states who have higher unemployment rates than the national average, are proposing to create legislation banning employers from advertising against the unemployed in job ads and in employment agencies. Nationwide employers have openly included in their advertisements “no unemployed candidates considered at all” or “must be currently employed.” Earlier this year, New Jersey became the first state to pass such legislation and later fined a company that violated the law. The company is set to appeal the fine, citing that the government has no right in legislating a private company’s hiring practices. However, the view held by this company and others who practice the bias is shortsighted. While the refusal to hire unemployed professionals is considered practical to some companies, state legislators see it as an impediment for economic revival. Governments view job creation and the hiring of unemployed workers as a necessary step in the recovery process which businesses are expected to help implement.
What is behind the mindset of this bias? Within the last few years, myths about unemployed candidates have surfaced and continue to perpetuate this practice across the country. The main assumption is that they are unqualified in both skills and cultural fit as caused by their unemployed status. Hiring practices that sort out unemployed applicants before hard skills and fit are verified, eliminate many skilled professionals. It’s simply not an effective recruiting strategy for building a network of prospective talent.
If the position needs to be filled immediately, a qualified unemployed candidate is a logical choice. Unlike currently employed candidates, unemployed hires often do not require an extended start date and can begin their training and onboarding as soon as needed.
For months or years, finding a job fit for them has been their main focus. If given a chance, unemployed candidates are often looking to stay for the long haul and take advantage of the opportunity to build a career. An unemployed candidate is willing to remain more loyal than a passive candidate biding their time at another company.
After many bouts of rejection, unemployed candidates are eager to prove to you and themselves they deserve the position and challenges that come with it. The same dedication they put into getting you to consider them for the position, is what they’ll put into the job once given the opportunity.
Having the right skills, values, and attitude are important factors for any position; being unemployed does not determine the absence of these qualifications in candidates. For effective recruiting, let candidates’ experiences, willingness and ability come before their current employment status.
What do you think? How do you feel about unemployment bias? Are employers justified in their reasoning? Why or why not? Share with us!