Recently we wrote about a report that claimed unemployed job seekers were more likely to land work than employed job seekers. We were skeptical, and according to comments on Facebook, job seekers had their doubts, too.
Some reactions to the study:
“Maybe it’s just possible that fewer currently employed people are willing to risk letting go of their jobs, for fear that a new employer might lure them away, then end up dumping them after a few weeks or months.” – Dana
“You get more interviews if you already have a job… They want to see that you’re still marketable.” – Jan
“I’m certainly not seeing that. I’ve been out of work going on two years.” – Cyndi
Well, job seekers are the ones going on interviews and not hearing back, so they know best. And a story on NPR’s Morning Edition confirms their suspicions. From the segment:
This is a common complaint from unemployed workers — that employers only want to hire people who already have jobs and that there’s a view that there must be something wrong with you if you’re unemployed.
The CEO of West Coast Careers, Chris Shablak, is interviewed, and his response to the news? He doesn’t think it’s terribly surprising because employers assume no company is going to lay off their best workers. In other words, not only were you laid off, but the most sought-after workers are the ones who still have their jobs.
According to other staffing and recruiting experts interviewed for Morning Edition, that logic isn’t necessarily solid in today’s economy. Think back to the fall of 2008, when hundreds of thousands of jobs were being shed each month. Certainly companies let go of some low performers, but they also made cuts deeper than they wanted to. Workers who weren’t delivering results probably would have been laid off long before the recession began if they were really performing that poorly.
Also, once the economy began to sour and employers were forced to let go of workers in order to save the business, no single line of reasoning was used to lay off workers. Each company had its own method. Some companies decided to lay off workers with the least seniority or who were newest to the company. Others might have had to lay off some of the biggest earners because their paychecks were equal to multiple workers lower on the totem pole. And others were forced to reduce headcount so severely that workers of all levels and skill sets were affected.
But employers aren’t necessarily thinking in those terms, and job seekers are forced to deal with this extra hurdle in their search. The article explains that employers aren’t legally forbidden from including employment status in their criteria, but it could eventually change.
What can you do if you’re unemployed and on the hunt for a job?
Use your former employer as a reference, if possible
If you’re asked why you’re looking for a job and you are unemployed, explain that the company laid off workers due to the recession. Also mention that you had a great experience with the company and that you weren’t laid off due to performance issues and that the employer can verify this.
Don’t make excuses
Be honest. If the interviewer is biased against unemployed job seekers, arguing probably won’t change his or her mind. Instead explain why the company was forced to let you (and other workers) go, but don’t dwell on it or start making up reasons. If the interviewer has more questions about it, he or she will ask them.
Volunteer, freelance or take a class
I know, when you’re looking for a job, you want to focus all of your energy on the hunt. And any time spent doing something unrelated can feel as if you’re wasting your time. However, if you can volunteer somewhere, do some freelance work, or take a class in your industry.
Freelance work might not pay the bills, but it’s a way to stay employed in some capacity, earn some cash and hopefully position yourself well for an interview.
Volunteering can feel like you’re wasting your time because you’re doing work for free and not finding a job. However, volunteering on its own can make you feel better about yourself because you’re helping someone and interacting with others for a few hours each week. Plus, it helps you network with people, which can eventually lead to a job. And it also shows employers that you’re still engaged in some type of work and are active in your community.
Taking a class might be the most difficult route because it costs money and you’re probably looking for a job to earn money. However, if you are in a financial position to take some sort of course or work on your education, do it. It shows that you’re staying current with trends and can give you an edge above other job seekers.
Is this something you’ve experienced firsthand? Have you been asked about your current employment status while looking for a job? Have you been turned down for a job specifically because you’re unemployed? Let us know!