Beating the Unemployment Bias

Job requirements: “Must be currently employed.”

You’ve likely heard “it’s easier to get a job when you already have one,” but what you might not know, is that for some roles, it may be required.

Unfortunately, there is clear discrimination against unemployed job seekers, with some companies going so far as to include “currently employed” as a prerequisite in job ads. Being unemployed longer than 6 months decreases the odds of landing a job even further, with applicants in this pool receiving 45% fewer callbacks than job seekers out of a job for only 4 weeks.  One study even showed that companies preferred to hire unqualified employed candidates over experienced unemployed candidates who’ve been out of work for six months!

The National Employment Law Project is making an effort to combat unemployment bias, but in the meantime, here’s how you can beat it:

  • Apply to companies that don’t discriminate. Several companies have signed a pledge to institute best practices that avoid discriminating against long-term unemployed, qualified job applicants. Major players like Apple, Xerox, General Motors, eBay and The Gap have joined the movement.
  • Engage your networks. Yes, networking is truly the magic pill for all job search ails. In this case, engaging your network enables you to bypass the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that quickly weeds out resumes of those who are currently unemployed.
  • Consider the gig economy. Short-term or contract roles are a great way to earn money and build leads while between jobs.  These jobs tend to get filled faster because there is an immediate need, and might also be flexible so you can carry on with your full-time job search. You may even decide that the “gig” lifestyle suits you!
  • Never define yourself by your employment status. When networking, online, or any place else, “unemployed” should not be part of your brand (so if you have “currently looking” on your LinkedIn profile, remove it!). Even if you’re not earning a paycheck currently, you have valuable skills and experience in your area of expertise, which don’t disappear just because you’re not on a company’s payroll. Your worth is determined by YOU.

While ridiculously unfair, the job search has never been (and will never be) about fair, logical or linear. When you cease using your energy to chase fairness, you can re-direct it into landing that job you deserve, despite the hurdles thrown in your path.

Happy hunting!

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