I recently read this article about hiring managers and recruiters’ tendency to discriminate against the unemployed. I have also been meeting lots of candidates who are unemployed, sometimes for more than 6 months or even a year. My heart goes out to them, but I really do believe that it’s difficult to place candidates who have been out of work for long periods of time. I have heard of clients asking specifically to speak only with candidates who are currently employed; and especially in IT - why would hiring managers bother to consider a candidate who has been out of the loop while other candidates were thriving at a competing company, learning the most up-to-date technology and lingo?
I realize it’s not always that black and white. It’s not just about the skills or the money; often it’s about fit, culture, etc. And what of the issue of how candidates account for their “unemployed” time? I’ve heard of people who travel the world for a year and came back to find jobs immediately. Similarly, I notice some women leaving to spend time with new babies and coming back to the job market moderately easily after 9 months or so. Personally, I'd be more likely to fight for a candidate who took time off for something I could relate with. People who leave to go on a 6 month bender, well, I haven’t heard many stories of redemption on that front. In all seriousness though, sometimes I ask about what a candidate did during that timeframe of unemployment and the response leaves me wondering what they were REALLY up to.I think
Not every unemployed person is doomed to a lifetime of unemployment. So, what do candidates who return to work after long periods of unemployment do differently? Perhaps employers forgive their leaving the job world for a while because they understand their motives (family, travel, etc.). Or perhaps these candidates were savvier about being connected in their niches. Maybe they attended networking events, joined local professional groups on LinkedIn, kept current with relevant industry happenings, and followed up on their prospects. Maybe they were more advanced in their careers or just plain lucky.
Long term unemployment might be a situation where candidates can advocate better for themselves than a recruiter can for them. Recruiters sometimes are like the monkey in the middle when discussing issues like this. We have a client to please, and our business is also building trusting relationships with our candidates. I think our best bet is to be honest with people about what we can and cannot do to help their situations.