Show unemployed some love (Editor’s Notes)

Hiring managers’ bias against unemployed workers shrinks talent pool
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/17/2012

Two years ago, I used this space to tell the story of a couple of employers in the United States that said — blatantly and openly in job postings — unemployed workers need not apply.

Sony Ericsson, hiring for a new facility in Georgia, and Latro Consulting, a South Carolina-based recruiter looking for grocery store managers, told unemployed workers — at a time when the ranks of the unemployed were swelling as the recession rocked the global economy — not to bother handing in resumés.

The language quickly disappeared from the postings when reporters started calling, which is good. It’s simply not a good business practice to arbitrarily shrink your candidate pool, regardless of the economy.

While this overt form of discrimination has seemingly come to an end, a couple of new studies shed light on a bias that exists among hiring managers — they prefer job candidates who are currently employed. (See

“Hiring managers biased against jobless: Studies.”)

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.

Add Comment

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *