The Long-Term Unemployed: Quality Candidates in Disguise

Some employers intentionally or unwittingly discriminate against the long-term unemployed, defined as those who have not worked for more than six months. A study out of Northeastern University using fake resumes found that “employers would rather call back someone with no relevant experience who’s only been out of work for a few months than someone with more relevant experience who’s been out of work for longer than six months.” Why? Reasons vary from organization to organization. One employer interviewed by AOL said it’s difficult to tell how someone lost their job, and he believes that people with jobs are more valuable, adjust quicker and have fresher skills.

But is that true?

Not according to the data.

Research from Evolv says that among hourly employees, employment history has no correlation with performance or tenure. In other words, it’s misleading to think the long-term unemployed are unemployed by choice or have less to offer. Here are some reasons you should give the long-term unemployed a chance:

You can’t judge a candidate solely by an employment gap

Employment history counts. But be aware of popular assumptions, such as that the long-term unemployed have fewer skills, are undesirable candidates or have been unemployed for so long they’ve lost their appeal. If you don’t at least screen them, you will never know.

You can help yourself by helping the unemployed

Many unemployed workers are in need and will appreciate the opportunity. CEO of Business Talent Group states that you can expect someone who is the right fit to be motivated to perform well and be less likely to leave. Bonus: An employer that gives equal opportunity to candidates will stand out in the industry.

You are missing out on quality candidates

You could be overlooking good candidates by screening for employment history. Long-term unemployed job seekers make up 37 percent of unemployed individuals. If you choose to ignore these candidates, you’re missing out on a lot of talent.

3 Tips to Better Evaluate the Unemployed

1. When looking at resumes

Aside from their resume, dig deeper by reading the cover letter and looking for clues to the source of unemployment as well as their breadth of experience. Did they work for Fortune 500 companies? Or a start-up? It’s is an indicator of the value of their experience.

2. When screening candidates and during the interview

Evaluate their out-of-work activities. Did your candidate sit around in a slump? Or did they pursue training and new skills? The best candidates show initiative. You want to measure their value and extract how it’s beneficial to your business.

3. When talking to hiring managers

When trying to sell any candidate to a hiring manager, focus on skills and fit. It’s no different for a long-term unemployed candidate.  Treat them like any other, and emphasize their strengths. Don’t dwell on their employment status with the hiring manager.

Bottom-line: Don’t get distracted by the long-term unemployment label. It takes one phone call to screen a potential candidate. Employment status shouldn’t rule a potential hire out if you think the candidate might be a good fit.

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