Hiring? Don’t Rule Out Unemployed Applicants

The job market has been tough for the past few years. Budget cutbacks, outsourcing, and shutdowns have left millions of Americans unable to find full-time work. Many of the unemployed are reliable, skilled professionals who have simply fallen prey to a weak economy.

Yet, as The New York Times reports, some employers tend to stereotype: When sorting through a pile of resumes, they immediately rule out anyone who isn’t working in a relevant position or whose job history includes long gaps between gigs. This bias has even been extended to job listings, with employers making statements such as “must be currently employed.” Their logic: If a candidate has been out of work for even a year or two, that person may have missed major changes in technology or in their field.

Employers are looking for professionals who bring expertise to the table. However, training classes, online research, and freelance work can help anyone stay abreast of new developments, even during long periods of unemployment. What isn’t learned independently can be learned within the first weeks on the job.

Here are a few reasons you should consider unemployed job applicants:

  1. Gratitude — An unemployed person has dealt with setbacks. He or she may view getting up on Monday morning to go to work as a privilege rather than a moment to dread. The right new hire will show up with enthusiasm to learn and to do a good job. The trick is to ensure, through interviews and reference checks, that the candidate will continue to be dependable once the initial excitement of landing a job has worn off.
  2. Start-Date Flexibility — A currently employed worker is generally unable to start work for two to four weeks or longer, in order to give sufficient notice of resignation to his or her current employer. An unemployed worker can often begin work immediately, which can be a big plus if your business is understaffed and has urgent requirements.
  3. Loyalty — Look at the unemployed candidate’s resume. If the applicant has had a history of putting in years of service at the same company, it may be a sign that he or she would stay with your organization for many years to come, too. Conversely, employed applicants may be job-hoppers who simply bide their time at your firm until the next opportunity comes up.
  4. Tax Credits — Understandably, state and federal officials want employers to give the unemployed a chance. High unemployment rates put a strain on government budgets. Under the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, businesses who hire and retain unemployed workers may be eligible for tax credits.
  5. Negotiable Wages — Worries of sudden counteroffers vanish when hiring an unemployed worker. You might also be able to hire an unemployed worker for a better price than an employed one, for whom you might have to pay a premium/salary increase/relocation costs to grab them from a competitor.

Research shows that recruiters spend a mere 6.5 seconds looking at a resume, with the majority of that time spent reviewing a candidate’s current job title, previous job title, and education. With so many applicants to choose from, it’s no wonder employers scan only basic information. But before you rule out someone who’s currently unemployed, consider whether his or her experience and situation could actually be ideal for meeting to your current needs.

About Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who also works in information systems. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.
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