Long-Term Unemployment Challenges

I’ve had a few clients over the years that have gotten caught up in the Never-Never Land of long-term unemployment, and to say that it’s stressful and disturbing for them is a gross understatement. While I doubt a “magic bullet” exists that will fix the problem effortlessly, I do believe some pointers and potentially hopeful signs can be found to encourage those job seekers.

Companies that Discriminate Against Long-Term Unemployed

We’ve probably all heard about companies that discriminate against people who have been out of work for months, even years. Some of that discrimination is subtle, while some of it (unbelievably, to me) is blatant. I’ve even seen job postings that specifically exclude people who’ve been unemployed for an extended period. It’s often included as “must be currently employed” or words to that effect. The justification for doing so always sounds about as lame and self-serving as it can get.

For example, some companies claim that people who’ve been out of work for an extended period might be out of date on necessary skills and be unable to perform at the level of quality the company needs. Yet those same companies are apparently willing to hire people who don’t even have some of the “necessary” skills listed on their resume, just because those individuals are currently employed! In what universe does that attitude make any sense?

To begin with, just because someone has been unemployed for, say 7 months, doesn’t mean his/her skills have somehow atrophied in the meantime and he/she is somehow therefore a below-par candidate. Also, it shouldn’t take more than a few well-chosen questions in a submission form to get an idea of whether the person’s skills would be up to the task.

Just as an example of what’s “out there” on this subject, I found the following statement in a 2012 article titled “Discrimination Against the Unemployed“: “When Scott Pelley [of CBS] and his team of producers set out to profile Joe Carbone and his Platform to Employment program, they started hearing the same complaint from people who are out of work: if you’ve been unemployed for a year or more, some companies won’t even give you an interview.”

Along the same lines, a 2013 article titled “The Unemployment Bias: The Long-term Unemployed Face Severe Discrimination” states that “Last year I did some work for a large company that decided it would not hire anyone who was unemployed. It would automatically reject any candidate who had been unemployed even for a day.” Seriously?!!!

These short-sighted and narrow-minded corporate views have so many holes in them that I can’t begin to list them all, but here’s one: If the best potential hires are happily employed already and not interested in moving, and those employers won’t even consider equally well-qualified candidates who are out of work, how are those companies going to hire ANY good employees? That being said, how long can the companies continue in business before they reach a quality and customer-satisfaction level that hits their bottom line hard?

Companies that Might Hire Long-Term Unemployed

In early 2014, an event occurred that was intended to improve the situation over the long term. An article titled “300 companies pledge to help long-term unemployed” was one of several published regarding a campaign by President Obama to encourage companies to open up opportunities for individuals affected by long-term unemployment challenges. As the article noted, “More than 300 companies—including 20 of the nation’s 50 largest, such as Apple, Wal-Mart and General Motors—have agreed to reassess their hiring practices at President Obama’s request to make sure they are not biased against Americans who have been out of work for more than six months.”

Of course, pledges to reexamine hiring practices don’t automatically translate into a visible increase in hiring long-term unemployed job seekers. I don’t know if any studies have been done over the past year to evaluate whether any measurable improvement has been happening. However, I did see the following statement in a recent job posting:

“Siemens encourages qualified long-term unemployed individuals to apply for open positions.” The particular position in the posting was for a location in Indiana, but the statement sounds as if it covers the whole corporation. This might just be an isolated instance, but at least it strikes a more hopeful note than what I’ve been seeing so far.

What can you do if you’re one of those long-term unemployed individuals? I’m hoping to do some more research and then develop a blog post that offers a constructive outlook on this subject.

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