Should Unemployed Job Seekers be Ruled Out? Some Think So

Traditionally, recruiters have sought out job seekers who are already employed, as opposed to those who are not.

Apparently, they are even more prone to doing so in the current economic climate.

According to a recent CNNMoney.com article ("Looking for Work? Unemployed Need Not Apply"), companies and recruiters are increasingly letting unemployed job seekers know that they shouldn't even bother applying for their open positions.

What's startling are the lengths to which companies and recruiters are going to communicate this, such as including the phrase "Unemployed candidates will not be considered" right in the job posting. It doesn't get any more direct than that.

After all, they don't need to include such verbiage in a job posting in order to rule unemployed applicants out. So what does that mean? It means that companies and recruiters are simply being overrun with applications, and the easiest way to address that is to convince unemployed job seekers to not even bother applying.

Is it against the law to rule out an unemployed job seeker? Absolutely not. Recruiters and companies can do it all day long. However, can it be considered a good business practice? That would depend upon who you ask.

The fact of the matter is that it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to find a "diamond in the rough," so to speak, to uncover an unemployed job seeker who lost their job due to reasons beyond their control and who could add significantly to a company's bottom line if given the opportunity.

Considering the current state of the economy and the job market, companies and recruiters don't appear willing to make that investment of time and effort. They're willing to gamble that there aren't any hidden gems among the unemployed, instead taking the time they save by not looking for those gems to lure the currently employed superstar candidates away from their present employers.

Here's the harsh reality. Do companies think that everybody who's currently unemployed lost their job because of performance reasons? Basically, the answer is that companies don't care. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't.

Companies are taking the stance that whether or not job seekers lost their job for performance reasons doesn't matter to them; they're not going to expend the energy to find out one way or another. Simply put, it's not worth their time and it's not worth the risk. More than ever, time is money . . . and companies (and by extension, recruiters) are safeguarding both as closely as ever.

Should unemployed job seekers be ruled out automatically? Is it worth the time and effort to find a potential "diamond in the rough"? What are your thoughts?


(Matt Deutsch is a writer for Top Echelon's Recruiter Training Blog.)

Views: 252

Comment by Kathy Thompson on June 17, 2010 at 11:06am
Wow...I'm so blown away by all this talk about NOT hiring the unemployed! I just can't believe that a large percentage of the people who have been laid off due to the ECONOMY downturn are not worth the risk of contacting and they aren't "gems". A recruiting buddy told me yesterday, hiring managers have ALWAYS wanted the passive candidate. But this has become personal for me as my husband was recently laid off and now has become "one of those not worth the risk"! Wow...I'm just having trouble processing it.
Comment by Heidi on June 17, 2010 at 11:08am
Have you thought about this?

As long as the US has massive unemployment, it is difficult for the economy to grow. So basically we all suffer! Seriously think about it!

Furthermore, I wonder how many of these companies that refuse to hire the "unemployed or otherwise damaged goods" would refuse to take their money as a customer. Essentially, by practicing this double standard, they are saying "we won't hire you but we will gladly accept your business". This sheer hypocrisy is stunning! BTW if you have a list of those companies that refuse to hire the unemployed please do share!

It is my belief that when the Human touch is removed from Human Resource; it becomes a function where people are merely objects labeled damaged goods or available for consumption.
Comment by Landa Williams on June 17, 2010 at 11:18am
My outrage aside, this philosophy (or worse yet, policy) may convince job seekers to seek transitional employment. Taking a non-profit volunteer gig or starting a low-cost-of-entry service business (home repair, delivery jobs, etc.) can be a bridge job that gives a person access to more networking and industry opportunities. That path can make it easier for a person to present their current circumstances with a smile as they interview for the next career opportunity.
Comment by Alex Roberts on June 17, 2010 at 12:04pm
I recently received some emails touting recruiter training, boasting numbers of placements in their own agency, and stating they ONLY work with candidates that are currently employed. It is beyond frustrating to me to read this type of banter. Companies do Not always keep the best people due to geographical parameters, budget cuts, etc. I take pride and pleasure helping awesome people who have been affected by site closings, etc. get awesome jobs - even after being out of work 9+ months. Had I, or our clients, passed over them because they were not presently working would have been idiotic as hell.
Comment by Heidi on June 17, 2010 at 12:58pm
One of the issues I have with this "superstar" argument is that a person can do exceptionally well in one organization and then get hired in another company and fail to blend with the culture or boss. This can result in the "superstar" either quitting, getting fired, doing the job but hating it or worse doing just enough to get by.

Furthermore if someone is happy with their current role, in this economy, why would they leave their job? Studies have shown people are indeed unhappy and ready to bail. There are so many variables to this puzzle and one answer is not sufficient.

In addition, if the real issue of not hiring “the unemployed” centers around a high volume of applicants, then the recruiting process may have to change.

Many departments eliminated recruiters, causing more work flow to fall on less people. Obviously you can not expect the same quality of work to be performed by a fewer number of people but, you can make adjustments by working smart. When you’re dealing with high volume recruitment there are several components to consider:

Location and type of position
If the position is local and entry level the recruiter or hiring person can physically manage the flow:

• For example, by appointment only, the recruiter can invite candidates into the facility, give them a tour of the building and address questions as well as provide information to the job seeker on the next steps.

• You can integrate technology i.e. host a webinar talking about the role, requirements ect. In some cases you can add over 250 or more people on a webinar. You can even invite the hiring manager to speak in the webinar.

• Another example, partner with resources to help you screen applicants such as colleges, alumni associations, career centers, professional associations, or employment agencies. These organizations are happy to do this. Those candidates who meet the qualification would go to the next step which would be a phone screen or interview with the recruiter.

Sourcing strategy

If you are getting a high volume of unqualified applicants from a particular source then
• a) The source is not producing the quality of candidate you’re seeking so the obvious strategy here is to change sources- this is an example of how metrics can be used to track and drive results.
• b) There may be issues with how the job ad is written
• c) There may be issues with the instructions on next steps.
Comment by Bobby Whitehouse on June 17, 2010 at 1:10pm
A continued focus on the wrong stuff. Assumptions regarding current employment are just like any other assumption, usually wrong. True story. Big company cuts the fat and small company picks up amazing candidate. He was unemployed for several months. This new employee finds efficiencies in small co. process an cuts manufacturing cost by around 40% on a high-volume line resulting in hundreds of thousands of new dollars in revenue. This is in his first 90 days on the job. Making money through innovation and smart work. Business is the engine of the economy; people are the fuel. Performance recruiting for the win!
Comment by Becki Dunaway on June 17, 2010 at 9:47pm
As a Recruiter, it is absolutely absurd that unemployed workers are not considered valuable resources to pursue. I have always considered any candidate who had the RIGHT SKILLS for the job I was recruiting for! Isn't that the Recruiter’s role?

I feel this from another angle as I am also unemployed with 15 years of recruiting expertise. I have not come across any postings with the phrase “unemployed workers need not apply”. However, I think it is happening anyway. I see the same jobs open now that have been open since last August. They have consistently been open. Here I am people! I am available. Yet my phone is silent. I know my experience has employers thinking they can’t afford me; but I have to feed my family too. How can they assume I wouldn’t take less without simply asking me?

It is wrong to assume that someone who is unemployed is not a "gem". I take pride in my work. The managers I have recruited for in the past loved my work to the degree that I have been requested for follow on contract assignments. But, for the first time in 15 years, my phone is silent. And as someone on unemployment, I am required to apply for jobs (and prove that I did).

Why bother applying at all? All of us unemployed people should just go away. Isn’t that what this means?
Comment by Kim Lavergne on June 21, 2010 at 9:45pm
It is very sad to see companies not giving a fair chance to those who are unemployed. I was with the same company for over 11 years and was part of a RIF due to the company selling their business units and eliminating 90% of the HR department. It did not make a difference that my evaluations were outstanding, many of us were still affected and it wasn't due to performance. In my opinion, companies who hire the unemployed will not only assist in healing the economy but may have an employee who will excel within the organization since they do not want to be unemployed again.
Comment by Dawn Benefiel on June 24, 2010 at 11:16am
In the current climate many companies are handling their reduction of workforce strictly based on function and not on performance. That logic is seriously questionable when we are in an environment of maximizing efficiency and reducing cost considering most skilled individuals have multiple areas of expertise. There are some very talented and skilled individuals out there currently seeking employment. Passing these candidates over for another candidate just because they have a job is only hurting the recruiter in my opinion.

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