Unemployed and Ignored


NOT an effective business card.

I wrote about this in a previous post…“The Stink of Unemployment” specifically refers to the proclivity of recruiters to utilize “employment status” as an unspoken job requirement. In other words, if you’re not currently employed, you won’t be considered for employment. Ironic, yes? Illegal? No.

But, as this Atlantic article points out, there is a very scary existence for those who are part of an especially discriminated-upon population ~ the long-term unemployed.

There’s no way to sugar-coat this particular issue. There is most definitely a filter in the hiring process that targets and eliminates applicants who are not actively employed ~ especially so in any situation that depends on a “blind” resume submission. Right or wrong, as a recruiter you react to supply & demand. Positions that are in high demand will have no problem attracting a supply of candidates, so a candidate with a long-term (per the article, “long-term” is longer than six months) state of unemployment will be an immediate (and easy) elimination. Why?

  1. Relevance ~ In some jobs, being removed from the game for six months could put you at a considerable disadvantage
  2. Perception ~ “Why do I want you if no one else wants you?“; harsh but realistic. Do you want the Chevy with a current owner, or the one that has been abandoned for 6 months? Show me the damn CarFax.
  3. Candidate 2.0 ~ Even if a LTUA (long-term unemployed applicant, you like that?) is identified as a leading candidate, the thinking is that another more attractive (i.e. “employed”) candidate is right around the bend.
  4. Cost ~ Internal Staffing resources and/or Contracted Recruiters are an investment; the way to show value to your client is finding the candidate they can’t find themselves. Even better if you can stick it to a competitor by taking someone they value; that doesn’t translate to the long-term unemployed.

Using a Beveridge Curve (don’t ask) to illustrate the point, Mr. O’Brien reveals even worse news – a candidate who is less qualified, if unemployed for less than six months, will be called back before an LTUA.

This all basically sucks for you if you’re currently in the unfortunate state of being unemployed for an extended amount of time. I can’t crack that code yet, but I do have one recommendation I would offer anyone who cares to listen.

Save a tree and quit sending resumes. Don’t expect a callback from an on-line or mailed resume submission. The stakes are much higher for you, so your role is now a full-time network maven. Network, network, network – in PERSON. Find groups, cold-call offices, call in favors, take a lessor position to get closer to someone in a position of influence. Your job is selling YOU. Ask for help…start here, I’ll listen. We need to get you a different acronym.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn for more samplings of the Hardball message.



Talent Acquisition Executive, team-builder, and full-time dreamweaver. Creative Director, Content Designer, Writer, Speaker, Entrepreneur, terrible golfer, lover of The Art of War & Texas Hold 'Em.

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  • April 26, 2013, 2:45 pm

    You raise the cold reality that is out there. Yes, John, it does stink. Here are ways to blow the stink off of you if you’ve been out of work for a long time or know that you’re about to lose your job. MINDSHIFT: Get ahead of it. Don’t wait for decisions to be made for you and about you. This isn’t about who you are; it’s just about where you are right now and where mindsets are right now.

    Instead of the long term unemployed, you need to reframe how you see yourself which is as someone who has an opportunity to amp their value to the next organization who will hire them by continuing to learn and staying connected to emerging trends and thinking. How? Well, a forced process imposed by law doesn’t really set up a wonderful beginning and believe me life finds away to get around obstacles. The grooves meandering waterways carved by water in the hard rock in the Grand Canyon are testimony to that fact. Water found a way around the rocks and so recruiters and hiring authorities will find a way around this kind of law one way or another. Instead,I’m asking you to see your options in a new light. How you choose to think about your circumstances will determine what happens next.Here are some suggestions for shifting gears right now and taking hold of your life’s wheel. See what you make of them:

    1. Make a commitment to continue learning. One of the biggest concerns about the long term unemployed is that they are now stale, depressed, desperate, damaged goods. There is nothing wrong with people who have been unemployed for a long time. It’s they’re thinking about that fact and what they’re doing with they’re time that is tripping them up. So, take a breath, I know it’s hard, take courses that is relevant to the industry you wish to stay in or go to or the type of role you want. Take advantage of this time to learn, learn, learn. And while you’re at it, please I’m begging you, learn how to use some of today’s technology without cursing when you can’t figure out how to retrieve your messages. You don’t have to know how to write code or be a whiz at any of it, but your typing skills, use of cell phones and computers and some of the basic software programs e.g. Word, Excel are the cost of entry.

    2. While you’re doing that, network, network, network as John has stated. I know, for introverts it’s a tough gig but LinkedIn is your savior! It opens doors and you don’t even have to leave your home office…at first. You must learn to ask your friends and colleagues to make introductions too. BUT FIRST, help them help you. Give them a one-sheet Clarification of Goals that will give them a way to speak about you accurately and help them know what kind of opportunities you’re a best fit for and will contribute most value to. Also remember to ask what you can do for them.

    3.As you complete courses and activities, place them as the first thing on your resume you should put all the courses and activities you’ve been engaging in since your last job. They can be part time, volunteer, apprentice, you got licensed in something, you took courses, you wrote a blog, were interviewed, spoke at events, whatever….you kept active and involved in the area you wish to work in.

    4. Finally, give yourself a break and have some time to just be. You can’t do this 24/7 and not burn out. Pick something you love to do that doesn’t cost a lot if money is really very tight. Affirm yourself for hanging in there and not just throwing in the towel. You are in it to win it and it does take energy. Surround yourself with people who will support and affirm you and keep you above the line. Hanging out with other negative speaking people will only bring you down further. There’s only so much of that that qualifies as venting, the rest of it is just destructive.

    Of course it helps to have clarity before you plunge in. Take a bit of time to ask yourself and your spouse if you’re married, what do we need? What is our situation? Is there an opportunity here that I haven’t had before to shift gears? How long do I have to land the next job and generate income? How do I want this to turn out? It’s imperative to get clarity on your desired outcome and your non-negotiables before you try to figure out the path.

    Whatever you do, try not to let prevailing mindsets put you in a box.I know being unemployed can be a blow to the self-esteem and ego. Bust out of that mindset and make it easy for them to see you differently in the light you’ve earned. Remember, they have a tough job too, as John pointed out. These recruiters are just inundated. How would they ever get through all the resumes, really. Make it easy for them. Ask how you could help the recruiter. Make a partner out of them and ask them who they’re looking for. Be a resource for them and believe me the tide will turn for you. Hang in there. You are worth it!

    And a side note to those in hiring positions: There but for the grace of God go you. Have some mercy and try to see if you can challenge yourself to lend a hand to someone who needs you to see beyond the resume gaps and see the valuable person who still has so much to contribute. The mercy you show may be the mercy you need someday.