Lie DetectorThe Unemployed Aren’t What They Used to Be…

The widely held belief among employers is that currently employed job applicants are a better proposition than unemployed job applicants. In fact, reports show that some employers have gone as far as to even include restrictions in job adverts stating that unemployed candidates will not be considered. And as the worrying results from a Bullhorn survey reported in Forbes have revealed, 44 percent of recruiters questioned suggested that placing a candidate that had been unemployed for two years was the most difficult candidate to place— more difficult than a candidate with a criminal record, even.

But, is this antipathy toward the unemployed really justified, or is it a result of prejudice, ignorance and misinformation? I thought I’d look at some of these negative conceptions that prevail around the unemployed and see if beneath the surface there was actually a truer, more positive story.

1. Is any unemployment is a serious red flag? No. Today’s unemployed are there for economic reasons more than performance.

At one time this argument may have been a given. Yes, years ago in pre-recession times with low unemployment,  gaps in resumes were once justifiably seen as a candidate’s lack of employability or motivation.  Arguably, in these older times of low unemployment, anyone who struggled to get a job might understandably be seen as a weaker candidate.

But, in today’s climate of high unemployment and increased use of contingency contracts by firms, are gaps in unemployment such a sure sign of lack of employability or are they more a sign of a lack of jobs, hiring freezes and mass layoffs? What we face in today’s market are a plethora of unemployed but highly skilled and qualified candidates with gaps in their resumes who in past times of lower unemployment would have been employed.

2. Companies that layoff staff let the weakest performers go first, so avoid laid off staff. True, but the cuts have been so deep this time that many talented staff have been laid off too.

None of you need reminding that we have faced one of the deepest and prolonged economic recessions in history. Companies are being forced to make unprecedented levels of staff cuts due to loss of liquidity, lack of customer demand and a restricted financial climate, which means companies are not just letting go of the under performing fringe, they are having to eat into the main body of talented performers.

Many entrepreneurial high fliers also seize/volunteer for the opportunity of a redundancy pay off (I have seen many talented people do this) to start their own business or simply to take a risk on the market-place. Can they be blamed for this? The redundancy pool isn’t what it used to be; sure there are some low performers, but companies have had to cut way beyond the fat into the talent and the redundancy pool contains highly qualified, talented individuals. And the skill when assessing unemployed candidates, just like with hiring employed candidates, is how to distinguish the talented from the average. There is no room or justification for pre-judgment.

3. The unemployed workers’ skills are out of date, they have fallen behind. Not true, as many of them will be using their free time to develop their skills.

These days, there are so many professional learning resources available on the internet and via college and many of the unemployed are using their time off to develop and update their theoretical knowledge or to develop skills in specific areas, which may be of use to the business or to simply learn new skills. Many of them may have volunteered or engaged in some occasional contingent work to keep their skills fresh. The unemployed do not have to and are not stagnating in the way that they might have had to years ago. This is a woefully outdated belief.

The quality of the unemployed work pool has, in my opinion, improved dramatically, meaning it is a viable section of the job market from which employers can extract top talent, provided that employers follow the same levels of  diligence as they would do when assessing a currently employed candidate for a position.

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