Unemployment Bias in Hiring

How bad is it for the unemployed today? If we were able to discount the disappointment, helplessness, and feelings of inadequacies caused by the loss of a job, there is still the daunting task of looking for work in an almost hostile environment in a weak economy. It seems that everybody is looking for a new opportunity. That includes those already working that feel the paycheck pinch and fear the ever present corporate ax that has cut down many coworkers and friends. This isn’t good news for unemployed job seekers, because the bias goes deeper than anti-unemployed and leans more toward pro-employed in interviewing and hiring. If you are concerned, first know the facts and then decide what to do to solve this puzzle.

If you are waiting for it to become illegal to discriminate against the unemployed, you might just as well wait for all the planets to align or hell to freeze over. The National Conference of State Legislatures is pushing an agenda to urge all law makers to recognize the problem and do something about it. New Jersey was the first to enact legislation in 2011 followed Oregon and DC in 2012. California passed similar legislation and it was vetoed by the governor last year. Nine more states have pending legislation, but out of 50 that is not a high percentage. Most opposition is not about caring but enforcement… it probably won’t matter very much anyway. We have proved over and over that you cannot successfully legislate right and wrong.

Encouraging news is released every month that more and more jobs are being created in the US and the numbers sound encouraging taken at face value. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, reports the average monthly increase in Q3 of 2013 is 175,000 jobs. At this rate they predict it would take six years to fill the gap of 8.3 million jobs necessary to return to a healthy labor market. The unemployment rates are misleading because of people forced to take part time work to get by. EPI estimates that there are 8.2 million working people who want full times jobs. This number has not improved in over a year.

Now you know part of the problem. The rest lies in antiquated notions about people who happen to be out of work. The word “layoff” used to be a euphemism for getting fired. Hiring managers remember that and some still believe it… for good reason. Corporations are overly careful about analyzing the demographics of the layoff population, but there is usually enough room to squeeze a bit of dead wood into the mix without calling attention to any wrongdoings. THIS is the main objection that you have to overcome when looking for a job from a position of not currently having one. You must be better than the competition and as a result of discrimination [fair or not] you have to try harder.

  1. Do something to improve your education. Proof that you are not giving up can come from working toward a degree, taking graduate courses, and attending seminars.
  2. Do something to expand your skills. Learning new software or technology and working at relevant volunteer jobs show an eagerness to learn and willingness to get your hands dirty.
  3. Do something to widen your network. Most jobs come from other people, not your computer. Get out and meet people at workshops, user groups, and meetups.
  4. Do something to be proactive in your search. The jobs will not come to you. The telephone is your friend and online contacts need to be met face-to-face. A cup of coffee is not a bribe.

Facing reality can be overwhelming if you are not doing something to improve your lot. You will not be able to fight the windmills of discrimination, so just know that if you don’t get a chance because you are unemployed you probably don’t want to work there anyway. Move on, find your niche, and magic happens.

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