Is it Time to Change the Way We Hire?

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June 17, 2010

I was having a discussion with a fellow recruiter yesterday and at the tail end of our conversation, we started talking about some of the hiring trends and challenges that we are facing with clients regarding the candidate selection process.  We have both noticed that more and more employers are turning away resumes from people who are currently not working.  He brought a very disturbing article to my attention from the Huffington Post about a few company’s philosophies around hiring people who are currently without a job.   The article sites a few examples of job ads that specifically ask people who are currently unemployed NOT apply to their positions!    

Let’s step back and think about this.  The latest unemployment rate, as of May 2010, is 9.3%.  That’s roughly 15 million people currently without employment and this only accounts for those actively looking for work, not that actual number of people out of work.  As of April 30th, 2010, there are 3.1 million open jobs.  For companies who are unwilling to look at people who are currently unemployed to fill these positions, it’s going to be even more challenging to fill that open seat, which means more money lost due to inactivity and lost productivity. 

Why would a company not want to receive resumes from those who are unemployed?  I’ll play the devil’s advocate and repeat a few of the reasons that I’ve been given by hiring managers over the years.  “Companies only downsize poor performers”, “Unemployed people don’t have good skills, otherwise they would be employed”, “Unemployed people typically have a negative attitude”.  The reality is, yes, sometimes those who are downsized or let go are poor performers.   If you’re fortunate enough to have a great recruiter working with you, he/she should be able to dig into the background of these candidates to find out the truth behind why they are unemployed.  And yes, maybe you’ll get a handful of resumes from unemployed people who don’t match the skills that you are looking for.  Something tells me that you’re going to get a handful of resumes from employed people who don’t have the skill set you’re looking for, either.

The bottom line is, there are people out there who have lost their job through no fault of their own.  Companies are downsizing, closing, off-shoring…doing whatever they can to cut costs in an economy that has been severely struggling for the past several years.  If you are a recruiter or hiring manager, before you discard a resume due to current unemployment, take a second and really look at the resume.  If the person has the skills you are looking for, give them a chance.  We all need to work together to lower our unemployment numbers, and it starts with each of us making a conscious decision to do our part. If you end up hiring the wrong person at the end of the day it is because something is wrong with your vetting process and I am guessing very little to do with the employment status of the qualified candidates you review.  What do you think?