This is a distressing trend:
That is the message being broadcast by many of the nation’s employers, making it even more difficult for 14 million jobless Americans to get back to work.
A recent review of job vacancy postings on popular sites like Monster.com, CareerBuilder and Craigslist revealed hundreds that said employers would consider (or at least “strongly prefer”) only people currently employed or just recently laid off.
Unemployed workers have long suspected that the gaping holes on their résumés left them less attractive to employers. But with the country in the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, many had hoped employers would be more forgiving.
“I feel like I am being shunned by our entire society,” said Kelly Wiedemer, 45, an information technology operations analyst who said a recruiter had told her that despite her skill set she would be a “hard sell” because she had been out of work for more than six months.
Legal experts say that the practice probably does not violate discrimination laws because unemployment is not a protected status, like age or race. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently held a hearing, though, on whether discriminating against the jobless might be illegal because it disproportionately hurts older people and blacks.
The practice is common enough that New Jersey recently passed a law outlawing job ads that bar unemployed workers from applying. New York and Michigan are considering the idea, and similar legislation has been introduced in Congress. The National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit organization that studies the labor market and helps the unemployed apply for benefits, has been reviewing the issue, and last week issued a report that has nudged more politicians to condemn these ads.
Given that the average duration of unemployment today is nine months — a record high — limiting a search to the “recently employed,” much less the currently employed, disqualifies millions.
What is the reasoning for this? Do they assume that they have been unemployed for six months so they have lost their work ethic? Or are they just being lazy, and assuming that people who have been unemployed for that long are unemployed for a reason, and they don’t need to even waste time looking at their applications?
It’s a very weird stigma. I would assume someone I hired after 9 months of unemployment would be very eager to work, very motivated, and gracious and loyal to their new employer.
The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik
John, you’re way late to this boat. This shit has been going on since at least the middle of last year.
Not that it’s any comfort to the long term unemployed, but is it even legal to discriminate like this?
Matthew Reid Krell
I suspect that if you pressed an employer on the matter, they would say that they were just trying to make their search more efficient by eliminating candidates whose skills had atrophied, or some bullshit like that.
To which I say, “So, if I lost my job practicing law today, but got another job at McDonald’s tomorrow, and applied for a job with your firm a year from now, you’d consider me because my skills wouldn’t have atrophied?”
Which, of course, murders that whole concept. Remember, if you don’t succeed in this country, you’re a failure.
My boyfriend has been out of work for almost 4 years. (He got laid off about a month before the official recession, and missed all of the unemployment extensions by a few weeks. AWESOME SAUCE)
He stopped getting phone interviews after about 9 months. He still tries though. We’re trying to scrape together the cash to send him to school.
It’s really brutal, I know it has done a number on his self esteem. To make matters worse I am constantly contacted by headhunters and have upgraded jobs 3 times since he’s been unemployed, but at least we are scraping by. He’s just miserable, I know if someone gave him a job, he’d be the best employee evah.
Hell’s bells, even before the jobs crisis all you had to do to be permanently unemployed was to be 55 or over and looking for work.
Obviously a balanced budget amendment, permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts, and a ten-year, $8 trillion cut in spending will solve this problem.
It’s been going on longer than that, it’s been going on for at least 10 years, only now people are noticing it because there’s a larger number of long-term unemployed.
It’s part of the New Cruelty.
Current workers are probably presumed to have fewer unexpected problems because they have a current track record of not having problems. The logic probably runs: if the labor pool is deep, why take chances?
Villago Delenda Est
These people WANT to create a revolution. That seems to be their goal.
I have been out of work 6 months due to illness, so this really really ticks me off. But then isn’t that discrimination of disability in my case?
We have a policy where I work to flag people recently laid off so they can receive priority in rehire. But departments use this flag to weed out prospective candidates because they don’t want to hire someone else’s problem. In other words, they think that departments use reorganizations and layoffs to get rid of problem workers in a way that does not require documenting performance issues.
I assume that the same thinking applies in the marketplace in general.
It was right there, in the fourth paragraph.
All part of the “if you’re struggling financially in any way, it’s because you’re a lazy loser leech” mentality that invades literally every corner of the American consciousness.
The thinking doesn’t change as national circumstances do — in any discussion of the ACA, look at how many people are still screaming that people should “get jobs and pay for their own healthcare instead of wanting something for free!”
yes and yes.
When hiring wage slaves, you don’t want one who’s just experienced 9 months of freedom. You want one who hasn’t looked up from their computer monitor for 10 years.
the bigshot MBA consultants say no point hiring people who have been laid off for a while. what they say is the truth, because, you know, they went to Harvard.
Rampell has a short follow-up here.
c u n d gulag
Great, first there are almost no good jobs.
And now, I probably can’t even get a shitty one because I’ve been out of work for 14 month.
With my last unemployment check, I’m buying a fucking gun and some bullets.
And no, not for suicide…
It’s flat-out laziness, because you can have the unpaid HR intern go through all the resumes and toss the ones that aren’t currently working, whcih means less crap that you have to read.
I would guess that they’re using employment status in the same way as colleges use SAT scores, as a general weeding measure. Given that any attractive job opening is probably getting eleventy-billion applicants, they must feel like they have an advantage in simply not considering someone who’s likely been vetted (and not selected) for previous openings.
I hate to say something this hyperbolic, but isn’t it obvious now? These people simply HATE the poor.
If you are getting hundreds of applications to any open position, you need a quick and dirty way to reduce the height of the stack. Long-term unemployed may or may not have been responsible for where they are, but people who kept their jobs through recent times are probably good at clawing their way to the top.
The real cure for this isn’t so much making rules against the practice, which can and will continue de facto even if it’s banned de jure. Instead we need to bring down unemployment overall. (Too bad the Republicans are working hard and effectively to see this doesn’t happen.)
I guess they believe, like many Republicans, that those that are unemployed are unemployed because they are lazy and shiftless and that they became unemployed and are still unemployed because it is their own damn fault.
And they would almost be right, if companies had been hiring 2 years ago, and if anyone had actually interviewed those people. But they haven’t, because no one was hiring when they got laid off, and now no one will look at them because they’ve been out of work too long.
It just mega sucks if you are one of the Long Term Unemployed, what are you supposed to do if no one will give you a chance? Besides be less of a lazy waste of space of course.
I have been out of full-time employment for 2 1/2 years now. Part of the problem for me is that my skill set – librarianship – does not apply well to anything outside of libraries (even education jobs require more, such as teaching certification). Worse, libraries themselves have been hit hard by the push to cut social services at the state and county level (because counties can afford to close libraries, but not fire stations or police precincts).
I’ve tried expanding my skill set to get into computers/desktop support, but the IT industry’s been hit recently to where they can insist on more than just an A+ Cert and basic repair skills (they want C#, Oracle, Java, etc).
Thankfully I am getting some calls now, and possibly a job contingent on a background check (I hope to hear back soon), but being out this long has hurt me emotionally. I’ve tried keeping up with all new library trends, keeping fresh on research skills, all that, but the despair of ever finding full-time employ was just… is just heartbreaking.
I remember hearing this back when I graduated college in the ’80s. It’s not a new phenomenon. In fact, the saying then was it’s better to be employed, because people will look at you before someone who is unemployed, period.
The underlying assumption is that you’re unemployed for a reason that is of your own making. People (like hiring managers) who lack empathy won’t change just because economic circumstances destroy their alternate reality.
My thoughts exactly. This person would seem to be the most loyal, willing-to-do-anything employee in the house. Probably could hire them at a discount, whereas the already-employeed guy wants a raise and better bennys.
I think that 2006 thinking has not caught up to a 2011 world. Yea, five years ago or more, if someone had been out of work for a long time it probably meant that they were not exactly a top-notch go-getter, or had skills that were no longer in demand. Or companies always cut the fat and less-useful first. I think HR’s are still operating on that principle (show me a HR person whose been downsized!), but in 2011 many very good workers have been unemployed for a long time because the economy sucks.
There aren’t any laws against this sort of discrimination except in New Jersey, and it really is for the best that people can’t arbitrarily choose protected classes without legislative debate.
As for this particular law, I think it’s fair to say that an employer has good reasons to ask about a potential employee’s recent career history – explain why you were fired from your last job, etc. So to pass something like “employers are barred from inquiring about a potential employee’s joblessness” would be overdoing, and rightly cause a fit among business owners.
But I also think the Interstate Commerce / Necessary & Proper clauses clearly allow Congress to pass something like
“Employers shall not use employment history as a means to deny employment to a particular job applicant, unless said employment history indicates reasonable concern that the applicant could not adequately meet the responsibilities of the position.”
Of course, this law alone wouldn’t solve the problem, because a lot of the long-term jobless are – through absolutely no fault of their own – increasingly obsolete and desperately need re-education and new skills. So if there were to be this sort of law, there should also be a “Federal Reserve will give you cash-money to go to community college or vocational school” law, along with a lot of Congressional appropriations to the states’ adult education programs. 10 years ago, the Republicans probably would have supported this.
 UH-OH DOES THIS MAKE ME A SHITTY NEOLIBERAL-SHEEPLE
Also , a “Federal Reserve will hand you a fuckton of cash-money if you keep your kid in school, vocational or otherwise” law. (yes, that should be the text of the bill) We tell our kids that they “need to start at the bottom of the latter,” meaning bagging groceries or flipping burgers. And that’s an okay job for a lot of high schoolers to have! Particularly those who are more focused on their studies and just want extra spending money. But it’s an awfully shitty job for a high-school dropout to have – it makes a lot more sense to give that kid’s family money to have him attend, say, automotive repair classes.
Of course, if you are unemployed there must be something wrong with you.
Good people are employed. Bad people are unemployed.
BigHank53: Well, companies big enough to have HR departments like nothing better than to have clear metrics, and this offers a very clear metric for scoring applications. I’m not defending any of this, btw, which I think is quite stupid, but it’s as much a product of bureaucratic logic as nefarious conspiracy. (Not to discount st all the real possibility of nefarious conspiracy assuming form as bureaucratic logic, which it does quite frequently.)
Because human resources folks are as lazy as anyone, and twice as likely to follow any dumb trend in their own profession.
The whole process of getting a job is ridiculous to begin with. The whole cover letter, resume bullshit. What one employer is looking for in a cover letter, another isn’t. You get conflicting advice on how to write one, how to put together a resume (is more than one page too long? is one page too short? What if you had a lot of jobs)
It’s so stupid, there are so many hurdles that I often wonder how people who have jobs, got them. Even when I finally did get a job, I didn’t understand how it was so easy this time but so hard the other 23902385923589235 times. It doesn’t make any sense.
I hesitate to sound tone-deaf here, but there are possibly opportunities for volunteerism that could be used on an application/resume to look like a “real” job. Working as a volunteer teacher’s aide, at a soup kitchen, local elderly assistance center, etc.
(realizing, of course, that there are economic considerations involved)
And of course, in the United States of America, politicians are focused like a laser on job creation and reducing unemployment through the proven economic theory of government stimulus and spending. Oh wait…I forgot we now live in alternate reality America, where the more cruel and economically debilitating your policy goals are the more likely you are to win re-election.
As several econobloggers pointed out a while back, long-term unemployment is an immense waste of human capital. In a lot of industries, job skills definitely atrophy without regular use. The longer this “Lesser Depression” goes on, the more human capital disappears, making us all poorer in the long run.
The Moar You Know
The job you have at age 50 will be the last one you ever have. And that age is going downward.
Being 45, I am more than a bit concerned about this.
America, *Land of Opportunity
*Must already have a job to qualify
Jack the Second
Humans are really bad decision makers. Even given straight-forward questions, if you put them in a room with enough people purposefully saying the wrong answer, they’ll trust the crowd over their own judgement.
When it comes to something like hiring, where no one really knows how to tell if a candidate is a good fit for a job, it’s going to be even worse. The assumption with someone who has been out of work for a long time is that they’ve been trying to find work, and been rejected dozens of times. The crowd is telling you not to hire him.
So it’s the same old problem in a new guise. It takes an exceptional person to stand up to a crowd. We need more of them.
The Moar You Know
Louise: This is 100% truth.
You can’t have a proper oligarchy without a permanent underclass.
Most jobs (with one or two exceptions) I have ever had, I got because I knew somebody. If you are back with the pack, good luck plowing through the BS.
Captain Gloom John Galt Cole never saw a bad economic story he didn’t get a hard on over.
Stay Gloomy John…..
Just part of our longstanding cultural disease that if someone hits a rough patch in life, it must be because of some moral failure on their part.
@ arguingwithsignposts #35
I know it seems like a good idea, and it is if you know you’re not going to get hired in the next month or so. But when you’re unemployed for a long time, volunteering and other activities seem like a waste of time. Just think — all that time you spent at the local kennel, you might’ve missed applying to that one job that’d be the one to hire you.
I’ve heard the volunteering suggestion a lot. I don’t know of anyone it has actually worked for. If you do, let me know.
Amanda in the South Bay
Ah, HR. The same people who post IT job ads wanting X number of years experience with a language or OS, when said language or OS hasn’t been around for X years…
The thing is, you can make all sorts of laws against this, and HR departments will still continue to do it. Employment discrimination laws are best at protecting people who are currently hired, not prospective hires. Its simply too difficult to prove anything. That right there is speaking from the experience of someone in a marginalized community (trans people) where that sorta thing happens all the time.
I’m not entirely sure what the solution is, other than wishing for a revolution where HR is first up against the wall…
@jheartney: second that. It’s not necessarily “networking” (fsm, I hate that word), but something similar. Connections through family or friends or people you meet in the industry. Networking, to me, implies that you’re just doing it to make a connection that will get you somewhere.
Of course, a lot of that doesn’t necessarily help if the entire economy is sucking.
Let them flip burgers.
Over 30 years in IT. This is not new. Employment cycles go up and down, available pools of people shrink and grow. The larger the pool, the narrower the band of people getting interviews and being hired. The smaller the pool the wider the band gets. It has always been that way.
My advice to someone trying to get back into the active band is to get some training. Sign up for a class in the latest version of the skills, tools or software in your particular subject area. Employers notice recent training and it can take the edge off of an employment gap. Also it shows interest and commitment to currency. If there is a certification path, get on it, and if possible, get certified. If your certification is not recent, refresh it with training.
This strategy takes some work and an investment of time and money, but it is well worth it. Also, you’ll meet people currently working with new versions of tools and software and find out what they are up to, what the new challenges are … much better than you can do by reading the trades or having lunch with your old buds.
Unfortunately currency is a big deal in these fields and you just have to constantly train and read into the current trends, or get left out.
Am I the only one who has ever lied on a job application? That six or nine month gap between jobs can easily be explained away in a variety of ways and can be used as an advantage. For example, explain to your potential employer that you attempted to create your own business, but that you had a rough go with the weak economy. Most business owners can relate, and it will highlight your skills and independence.
Just remember. It’s not a lie… if you believe it.
Laziness on the part of the employers, yes, plus employers tend not to be all that bright or creative. I ran into this phenomenon myself job-hunting in the early 80s. After a year of job-hunting, I finally resorted to taking temporary office jobs, one of which helped open the door to the permanent job I finally landed (and only then because the person doing the hiring had the foresight to have his short-list of candidates turn in work samples, rather than hiring solely on the basis of resumes and interviews).
It’s also structurally good for employers to have the ability to threaten your current employees with joining the ranks of the permanently impoverished unemployable underclass. And by destroying the safety net in the name of “austerity” and coddling imaginary “job creators”, that threat becomes even more intense.
This vicious class warfare brought to you by your real rulers — the wealthy — and their courtesans and aspirants in poliitics.
Amanda in the South Bay
Yeah, don’t get me started on women’s fashion for job interviews. Oh noes, you wore your hair down! You are a worthless piece of shit who is a slob!! The fashion guidelines are totally arbitrary and fucked up.
The whole job seeking process has become a fossilized turd that really needs to be thrown out.
Employers are using every trick in the book to keep people off their payrolls. Employment status is just one of those things. It’s as if the massive layoffs of the last few years – and the “jobless recovery” of 2003-4 and “outsourcing” and all the other payroll tricks of the last decade or two – have no bearing on one’s employment history, and only “bad” employees were hurt by these things.
But that’s hardly the only problem for the modern job-seeker. Too often, looking outside my local market, I hear the term “salary history” used as a disqualifier. This despite the substantial differences in compensation and cost of living between where I am and the target markets I am pursuing. The perception in HR is that you should already be making what the new job offers, and if not then you’re obviously not worth what the new job pays.
The current market conditions are a no-win situation for jobseekers. If you wait for a position that matches or exceeds your last one, you’re perceived as being idle and maintaining a poor work ethic; but if you take what employment you can find to make ends meet until the right job comes along then you’re an inappropriate match to that position because your “salary history” won’t support hiring you for that job. In short, if you wait for the right job, you’re screwed for being lazy, but if you try to keep working, you’re screwed because you’re not worth what you’re qualified to do pays.
The saddest thing about the current mess is that employers can get away with this, since the labor pool matters less to them than their quarterly statements and/or stock price.
Unfortunately training, especially IT training is not cheap. Just the A+ certification exam itself is a couple hundred dollars, that doesn’t include a class. And that is one of the cheaper certifications you can get.
Where exactly are the unemployed supposed to find a couple of grand to drop on a training class? Many of the training classes I see are designed to be paid for by employers and run in the 1k-1.5k range. (Unless we’re talking community college stuff, but how relevant is that?)
I’m not saying it isn’t a good suggestion, it is just a lot easier to say than it is to do.
@Marmot: @Shinobi: And yet, here they are.
The point of the volunteering comment is not only that it could be put on a resume, but it also keeps the person occupied outside of the job hunt. Once you’ve sent out your 100 resumes for the day, use the rest of the time to do something productive for those less fortunate.
You asked, and that’s a potential way to keep the person somewhat sane. Like I said, I don’t want to sound tone deaf, and there are huge societal/personal hurdles involved in that. Our society builds a lot of our self-worth into our jobs. We suffer when these economic situations come because of that pressure.
I don’t personally know whether the volunteering aspect has worked to get some people employed. I do know there are a lot of recent college graduates who are working as unpaid interns (basically volunteering for massive corporations) in the hopes of getting a job.
Lynda.com, for instance, is a relatively cheap online training program for various computer skills. There are a number of Internet sites with training books, videos, etc. The quality varies widely. Now, certification is an entirely different issue. But the information is there. Translating it to a cert is another matter.
They think this because it is largely true, especially in any corporate environment, and almost always true in a publicly held company.
#58 — You are correct, it is not cheap. But it’s worth it if you are serious about leaping over an employment gap. I know it sounds tough when you are already stressed over bills and money. But … that’s the way the industry is, I wish it were not so. In lean times, it gets worse, a lot worse. In fat times, things loosen up. I remember back in the Y2K days (the years leading up to 2000) when every programmer who could peck out a line of code with two fingers was in demand … and older skillsets were valuable because old software needed revision. If you could move and speak, you could get an interview. But those days are over. And the industry just relentlessly drives the technology boundary forward. As soon as you are a journeyman in the new thing, it’s the old thing.
Beg and borrow the money, take a job at the market bagging groceries to get the money if you have to, get the training, and good luck! I’ve been there and I know what it feels like.
So you’re saying RIM, which just laid off 11 percent of its workforce, had 2,000 problem workers?
The Moar You Know
Money that we could have used to hire an intern/office assistant – and we could use one – has instead just vanished into the ever-expanding black hole that is our health insurance. Another 20% year YoY increase.
And another year of mandatory overtime, salaried and therefore unpaid. Hooray.
I have three relatives who’ve found work through volunteering:
1) My sister-in-law volunteered for a local National Trust property after maternity leave left her jobless, and was able to get tipped off about a PR job in the regional office.
2) My aunt volunteered with a local kennel and met another volunteer who found her a good administrative job.
3) About 8 months after my parents sold their business (years ago), my Mom was finally able to get back to work when she asked around at a PTA meeting, and got a couple of business cards that led to an interview.
comrade scott's agenda of rage
The husband of a friend is a chemical engineer. Has been unemployed for 2+ years now. Doesn’t help that he refuses to move and the job situation where he lives (St Louis metro) sucks hind tit.
Admittedly he’s pretty lackluster at all things, including work but his resume looks good…except for that now-gaping hole in it. And the fact he’s 50+.
No. You are a knowledge worker, experience in a knowledge worker field counts, service and labor doesn’t. If you were a paid writer for example, that works.
Paul in KY
Before the economy went to shit, this was standard practice: you were leery of someone who had been out of any work for months. Do they have a work ethic? Why couldn’t they find any work, etc.
Now, I think there’s many valid reasons for long periods of unemployment. Feel sorry for those in this boat.
I’d also add that a long gap in your resume would also imply you are not as “in touch” with the latest trends or whatever in your industry, so you would require more time to get up to speed.
I think this is more a matter of perception than reality, since things aren’t changing so rapidly that 6 months would make much of a difference.
Also, the number of job openings per applicant isn’t at the levels that would indicate strong growth in the labor market. From what I’ve seen prospective employers are being very, very picky when they make a hire. If the candidate isn’t a 100% perfect fit, they just keep on doing without the added person; there is no rush to fill open positions, unlike in other economic recoveries, when businesses felt a need to fill open jobs, in order to meet increased demand.
i got laid off in 09, with a nice severance package. so i spent seven months sleeping in and letting my hair get long, and getting over the resentment of being outsourced and then having to train my replacements.
when i got back into the job market, nearly every interviewer skeptically asked me what i was doing for all that time. training classes? keeping sharp? had i been looking for work?
nope! just chillin, bro!
luckily, my resume eventually landed on the desk of someone who knew me from a previous job. helps to know people.
yeah, i did some work on my own ‘company’, but not a lot. just enough to keep me from forgetting how to type.
I second the volunteering strategy. It puts recent work experience on your resume and may also teach you a few skills in the process. Plus, it shows potential employers — those bright enough to figure it out, anyway — that you’re really willing to work. I do know of people whose volunteer work led to actual employment. And no, it doesn’t have to take away from job-hunting time. Part of the beauty of volunteer work is that, unless you’re doing it for an unmitigated asshole, you’re likely to have a little flexibility in hours. When you’re already putting in a free day’s work where you’re volunteering, the people you’re volunteering for are going to be more willing to let you take hours or days off to accommodate job-hunting.
@5 Dennis SGMM wrote,
I’m mid-40s now, and SWMBO has been chomping at the bit to move for quite a while. My current occupation is pretty small-niche, so there’s a good chance I’d have to switch careers. I keep telling SWMBO that while not impossible (my tech skills are good and I have top-flight schools on my resume) it won’t necessarily be easy at my age.
What I really don’t understand is why the tech industry hasn’t been decimated by age-discrimation lawsuits. At least in my wife’s line of work, not sure about age-related, all you need to do is establish a pattern of discrimination. Which I assume re tech sector would be pretty easy.
I cannot speak to national trends. I’m personally hiring in silicon valley for a very competitive type of position; I have several slots open. Last year I looked at ~350 resumes, interviewed about a third, and ultimately hired three people. I have absolutely filtered out people who were had a pattern of being being off the market for long — but only if they had a short period at a previous job. That is, if you worked for a company I know was hungry for people (e.g., Zynga) for four months, then you left and didn’t get another job for six or more months, my main conclusion is that you have some type of personality difficulties.
I’m still comfortable with that conclusion. But based on this article, I’ll make sure that our recruiter doesn’t filter out resumes on my behalf using the more relaxed rule of “no recent job”.
There was a recession and there were no jobs
That’s always been my problem, but that’s because the only jobs I get are temporary jobs, four-five month stints. The longest job I’ve had is the one I have no; 20 months so far. I’m waiting for the two year mark to look for other opportunities though I like it here.
I own a small business and just completed some hiring. The only thing than hiring someone in my experience is firing someone. Firing someone, especially in a crappy economy takes an emotional toll on me, but hiring is just raw time and frustration.
Lots of people look good in paper, and make it through rounds of interviews, but are awful once you actually have them on the team. It costs a lot to bring someone on, introduce them to the client, onboard them, train them, setup health insurance, 401(k), direct deposit, access to systems and all the rest, and then possibly have them leave or need to let them go after a few months.
Add a few thousand in cost if you need to run through our awful H1 process, and the risks associated with a bad hiring choice add up fast. It isn’t shocking that employers are careful when a candidate has jumped from job to job or hasn’t worked in over a year.
The unemployment rate for an IT person over 50 was 20 or 30% in the last study I read. That’s very bad, of course; but it is not 100% The IT world is not Logan’s Run. I’ll hire anyone of any age who has kept up with technology. The question is always, do you have N years of experiences, or do you have 1-2 years of experience that you repeated N times?
These people view the historical dialectic as some sort of dare.
Another thing I have done during a “between jobs” situation is to become a consultant. Do any work that comes along in any context related to your field. You may not make a lot of money or get a decent engagement on your own, you might want to let consultancy firms in your area know that you are available even if you are just “on the bench” for six months. But those periods don’t look like unemployment gaps on paper. I’ve also done classroom instruction in my particular field to make some money and stay active between projects or assignments. If you have any skills in that area, good instructors are always being sought. And it can be a lot of fun. Personally, I enjoy the hell out of classroom instruction and I am thinking of trying to find some of that kind of work right now.
“I have gotten a couple of short engagements, although I haven’t gotten all the hours I really wanted” sounds a lot better than “I have been sitting at home and watching Perry Mason reruns and doing Sudoku a lot.” Although, the latter lifestyle is sort of tempting ….. heh.
As someone already stated, just lie. As the employers that have replied to this thread have conclusively proven, these people don’t give a fuck about you or your situation and are only interested in what’s easiest for them. The worst that can happen if you’re found out is that you don’t get the job. Which you wouldn’t get anyway if you didn’t lie. There’s no moral requirement to play by their stacked rulebook.
In areas like IT, 6 months out of the loop may mean you have missed out on new advances in technology such that you are less educated on current practices and technology than those who only recently left employment or are merely seeking a change of employment.
And with the number of people out of work, employers can afford to be picky. There is a high supply of workers, so why wouldn’t employers want to get the most qualified, most recently unemployed people for the job?
Of course, the govt can’t sit back and let the free market be free – they have to step in and meddle every time. Why not just stop the charade and mandate that employers have to hire so many unemployed persons, and just tell employers who they have to hire. That way, we can get rid of unemployment permanently. Just force employers to hire all the unemployed and, problem solved!
I don’t mean to discount the value of volunteering. It’s certainly better than sitting around, and if you can volunteer in a related field, that’s a great idea. Particularly for a recent grad.
But I’m definitely in a field where responding to a job ad in hours, rather than a day, makes a big difference. Each ad pulls in dozens of applications — if not hundreds — and given HR laziness, I strongly suspect they’re just throwing later applications in the trash.
That said, I’ve taken a few freelance jobs that are nearly volunteer activities in themselves.
@77 Rathskeller wrote,
It doesn’t need to be 100%. All you need is to prove a pattern of discrimination.
Now you might counterclaim that a lot of these older applicants don’t know the relevant tech, etc, but just based on what I’ve seen of my wife’s work (which is usually more based on sex or ethnicity), it’d be pretty easy to take a company like Twitter (which I’ve heard has a very youth-oriented workforce) and bash them with a lawsuit.
Not saying that’s good or right; just saying I don’t see why more lawsuits aren’t filed and won.
I recommend against lying. At least in IT. It’s a small world, and if you get labeled out there as a flake or a prevaricator, your are through in the fields I worked in. My integrity was something I guarded carefully. I wouldn’t lie to get a job and I wouldn’t lie to a client or customer to keep an engagement or protect a project, even when my employer told me to.
Good luck, PaulW. This sucks harder than anything ever sucked in the history of suckitude.
I don’t know why the lawsuits not more common, although the length & cost is probably the main cause. Brian Reid has been having his lawsuit against Google slowly meander through the courts. (I’m a big fan of Reid, since I go back as far as Scribe). The expense, both financial and emotional, of such a lawsuit must be quite high.
Only a class-action suit would make sense, but even household name companies like Twitter have ~150 employees. So the class of “older competent folks not hired by twitter” is not large — unappealing to many attorneys I am sure.
But it is a youth-oriented culture. Not one of my employees has ever physically touched a LP record or a phonograph. They’ve seen them in movies; that’s all.
Three years unemployed, but I can explain it from the employer’s side.
So the rolls of the poor get larger and meanwhile the rich want to reduce the total support.
This probably won’t end well, but it won’t end soon either.
Paul in KY
OzoneR, make sure your resume indicates it was a temporary job. You don’t want them to think you were a permanent salaried employee who only lasted 4 months.
from a business stand point it doesn’t make sense that they’d prefer to try and lure a currently employed person away from their present position… it usually takes quite a bit of $$ and incentives to make folks change jobs mid stream, unless they’re really unhappy… and the person taking that job isn’t showing that they could be a ‘loyal employee’ … on the other hand, businesses could hire a long-term unemployed person for less, invest a bit in training them to get them up to speed for the job and they’d have a much more loyal employee for a longer period of time, at least until they got caught up with their bills and saved a significant amount of $$…
Amanda in the South Bay
Well, in Reid’s case, he was fired whilst working for Google. Its a lot harder to prove discrimination occurs during the hiring process-I assume you have to do a bunch of statistics and find enough people for a class action lawsuit, or something. I think most employment related lawsuits over discrimination are filed by employees who are fired, not by prospective applicants.
This is just the logical extension of the American Dream: them that has, gets, and them that don’t, don’t.
Lying is the fastest way to an exit when I am looking at a resume. I’ll also compare what people have submitted on paper to what they happen to have written on LinkedIn.
The most common form of lying I’ve encountered is to claim much more responsibility for a larger project than they actually had, and then it is knowledge that they don’t actually have. It’s like they don’t think they’re going to be talking to someone who knows technology.
It is fine with me if someone can hardly spell Java. But if you claim that you’re an expert in Java, I can ask you almost anything, and you’d better shine. That’s not so much lying as it is self-knowledge. I frequently think that some of my candidates are unaware of how little they know.
Probably one of the reasons lawsuits aren’t common is that when you get laid off (at least at my company) you have to sign a waiver stating you won’t sue before they will give you your severance. No waiver, no money. So even if you want to sue you would have to do it without any income. How many people are going to take that chance?
Amanda in the South Bay
One thing you can do, if you’re interested in the programming side of IT, is to try and work on a side project of your own that you can submit with a resume. Something like a phone app is a good choice. Sorta like a sample of what you can do on an up to date language and platform.
Yeah, there’s that.
That part I don’t quite get. Except that I assume young people are more able (physically, and in terms of less likely to have kids etc) to put in really really long hours.
I’m only talking about suing a company that didn’t hire you.
Nope, but the HR flacks are going to assume that the remaining 18k RIM employees are the really good ones. The problem here isn’t the non-hiring of long term unemployed, the problem is the fact that there are so many long term unemployed in the first place. Unfortunately, the Republicans are far to batshit to do anything to try and create jobs.
There is obviously some anti-hipster discrimination going on there.
Oh this is depressing. I am trying to relocate to North Carolina (my wife’s company, a large insurer, is ‘consolidating’ the work force), and resigned my decade long teaching position in Florida to give them the summer to replace me. So I am technically unemployed. I’m looking for a teaching job in North Carolina, and one principal emailed me back and said not to bother submitting my resume; she already had too many to go through. Another said that he had 160 applicants for two social studies positions, but hey, throw mine in, you never know (so I did).
I never thought I would have this hard a time finding a teaching job. I am starting to worry, a great deal. :(
Like Thymezone, I definitely DO NOT second the idea of lying. It invites a world of hurt. Not only can it prevent you from getting the job if you’re found out, it will get you thrown out of the job if you do get it, if you’re ever found out. And then you’re stigmatized, especially if there’s any kind of a social or professional network in your line of business.
The job market’s bad enough. Don’t put yourself at any more of a disadvantage.
J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford
The job creators need to be certain that the people they are creating jobs for are worthy of those jobs they created. Why would a job creator create a job for someone who has been unemployed as long as 9 months? Obviously that person is not worthy of the job created by the job creator otherwise another job creator would have created a job for them already.
@90 Amanda… wrote,
Exactly. You do stats.
I’m saying that the stats in tech sector would show age discrimation with a very high level of statistical significance.
Though as you and other posters allude it might not be all that easy to file such a lawsuit and see it to its conclusion.
@94 Amanda… wrote,
Hey…I’ve got a really clever idea…how about FIXING THE FUCKING REPLY BUTTON HERE ON BALLOON JUICE?
AFAICT there’s a reasonable abstract reason for employers to be loathe to do this: if the employee leaves, they take the training with them. So to some degree training people creates benefits the firm can’t capture.
One poster on USENET who I’m very fond of theorized that in capitalist economies, education will be underprovided, because without something like indentured servitude, private “investors” in someone’s education can’t recoup their investment. He used that to conclude that it was appropriate to have government-subsidized college tuition.
When I’ve done the hiring/interview process, I’ve worried about hiring an asshole. So when I’ve done references for people that have worked for me, I’ve emphasized to employers that the person they are hiring is not an asshole.
They’ve gotten the job everytime.
I never had a better attitude about my job than when I was hired after a period of extended unemployment.
We need a massive nationwide PR campaign like the old “hire a vet” blitz. “Hire the unemployed”–sounds kind of obvious when you think about it…
If you’ve been laid off, immediately update your resume that you are a self-employed contractor and then apply to a temp agency of some sort related to your actual skills. And keep interviewing for the job that you really want.
Then there is no unemployment gap. If you’re self-employed it is irrelevant for the purpose of job history how often you’re actually enjoying income.
I see way too many people delude themselves, take no immediate action after they’re laid off, wonder why no one is beating down their door, and ignore opportunities to take a less desirable job to tide them over.
One has to juggle several resumes, including a few that scope down and resist the tendency to hard or over sell accomplishments.
I’ve been through serious downturns in Houston and Dallas starting with the infamous 1982 recession when entire neighborhoods were emptied. I learned this approach the hard way.
This is rarely the case. The exceptions that fit that description are very aggressive internet marketing companies, high-end consultancies or research companies.
But the great majority of companies are nowhere near that aggressive adopting new technologies and methodologies. The retailer I work for is still using COBOL programs written forty years ago, ten year old Java, classic ASP. That we’re doing current .NET takes all my effort.
It’s funny because my current job I got after almost 10 months of unemployment and all my coworkers, who have never suffered more than a month of unemployment are all miserable over stupid petty shit (the CEO doesn’t pay enough attention to me, I don’t like that girl in HR) and wish they can quit and I often want to tell them; guys, shut up.
Late to the thread, but it sounds like typical corporate groupthink–if you’ve been out of work that long there’s a reason and you might be damaged goods.
There’s also a willingness, even a desire to replace experience with inexperience if it means lower labor costs and a more compliant workforce.
Mind, these are the “Job creators” who’ve been enjoying their low low tax rates for a decade. Keep these tax rates and suddenly, economy fixed!
I have an acquaintance I see now and then. We can talk about anything except how her son can’t get a job because of illegal immigrants. Early on, I asked what sort of work her son (in his 20s) had been doing when he was laid off, and she said he’d been a sales clerk at Sharper Image.
Here’s the thing. I know that demographic because I’m in it. I don’t have a college degree or IT training or specialized skills at anything. (I have a paralegal certificate, but that was a waste of hard-earned money, and I use it as a coaster now, and it’s a whole other story.) In the olden days, there was work for non-professional types who knew their ABCs. Sales associates, assistant managers, typists, copy editors, stenographers, file clerks, proofreaders, receptionists – all sorts of support staff and assistant somethings were in this work force. Some wanted to advance through the ranks and break into management, but lots more just wanted to work hard, get paid appropriately, and then go home.
That segment of the workforce has been decimated. Technology has a lot to do with it, and when you add in the huge change in employment culture (in which employees are regarded as liabilities, not assets), you quickly realize that these jobs will never come back. Where you used to need ten secretaries, a few telephone operators, and a couple of receptionists, now you only need maybe two secretaries. All of the attorneys are using their own computers, and there’s voicemail, and printers and copy machines are so damn smart. And because these are ruthless times, you can work those two secretaries to death and when they are done, you just get fresh ones. (Or you can hire attorneys as independent contractors – no benefits – and they can be made to do the secretarial work.)
I mentioned to my friend that illegal immigrants (or legal immigrants) did not take her son’s Sharper Image job. These sorts of jobs (support services) have not been flooded with non-English speaking illegals. They’ve just gone away forever. I don’t know what to do about it, except I know that zeroing in on illegal immigrants serves to divert our attention from some big systemic problems.
By the way, nobody is going to keep your resume on file. “On file” means making a file, or scanning the documents, creating a database, and then taking the time to actually refer to it. Nobody has that kind of time, and companies no longer employ the kinds of workers who used to do it. How many years has it been since anyone honestly even expected to have receipt of their resume acknowledged?
Paul in KY
Larkspur, excellent points in above post. It probably won’t stop your aquaitnance from hating on the illegals, cause that’s so easy.
Larkspur: Oh that is all so true. I try telling people that about illegal immigrant workers and no one accepts it. I have a bachelor’s degree and have worked in many support positions. I’ve watched those positions evaporate and as the “professional” takes over doing their own letters, etc., the quality of work that goes out gets worse because they don’t concentrate on what the secretary/administrative assistant once did. And the CEOs keep getting more money and the rest of us try not to starve.
@ liberal I wasn’t talking about trade school or college training… a little OJT to get them up to speed would be all it would take for most folks… there isn’t a lot of cost to the company for that, and it’s not like the people they’ve already got in their workforce aren’t constantly having to learn new things on the job…
As someone fairly familiar with the work environment and people at RIM, I’d say RIM has more than 2000 useless employees. The problem is that they’re getting rid of the wrong ones, and the ones who remain are the same assholes who keep getting promoted — the ones who caused all their problems in the first place.
I am a hiring manager, and the longevity of a person’s unemployment has absolutely zero to do with their hiring, unless they were spending that time smoking crack or reading political blogs.
BombIranforChrist @ 116: How would you know that (smoking crack or reading political blogs) unless you had every applicant investigated, you interviewed everyone or you made that assumption from the git go on reading the resume?
I’ve been part time employed as a newspaper carrier for the last year and a half. I work seven days a week, I go months without a single day off (I’m currently on a two day vacation which will be over in about 14 hours, but my last two days off were in February) – but I’m able to say that I’m both Employed and even Self Employed.
It might be an option for some of you. If you have a car, insurance and a few hours a night, you can do this. If you get enough papers, you can even turn part time hours into a full time ($400 week) paycheck.
The current situation is definitive proof that Capitalism has finally failed all but the money managers.The fiction that the invisible hand unrestrained will provide just the right amount of jobs has been shown to be just that. Having said that given the current playing field, I think employers have to pick and choose on the basis of the record before them, and employment history can’t be ignored. They don’t need to hire and when they do they are going for the best of the best. When I found myself unemployed, I hightailed it down to the day labor office and applied for what ever they had. I was gainfully employed immediately at a number of menial jobs for about one month, and each of my temporary employers indicated that they would hire me again, some permanently. At the end of the month as a result of my record as a temp I was hired in my field of expertise at a salary that was acceptable. The person who handled my case is still there and says that jobs even in this economy are still available if you are willing.
One problem with volunteering is that you still have all the costs associated with working (gas, wear and tear on the car, clothes, lunches, having to kick in for presents, going out after work) with no income.
It’s flat-out laziness, because you can have the unpaid HR intern go through all the resumes and toss the ones that aren’t currently working, whcih means less crap that you have to read.
So much of HR and the corporate hiring process is laziness and ass-covering. If there’s anything ‘unfamiliar’ in your background you get tossed. It just shows up more when the applicant pool is big during recessions.
Unless you’re one of those rare places with a take-a-chance/think-original culture, corporate America is a pants-pissing scared, fear-driven, rigidly-conformist, organizationally-stupid (i.e. Repuke) place.
Employers can afford to impose even quite arbitrary standards on whom they hire because they aren’t really that eager to hire anyone. There’s no demand out there for anyone’s goods or services, so businesses arent’t expanding much, aren’t hiring much, and so have their pick of applicants, so many of whom are quite well enough qualified by any real and important criteria that the hirers can afford to indulge foolish criteria as well.
Let demand return, and businesses start to run short of people they need to hire who meet real criteria, and you’ll see them dropping the stupid luxury criteria like hot potatoes.
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
Five years unemployed here. Working towards number six. Why did I leave my last job? Complete nervous breakdown from the stress of making markets in options. So, I have to lie about why I left my last job; the truth would be an instant disqualifier.
Go back and get training? I did that. I took enough classes to pass the CPA exams. Then I continued on to get my master’s degree. That hasn’t done any good.
Try to work through people I know? Well, that’s a pretty thin group, since my brain doesn’t work right and makes it hard to socialize. But I tried to contact about 10 people I knew from my past, who have been successful and liked me. Not a single one of them responded.
I did the volunteering thing. When I told the program coordinator yesterday that not having a job was leading to depression and I was entering therapy that might interfere with my schedule, she told me not to come back until I was better, despite my telling her that, no, I didn’t want time off, because this was one of my few social outlets.
So, yeah, there are some red flags for employers in the explanation for why I’ve been unemployed for six years. What the fuck am I supposed to do about it? Does the disability that started this whole cascading process mean that it’s good and proper that I should never have a job again because everyone in HR is scared of what it might mean?
More to the point, I’ve never heard of anyone being contacted for a position from a company that said they would keep your resume or application on file.
Have to agree with 119: in but a few areas of the country, there ARE jobs available; in most places my guess would be that the majority of the long-term unemployed spent the first year holding out for a job similar to the one they lost. It doesn’t work that way when the economy falls off a cliff; if you want a job, you have to be willing to do other things. I know this because as a long-time self-employed contractor, when I lost my construction management position in 2008, I wasn’t eligible for unemployment, so I had to go find something else to do. I worked at a Hallmark store for not a lot of money for a year, even did some paid door-to-door political canvassing – would have done neither if I had a check coming in from unemployment. But it’s kept me from being one of the long-term unemployed.
@Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) #123:
Have you considered having a go at it as a professional writer? The content on your blog is thought-provoking, well-sourced and well-written, and you write about highly topical subjects. In the past I’ve purchased commercially published books on topics (WW1 for example) from professional authors who evidently know less about the subject and/or have less in the way of anything interesting to say about it, than you do.
I know the publishing industry isn’t exactly flush with cash right now and blogs have taught too many of us to expect high quality content without having to pay for it, but maybe you’ll get lucky and find a publisher if you can work up some essay material that is longer than a blog post and more in the range of a magazine article or short book.
Jennifer, I’m happy that you were able to get a job doing something different. It doesn’t work for everyone.
But let’s see: I can’t pick up a 50-lb box (herninated disks); I stutter so based on 30+ years of experience I know not to apply for jobs where the major action is talking to people on the phone (I really dislike being humiliated by an interview who asks about my ability to speak on the phone); I cannot type faster than 40-45 wpm, so any job that asks for anything higher, I know I won’t pass a test (it’s a neurological thing); be an office clearer (you need friend in the field and again, there are those back problems); retail job (standing 8+ hours a day, not happening), etc. I’ve applied for admin jobs lower than the level I was at — nope, no responses.
Companies don’t want to hire. Period.
And demand won’t and can’t pick up as long as a few million people don’t have money to spend on anything other than the basic survival needs.
@ 108.Pococurante: agreed. i’ve certainly worked on code that is older than i am. hell, we’re (as a company) just moving off of IE6. big corps work on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it till it is, and then only when the cost of support for sunset versions of the app/language/OS finally exceed the cost of the fix” model.
also, COBOL is the undead.
@ Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) start the process of filing for Social Security Disability, I’ve got a bipolar brother who after a couple of job related / stress-induced nervous breakdowns finally was approved for a 100% disability… but it took time and a lawyer who knows SS law…
An arbitrary way to filter through hundreds of applications, I suppose.
Unless you can do these from home, you might as well just work on an independent project. As nice as it would be to have volunteers doing all these things, the gas and food and mental energy all have costs, and it’s not going to look that much better than unemployment on the resume.
Anyone who has been unemployed for 3+ YEARS has something else going on that is not being covered in the newspaper article. There’s definitely more to the story than what’s being printed.
Marginalized for stating documented facts
Duh. Same reason the minimum qualification for elevator operator during the Great Depression was a four-year college degree.
Too many applicants, too few jobs.
In my company, “lay-offs” tend to be a way to off-load the employees that aren’t doing a good job, but it’s too troublesome to outright fire. Maybe other companies don’t do this, and that’s really not the same as a mass firing layoff where the good performers are let go with the bad, but if you don’t otherwise know anything about the person, you start to wonder if “laid off” means “you should have been fired, but we didn’t have the guts to do it outright”. I imagine that’s why personal connections might be especially important when you’re laid off and looking. You need someone to vouch for you and tell people you’re not one of *those* unemployed people.
And if you are one of those people (and I don’t know that the people who are viewed that way actually realize that’s how their managers and coworkers see them–I’ve observed that people who are substandard performers tend to overestimate their performance vs others) it’s just not the kind of economy where you’re going to be at the head of the hiring line.
I think the assumption is that if you have been out of work for more than 6 months, you are desperate and grasping at any work you can get. So if I hire you, you will be great for the six months or so until you get comfortable, and then you will start your “real” job search and leave me high and dry.
If you are currently employed and are willing to jump to the new position, it’s because you really WANT the new position, and won’t be looking to move anytime soon.