Unemployed Need Not Apply

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New York City recently passed a law making it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant based on whether or not that applicant is currently employed.

In other words, they passed a law to keep employers from being stupid.

Outright rejecting applicants currently unemployed has existed for years, but the Great Recession brought the issue to the forefront. Suddenly, not only did people find themselves among the unemployed, but among the long-term unemployed. Employers stating on job postings that only currently employed applicants will be considered didn’t help any. They may as well have plastered WHITES ONLY on their postings.

Employers give a variety of reasons for this stupidity. They claim that they have no reason of knowing why an applicant lost his/her last job. They think that if an applicant hasn’t been able to find a job in a while, it must be because they are not hirable. They state that being out of work for a period of time makes an applicant’s skills out of date.

The worst reason, however, is that the employer states that it gets so many resumes that it needs a way to single out the good ones. The employer may as well use criteria such as pet ownership or what type of car a person drives to screen applicants.

These reasons are never backed up with evidence. So I did a little study of my own using my current organization. In the past 16 months, 32 percent of our hires were not employed at the time of hire. I compared their performance to the those who were employed at the time of hire. Surprise! I found no significant difference. In fact, the poorest performers were all ones employed at the time of hire.

So there.

Candidates find themselves out of work for a variety of reasons, many of which are not their fault. They also may find that they miss out on new jobs for reasons not of their own making. Too many hiring managers think, well if so-and-so employer didn’t like this person, there must be something wrong. In making htis assumption, they forget one important fact.

A lot of bosses are idiots.

They ask interview questions like “Pick two celebrities to be your parents”, or “Name three Nobel Prize winners”. They have fired people for being too attractive or for leaving their post to save a carjacking victim. One man in Chicago was even fired for wearing a Green Bay Packers tie (even as a Bear’s fan, I can’t justify that one).

There are those people who have trouble finding and keeping jobs because they are lousy workers. But you can’t tell that from a resume or an online application. Being unemployed shouldn’t keep the person from getting an employer’s full consideration.

I had an employee who was very open about being let go from her last employer during the interview process. When she told me why she was fired, I almost thought she was lying. It’s something I might have given a reprimand for, but it was by no means a firing offense. She worked for me for several years and always did a great job.

High performers are already difficult to find. Why would employers want to rule out an entire pool of potentially great employees?

I could even argue the opposite. Perhaps that person who has been out of work for 18 months is so eager to work, and values a job so much, that they will repay your faith in him/her with loyalty and dedication that you wouldn’t find in someone who believes that they can just go out and get another job if they need one.

So would I state on my job postings, Only the Unemployed Need Apply? Of course not. I don’t have the evidence to back it up.


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