Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm unemployed, not 'damaged'

Now that sentiment is growing that the Great Recession likely ended in June -- and ignoring the idea of a jobless recovery -- will those of us who were laid off have an easier time soon finding new work?

I sure hope so. I've been bothered by the news reports and commentary that employers are less interested in out-of-work candidates than in so-called passive ones -- workers who have remained employed and aren't necessarily looking for a new job. Companies will approach an engineer attending a professional conference, for instance, rather than combing through resumes.

A Wall Street Journal story in June (the headline said it all: "Only the Employed Need Apply") riled up one recruiter, who on her blog criticized the practice, saying it was the economic meltdown that put many of those laid off on the unemployment line, not their job performance.

"We’re so far past the point of equating the unemployed with damaged (goods)," she wrote. "This kind of short-sightedness in this marketplace makes my blood boil."

But even in the case of obvious economic layoffs -- a manufacturing division closed and its workers dismissed -- the Journal story said a client of one search firm looking for an executive wanted to talk to still-employed candidates, rather than consider the head of the closed division.

Said the annoyed recruiter on her blog, "I just hope most employers can set aside their preconceived notions about unemployed applicants and evaluate potential prospects based on their relevant experience first, not their 2009 employment status."

I'd endorse that, since I was cut loose when a layer of middle management was eliminated.

But here's the really mind-blowing Catch 22: It's bad enough that you may not be getting interviews because you were laid off when the company you worked for got slammed by the economy. Worse still is that the longer you're out of work, the more remote an interview becomes, according to a Journal story last month.

"If you're unemployed, at this point the likelihood is that you may be unemployed for a significant period of time," the Journal story quoted an official in California's state employment office as saying.

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