Friday, January 27, 2012

“UNEMPLOYED NEED NOT APPLY” - Companies are Half Right

There have been numerous news stories about companies who advertise that unemployed people need not apply for any of the open positions within their company. These companies have two reasons for feeling that the unemployed do not make good candidates.

One reason companies do not want the unemployed to apply is that they feel that those who have not been able to find a job must be un-hirable. That is where the companies are wrong. Many highly skilled and accomplished people are in job transitions and in this job market it takes longer to land a job. Companies are missing out on highly qualified candidates if they exclude the unemployed in favor of passive (employed but looking) candidates.

The second reason companies do not want to hire people who are currently unemployed is partially valid. The concern on the part of many companies is that people who have been in a job search for a while may have let their skills atrophy and are starting to fall behind in their industry knowledge.

It does not take long for people to start to forget how to use software or how to perform tasks. With the pace of change in today’s world, it is easy to fall behind unless intentional actions are taken to stay on top of these changes.

Job seekers have to be intentional about keeping their skills sharp and their knowledge of their industry current. If you are a job seeker and have not taken a class in the past three months to maintain or increase your skills, then begin a class TODAY! It does not always cost a lot of money to do so.

First, identify what class or classes will increase your marketability. Look at the job descriptions for the position you are pursuing and, of the required skills, identify where you are the weakest. Look at the software requirements and determine which ones you do not have or software skills you need to renew.

Using your favorite internet search engine, type in the words “free training” and then the subject you want to learn (example “Microsoft Excel”). You will get millions (no exaggeration) of free courses on the topic you entered.

If you want to practice using new software, you may be able to get a free trial copy of it. Again type “free trial copy” and the name of the software you want to learn. These are not demo copies but full feature versions that expire after a period of time (30, 60, or 90 days). Make the most of the time you have to sharpen or develop your skills. Note: You can even get a free trial copy of MS Office 2010. Before loading the trial copy, be sure you have the disks and key for the version you currently have so you can reload it after the 2010 version expires.

To stay current on your industry, read trade publications, business news (like the Biz Journal), and attend industry networking organizations. Industry networking organizations are also a good place to find out about the hidden jobs (those not posted anywhere on-line).

In addition to feeling a sense of accomplishment and that you are taking control of your future, taking classes and attending industry events also gives you a great response when asked the question “what have you done since your last job?” Companies like people who proactively keep their skills and industry knowledge current.

Now a note to companies: Times have changed. There are many highly qualified people who are in a job transition. Wake up or you could lose the best candidates to companies who realize there is a new job market. Many highly qualified and hirable people are and will be in transition. You may be one of them one day.


  1. Judi, excellent article. Good advice to employers and job seekers.

  2. Judi,

    As one who has been unemployed because of the economy and not my job performance for 30 months, I don't think either basis is just cause for an employer automatically excluding an unemployed worker from consideration. Two facts recently brought to my attention underscore the reasonableness of bringing a potentially qualified unemployed person in for face-to-face (or at least pre-screening phone interview):
    1) I was recently offered a tech support job with a local hospital organization despite my not having worked providing tech support for 5 years because I had a key work experience - I had worked with large companies for computer refreshes, and this hospital organization had never done a refresh.
    1) my wife who works as HR rep for her dept with Emory School of Medicine has had to deal with a rash of job performance/insubordination issues with younger workers who typically may not have the same work ethic older mature workers grew up with. It's easier to teach work skills than soft skills (attitude, teamwork)

  3. No, they are not "half right". Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "Outliers" notes that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any skill. If you have developed a skill, you don't lose it in a year of unemployment! People have many reasons to be out of the employment scene for a while (caring for an elderly parent, long term illness of a child, etc.) If you are a high level person, there just aren't that many jobs at your skill level. It might take a long time for an opening to come up. No, it is just a Calvinistic judgement that has no real basis in fact. Yes, you should keep your skills up, but no, employers are crazy to exclude those who have been unemployed. If you found a $20 bill that had been lost over a year ago, would you not still pick it up because it hadn't been in use for a year?