By Scott Erker, Ph.D.
I just heard a story on NPR ”Job Seekers Find Bias Against the Unemployed” discussing how much harder it is for those without jobs to find jobs. Considering that earlier this month, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are still 14.8 million people unemployed—a 9.6% unemployment rate. So that discrimination is directed at 10% of the US population.
One job seeker says that while he knows it's not personal—“try telling that to some kid who asked every single girl to the prom in his high school and they all said no. After a while, being told that you're not desired or wanted that many times, it might start to sink in, but you try to block it out.”
How terrible it would be to lose your job, not be able to get work, and then to have the length of time that you’re unhappily unemployed be a knock against you. Especially considering that in the 12-18 months that have passed since companies experienced massive layoffs, the economy has barely recovered with open positions and ramped-up hiring, so individuals haven't been able to recover with a new job for more than a year in many cases.
Traditionally, time out of work has been a viable predictor of performance and turnover.But today, you have the significant confounding factor of the down economy.
The story pointed out that the chance of finding a highly qualified candidate in the ranks of the unemployed was very likely when you look at the volumes of people out of work and the rate that companies downsized.
So how do employers balance this out? It’s important to note long gaps in employment, but to really look closely at skill, ability and motivational fit to the target job as the best predictors of future job performance.
It would be better to look at what they’ve done in the time they’ve been unemployed—have they been developing themselves, exploring new opportunities, networking—or have they been resting on their laurels, hoping that something great would land in their lap.
Scott Erker, Ph.D., is the Senior Vice President of Selection Solutions for DDI.