To which I can only say, “Guilty as charged.”
I’ll be honest: If I was hiring an editor and two resumés landed on my desk with identical qualifications — but one was working and the other had been laid off — I’d be inclined to favour the employed candidate. I wouldn’t put it in a job posting, nor would I refuse an interview, but there’s no denying the bias exists.
Why? The logic is simple — the person who is still working must be more valuable. The candidate who lost her job must not be as good an editor, otherwise she would have kept her job, right?
Not necessarily. While favouring the employed worker is the knee-jerk reaction, it’s certainly not the right one — which is so often the case when it comes to knee-jerks. There are simply far too many variables in play.
One key question to answer is, “Why is the unemployed candidate out of work?”
It could be because she worked at a unionized setting and was the last one hired before the business ran into financial trouble. She may have been the best worker in the building, but management’s hands were tied by a collective agreement when it came time to reduce staff.
Perhaps she quit because her former employer asked her to do something that was unethical. Or maybe she toiled under an abusive, abrasive manager and finally hit a breaking point and resigned. Perhaps a bad manager campaigned relentlessly to force a good worker out the door because of a personality conflict.
Maybe the worker was targeted by a bean counter in finance because her salary was out of line with her colleagues?
Performance is just one reason why a worker finds herself on the unemployment line yet, too often, there’s an assumption that when people lose their jobs, it’s their fault — they didn’t perform, they weren’t up to the task, they’re simply not good workers.
That’s a pretty huge conclusion to draw just by looking at a resumé that shows a gap in employment.
Hiring managers need to resist this bias and give all qualified candidates a fair shake, regardless of employment status. It’s the only way to know for sure you’ve hired the best person for the job.