9 Lives for Women Blog

Unemployed, Not 2nd-Class Citizen | January 26th, 2013

Yet another reason to have a “Vitamin C” deficiency—employers want to hire people who are currently employed. (In 9 Lives for Women parlance that’s “C” for Confidence.)

I was reminded of this form of discrimination when I read Diane Irwin’s Resumes of NJ blog post, “Do Recruiters Discriminate Against the Unemployed?”. Apparently they do, but it’s about as frustrating as saying men only want to marry women (or vice versa) if they haven’t been in the dating scene too long.

Here’s the root of the discrimination, according to Diane, a Certifed Professional Resume Writer:

Job seekers tell me they have been told that being unemployed was a reason for being eliminated from the process. And within the last year, a job ad got a lot of press for specifying that “…the unemployed need not apply.” Ahhh!! In a good economy, there is an assumption that those who are out of work were not good performers. However, it is hard to understand why this bias remains true in a tough economy when so many top performers are out on the street as well. So, I recently chatted with several local recruiters to ask about this bias and what can job seekers do about it.

Now this is the part that you really have to pay attention to from Diane’s research:

…Recruiters responded employers have a preference for the employed. Some companies feel that those who are employed “made the cut,” so they must be more valuable than those who were downsized.

I know employers can be this myopic and narrow-minded but it’s up to you to remind employers that layoff lists include many more people than those who would be considered incompetent dead weight. There are many, many accomplished mid to senior level professionals who lose their jobs because they are a) perceived as too highly paid in a new cost-cutting environment, b) not part of the team a new CEO or other senior-level executive wants to bring in from the outside or c) the victim of a big change in company strategy that leaves fewer seats at the table.

Your job is to make it clear in a direct, positive and professional way why you lost your job. There’s no shame in losing your job because of major cost-cutting or new strategies/regimes. When you’re silent or cagey about your departure, employers will indeed assume that you were a B player.

Back to Diane’s blog post:

…According to Rachel Evans, Managing Partner, AgentHR Recruiting Group, employers are also legitimately concerned that someone who is unemployed is a “flight risk.”  They worry that a desperate job seeker may accept a position if they have been unemployed for quite some time, and accept a job since it is a “paycheck” to them. That is, the job will help with their current financial difficulties, but the job or company are not really a good fit, and the job seeker will flee when a better position comes along.

I agree that this is a legitimate employer concern—but it speaks to the fact that you have to persevere and find your fit. As a former recruiter I know it is very hard to convince employers that you really, truly want a job that is two levels and many dollars down from your last one.

Rather than taking a job that really isn’t at your level, consider a few easy ways to earn money while you continue your job search. See if you can pick up a very part-time job at a friend’s small company or start-up or find project work through former colleagues. Don’t spend too much time going down this alternative path, though—you need to be squarely focused on your primary job search. And if you really have mastered the job search basics (which even senior-level job seekers too often forget—see my 80 basic tips!), you’ll have the strategies and confidence to overcome any employer discrimination blockade. —KAS

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