Candidates Experience Discrimination After Just One Month Unemployed

What does a worker who has only been out of work for a month have in common with one who has been unemployed for six months to a year? It appears they are both just as likely to be rejected for job based on their employment status (or lack thereof), even as legislators move to make "unemployed discrimination" illegal.

A recent Huffington Post article discusses a study in which 47 human resource professionals were asked to review resumes that were identical except that half stated the candidate was currently employed, and the other half indicated the candidate had been unemployed for one month.  The HR professionals gave the currently employed candidate higher marks for competence and hireability.

The study also found that unemployed candidates who are laid off are not viewed any more favorably than those who quit their jobs. However, candidates who were laid off because the company went under do appear to get more sympathy.

Employer's preference for selecting candidates who are currently employed is nothing new, but the practice came under fire last year when job postings emerged specifically stating that unemployed candidates would not be considered.  As a result, lawmakers on both the state and federal level have considered legislation against unemployed discrimination. New Jersey passed a law last year banning job ads that are found to discriminate against unemployed candidates. This past May, the District of Columbia took it a step farther with legislation that made unemployed status a protected class, according to the Littler Mendelson law firm. The law makes it illegal for employers in the District of Columbia to refuse to hire candidates based on their employment statuses.

So what are you seeing out there in the trenches? Do employers tend to reject unemployed candidates, even if they have only been out of work a short amount of time?

Views: 903

Comment by Amber on August 7, 2012 at 2:48pm

I have not had any clients refer to not wanting to consider unemployed candidates since I came to recruiting 3 years ago. And I have placed many unemployed people so it seems not to be an issue with my particular clients. I do make sure that with any candidate, I have explained any gaps in work history, shorter term positions, etc. and have that summarized for my clients. There are certain types of positions that are hard to fill with a long-time unemployed person due to contacts needed or technology changing rapidly.

Legislation will not change this practice, just the way the ads are written.

Comment by Andrew Hanneman on August 7, 2012 at 5:26pm

There is absolutely no reason to legislate this.  Certainly not saying all, but most people I come across are unemployed for long periods of time because of decisions they continue to make.  When I come across a great candidate who has a period of time he/she has been unemployed for,I look at their entire career when making a hireability decision. 


Perhaps I am becoming cynical, but for the most part people are unemployed for a reason.  Usually something they are doing, did or havn't done.  Usually correctable if they just modify something about themselves.  Not wanting to commute 30 mins, not wanting to work weekends, not wanting less than 100k, not wanting to take a demotion....Sometimes I think with unemployment we create this net for people to allow themselves to be unemployed.  My view has always been, if I'm working but not liking the job I have, I can afford to be picky, but if I'm not employed I cannot afford to be picky.  Just my $.02


Comment by Randall Scasny on August 8, 2012 at 8:43am

Andrew: I can't let your unthoughtful comment/attitude go unanswered: who's the blame for being unemployed? how about derivative traders (and their credit default swaps) from the UK who lost billions and the shock waves destroyed the banking industry and sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin forcing mass job losses of 700K jobs a month at the end of 2008!

How about my sister who was forced out as a school teacher because of the financial disaster cited above that caused the pension/retirement fund of her school system to lose 15% of its value. The school system hires an HT "hatchet man" (her words, not mine) to get rid of employees to save money.

How about the U.S. auto industry, top heavy with pension obligations (bad decisions by upper management), combined with a financial disaster cited above that drove down auto sales forcing auto dealers to lay off employees because their customers could not a get a car loan because the banking/credit infrastructure froze up.

How about the 1929 stock market crash caused in part by irresponsible investing on margin (bad business decisions) that tanked the 1930s economy causing a 25% unemployment rate! (Read Steinbeck''s Grapes of Wrath to get a taste of what a real depression is all about.)

How about U.S. IT workers toay who can't find a job because they are replaced by Indian OPT, H1b workers who are passed around by the corp to corp body shops? Are you suggesting it's all the job seeker's fault? I hope not.

Yes, people make dumb decisions. But not as dumb as most people like to think. Most of the time it is poor management (your clients) who make bad business decisions who cause a loss of a contract or client. As a result, the hourly workers have to bite it.

I recently helped someone get hire after 3 years of unemployment. I've also seen someone with a few months of unemployment get re-hired after teaching that person how to market themselves, how to act, walk and talk in the hiring process. Much of the problems of the long-term unemployed is the result of a lack of job seeking skills in the online recruitment environment, which has totally changed how one looks for a job and most job seekers are not prepared for it.

I have not directly experienced anyone being discriminated because of being unemployed. Age discrimination is much more prevalent yet nearly impossible for the average person to litigate.

Randall Scasny

Comment by Erin Passmore on August 8, 2012 at 9:13am

I have seen more than a few of my hiring managers make decisions based on someone being unemployed regardless of the time off.  I had one state that if they were laid off, they aren't good enough because the company would have kept them if they were any good.  Others look at a gap and say no regardless of the reason - even a maternity leave they won't take them.  I will work with these managers and try to walk them through a reasonable view but for many they don't want to change.

I have a very good friend who has struggled to find meaningful work for the past 2 years.  He has gotten a contract that was supposed to be 8 months and it ended up being 6 weeks after the entire project was cancelled.  He relocated the North Carolina for it and had to move back to Toronto - the job ended up costing him money in the end.  He has been marketing himself but he is considered "too experienced" or "too generalized" or "too expensive".  

I myself have been laid off - two jobs in a row, once with a company I had been with for 4 years and had promoted yearly.  Another I had been with for 6 months and barely settled in.  I was lucky to find work quickly but for others who don't know the backend of recruitment, it is a really tough road.  

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on August 8, 2012 at 9:18am
Randall, I love your passion around this subject, job seekers need an advocate like you. I too have dealt with many chronically unemployed (my own mother is going through it AGAIN) so I totally agree and get where you're coming from.

That said- Andrew is right too. Certainly not all, but a fair number of unemployed do not take steps to help themselves. They're not reaching out to the right resources like you and me, Randall. I've seen the government attempt to "help" the unemployed and the only thing legislating this is going to do is create more jobs for lawyers bringing baseless discrimination lawsuits against employers.
Comment by Andrew Hanneman on August 8, 2012 at 9:31am


I believe in the beginning I stated that my comments do not apply to all.  Certainly if you were laid off due to your company acting inappropriatly ie the bank situations, you did no wrong and I am not saying the employee is to blame.  I however in a capacity as a person who has jobs that I am trying to fill am amazed at the level of lazyness that many job seekers are at.  I have had people who have told me they are desperate for work, have been out for 9 months, I then have an offer for 80K (average for their industry) for them and they counter at 100k or better yet want a few weeks to think about.  I don't understand that mentality, I would jump at an 80k offer, espescially when you are unemployed and desperate for work. 


I've had people turn down a temporary contract, making $2000 a week for 13 weeks because they didn't want to affect their unemployement benefits of $450 a week.  Do the math on that one.  I've had people turn down a job making below average salary when unemployed because they didn't want to lose their place in the volunteer program at a facility they want to work at.  They turned down money so they could hopes of getting a job. 


These are just a small portion of the crazy things I have heard from candidates who are unemployed and looking.  Like I said in the beginning, this certainly does not apply to everyone.  But I do not believe that we are in an economy that is so bad that there is no work, (I am talking about the US ) there may not be the exact work you want, but there is plenty of work and ways to make a good income to carry you over.  I think some people just choose not to lower their expectations and continue to look for the homerun job.  That mentatlity is fine, it's your life, but then you can't complain about the fact that you have been unemployed. 

Comment by Betsy Park on August 8, 2012 at 2:18pm

I have to agree with both Andrew and Randall as well. Both very valid points. I have encountered literally hundreds who have been laid off over the past few years. The general consensus amongst clients seems to be that if it has been less than 1 year, they are generally OK with it. Anything over that gets questioned. Not saying it's right or wrong, it just is. Those that seem to be motivated, and will make concessions for a new position - not haggle over a few $$ difference, they will usually get picked up, quickly.

Now, I have also come across quite a few candidates who won't take positions because it will "mess up my unemployment". That attitude right there is what will keep them unemployed. I have tried reasoning with candidates about that, about "having a job on your resume is better than not" or even if it is contract, it will give you more momentum looking forward and keep your skills up. Some people get it and some don't. That's just the reality of it.

Now, for myself, I will soon be relocating to the Denver area to follow my Husband's job promotion. Articles like this scare the heck out of me; although I don't plan on staying unemployed long, the reality is, I will be unemployed very soon, by my choice, yes - but that doesn't mean that I don't want to find a new position ASAP. If it comes to me being out of the work force 1 or 2 months, does that then mean the past eight years I have had with my current company is irrelevant? I certainly hope not. But that just may be my reality.

That being said...anyone out there in the Denver area need an experienced recruiter? :)

Comment by Andrew Hanneman on August 8, 2012 at 2:25pm

Betsy I'm sure you will do fine!  Hopefully I didn't offend too many people with my comments, but it is has just been my experience.  Granted I'm still in the "newbie" classification, only about 1.5 years in this industry. 

Comment by Bill Schultz on August 8, 2012 at 2:31pm

I don't care whether my candidate is working or not.  In negotiation, it helps if they are currently working- but that is offset by the looming counter offer.  I don't discriminate, they're all a pain in the neck.  

Comment by Raphael Fang on August 8, 2012 at 4:39pm

When I was unemployed, I was less picky about the job offer.   I have worked for companies that didn't have good reputation or didn't pay well.  I did it because I needed to survive and to stay relevant in the job market.   

It upsets me to see that company openly discriminate unemployed people.  It is not right in my book, because I believe that companies need to hire good people that can bring skills to the office and be successful.  It  should not be about their employment status, but about what they can do for the company.

As for the hiring managers who discriminate the unemployed, I sincerely hope that they don't  become unemployed one day.  


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2020   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service