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You won’t hire me because I’m unemployed? REALLY???

OL24CNN.com posted an article titled “In the job hunt, the stigma of being laid off is hard to erase”. In it, Stephanie Chen, writes:

“As if securing work in a jobless recovery isn't tricky enough, being labeled unemployed brings additional obstacles.”

I was privileged to be interviewed by Stephanie for this article and quoted briefly:

“Many companies will consider hiring jobless applicants, said Harry Urschel, an independent recruiter at e-Executives for more than two decades. He thinks many employers have become more understanding because job cuts are so widespread.”

While I can attest to the fact that there are some companies that do look more critically at candidates that are unemployed, I can also say…

That there are many others that view this time in the market as an opportunity to pick talent that might otherwise be hard to attract.

Can being unemployed be an obstacle? Certainly. Just as being “too old” can be an obstacle, being “too young”, having had too many jobs, having worked at one job too long, being a minority, not being a minority, being over-qualified, being under-qualified, being under-educated, being over-educated… and on and on. Depending on the organization, and the individual looking at your background, any of those factors may be an issue… or none of them might be. Regardless of professional background, or personal circumstances, anyone can find external reasons they are not getting the calls and job offers they are hoping for. My experience tells me that people are usually not selected for jobs for different reasons than they think. It’s usually easier to believe a bias than the reality of the situation.

Your objective in pursuing any opportunity is to show you are the best person for the job… despite any perceived shortcomings. As I’ve written about before… “For every person that says they can’t get a job because of a particular challenge, there is someone else with the same situation that did get a job.” It may take some additional thought, persistence, or creative approach, however, virtually any objection can be overcome when handled appropriately. Everyone can find some reason that is hindering their job hunt if they look hard enough. Don’t focus on why you may not be considered, focus on the unique value you bring to the potential employer!

In this market, when employers are receiving dozens, or hundreds of applicants for every opening, it’s not good enough to submit an application online, or send an email, and wait for a call. That’s all the vast majority of applicants do, and it does nothing to distinguish you from all the others. Even if you’re a “perfect” fit, it’s difficult for your resume to be noticed among the sea of others. Taking extra initiative to find a contact at the organization, proactively call and reach out in additional ways is the only way to stand out from the crowd.

If you’re not getting calls from your applications, it’s likely that it has nothing to do with the fact that you’re unemployed, or “too old”, or under-qualified, or anything else. It’s more likely that you are just getting lost in the crowd.

Apply some more effort to get noticed and you will make far greater progress in your job hunt!


Susan Ireland said...

This is wonderful advice! There's ongoing conversation about how to handle discrimination against the unemployed. I'm so happy to read this refreshing perspective.
Thank you!

Dave Booram said...

I've noticed the unemployed who keep lowering their sites on jobs they are seeking. One of the challenges is to keep aiming high when your heart is telling you to give up.

Aggressive volunteering that can be treated as a sabaatical style internship is another great way to overcome the stigma. Great post on an important topic today!

Unknown said...

Hi Harry,

Well, I'd agree on this except for the fact that I was told by two sources - an HR Manager and an outside Recruiter (who had contacted me about a position I would be "great" for) who told me that none of anything that I did during my time of unemployment - because I was not "paid" was applicable and therefore, despite the fact that my "...skills are certainly impressive" I would not be interviewed.

I am not looking for pity or an excuse, but there is enough of this sort of screening/selection process going on to warrant further scrutiny.

As for the company, I have taken it off my target list to concentrate on other potential employers.

However, I would like to point out that this not interviewing the unemployed is more prevalent that one might think, and the Press isn't helping by perpetuating that this is acceptable.

I actually addressed this issue last week in my blog, pointing out this is not only bad business, it helps to maintain the stagnation of jobs creation.


And least you think that I'm not doing my part in my time of unemployment, I've blogged on that as well:


Yes, I encourage people to try different things. But don't be blind to the fact that unemployment - particularly for the long term unemployed and those over a certain age - is a huge hurdle to cross over.

All said, I plan to up my already busy networking schedule. I truly believe that is going to be the thing that opens the door for the interview process.

LordRhynn said...

I was just turned down even for a screening for a job I have 20 years worth of experience in doing because according to not the company, but the headhunter shilling for the company, "You have in my manager's view not worked in a year or your current projects are not in line with the client's requirements".

I quit my job, doing the same job this company is hiring for plus the work of two other guys, 10 months ago. I have been freelancing ever since, learning, and looking for permanent work. I have received several turn downs for not fitting a company's culture in less time than it could possibly take for them to have reviewed anything about my work history and when I've gone to look at the company websites in every instance the pictures were full of twenty somethings. I will be 44 in two weeks.

Let's review again how not being employed or too old has nothing to do with why nobody responds. M'kay?

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