I often pop on to Linked In to answer questions from job seekers and other professionals alike on a variety of career coaching, job search and networking topics. This week when I logged on to Linked In to answer questions I saw a response from a professional that prompted me to ask “Is there hiring discrimination against the unemployed?” The original question posted was “What’s the most interesting question you’ve been asked in an interview?”
“How come you’ve been out of work so long?” upon seeing a four-month unemployment gap that straddled the Holiday season, when I was at my last job for over 14 years. I am working now, but I found out the hard way that the latest hiring trend in Corporate America is “Unemployed Need Not Apply”. – Joseph Koptik via Linked In
Unemployed Discrimination: The case for fiction
Joseph’s case does seem extreme. He was out of work a mere 4 months, and over the holidays which basically span 2 months, after 14 years of consistent employment. Then again, was he possibly too sensitive to a question that a hiring manager or internal recruiter was asking because they were either interested in the answer or simply doing their job? Is the unemployed need not apply a real phenomenon or is it a case of overly sensitive candidates? Being unemployment definitely strikes at one’s confidence, and ego, so to be taken to task and asked specifically what you’ve been doing for the past 4, 6, or in some cases, 14 months is a tough question. Switch shoes though, if you were on the other side of the table, would you want to know what the candidate had been doing since he’d left Company XYZ 4 months ago – other than celebrating the holidays?
Unemployed Discrimination: The case for fact
Everyone knows there are two sides to each story and that’s certainly case here. In December I had coffee with an Executive Vice President of a Fortune 100 company that I have great respect for, both the company and this particular executive. During our coffee meeting, we spoke about the hiring trends and he had just had a meeting where several of his key manager had expressed their concerns about hiring unemployed professionals because of the adverse demeanor they were bringing to the organization. After the meeting, they made an “unofficial” decision on hiring unemployed people. They would forego hiring unemployed candidates based on the negative impacts to the organization’s culture and environment. While this was an “unofficial” decision made by the organization, I can understand it, and have to say this is a case when a few bad apples spoil the bunch for what are millions of great professionals.
But I’m Unemployed…What Can I Do?
Keep your spirits, confidence and chin up. Your attitude and demeanor will overcome even the organizations with this type of philosophy. How? In a job market where 80% of jobs are found through networking, landing a new job is going to happen through a focused job search strategy rather than applying online. Remember that people hire people. When you meet the right person that finds value in your skill set, they will champion your hiring in their organization and focus on your value and skills rather than a gap in employment. (Tip: Be ready to explain the gap without defensive language.)