More on the “Unemployed Need Not Apply” Mess.
By Sara Davey-Schmidt, senior account manager 52 PDX
In an employment economy where there is a disproportionate amount of talent to opportunities available, a trend of vetting candidates by reasons-not-to-hire, rather than reasons-to-hire, starts to become the method for qualifying the shit-tons of resumes that come pouring in at every mention of possible work. It’s a tempting approach! That behemoth pile dwindles a lot faster when you can disqualify resumes as soon as you see an end-date on their last position.
Even though the status of “unemployed” doesn’t fall under any law enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the same logic for anti-discrimination should apply. To avoid any perception of discrimination, effective Senior Recruiters tend to develop a habit of thinking less about what they shouldn’t be asking and more about discovering the relevant qualifications of each candidate. Thus assessing the candidate’s cultural fit and career motivations. This is the most cogent practice for avoiding dangerous discrimination territory, as well as the most effective practice for revealing the most qualified candidate–how convenient!
How relevant is it that a candidate is unemployed? In the fast-paced world of technology, it might matter. In the ever changing world of compliance, it might matter. For the creative class however, where you can keep skills sharp through trade and pro-bono or pro-rata work, the quality of your work matters. Your attitude matters. Your motivations matter. Your professional goals matter.
Apart from “Unemployed Need Not Apply” being a lousy hiring practice, the greatest damage it really does is to the employment brand. There is a seismic shift in attitudes about and patterns of work in the economy from the early 1950s era of William Whyte’s The Organization Man to today’s worker. It’s acceptable and common to see people shifting employers every 3-7 years, and then there’s the rise of the free agents. In fact, as Daniel Pink reveals in Free Agent Nation, over 25 million Americans are now self-employed, and fewer than one in ten works for a Fortune 500 company.