The plight of the long-term unemployed has been thoroughly and heartbreakingly documented since the nation fell into an economic recession in late 2008. Benefits run out before new jobs are found, age discrimination abounds among employers and health care costs continue to soar. The New York Times recently reported on yet another reality for the long-term unemployed: hiring biases against unemployed candidates.
Most job seekers are already cognizant of the fact that unemployed applicants are often at a disadvantage. But the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit organization surveying the labor market, scoured through listings at job sites CareerBuilder, Monster, Craigslist and Indeed, and found 150 ads requiring applicants to be currently or recently employed. The practice of overtly excluding unemployed applicants has apparently become so widespread that New Jersey recently passed a law to prohibit employers from excluding unemployed candidates in the application process.
At Mother Jones, blogger Kevin Drum writes:
Having a long gap in your resume has always been a problem, and having a long current gap has always been a really big problem unless there’s a mighty convincing explanation for it. The difference today isn’t that employers have changed, it’s that they’re so swamped with job applications that they figure they might as well just admit their biases up front.
Moreover, Drum notes, the recession has caused the pool of long-term unemployed workers, particularly in the middle-aged set, to greatly expand.
The perception that the long-time unemployed candidate languishes while their employed counterparts build their skills and keep up-to-date with current trends is a primary factor in employers’ hiring bias. Moreover, the image of a job seeker that has been unemployed for months or even years tends to invoke a fear that some other unknown factor must render the candidate undesirable. Whether this perception has any merit is a different matter. As a reader sarcastically remarked in response to the New York Times article, “This is exactly why I won’t date a woman who is not already married. If she’s still single there’s probably a very good reason.”