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Advice for the Unemployed

A candidate called our office to report he had just been rejected from a search because he was currently unemployed. The company had now established a policy that their HR department did not accept applications from candidates that were unemployed.

A few attorneys are trying to build a case for discrimination. But unemployment is not a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any subsequent federal legislation.

So what do you do if you are out of work and need to overcome that objection? Be prepared to explain the circumstances of your unemployment. Here are five of the most frequent comments we hear that you will need to address:

Unemployed candidates will say or do anything to get back to work. 

Talk about business ethics and your code of professional conduct. Cite examples from your personal or business life where you have decided not to make expedient decisions for short-term gains but chose in favor of doing the right thing.

Unemployed candidates will take positions they are overqualified for, only to keep looking for something for which they are better suited. 

The “temporary job syndrome” is easy to spot on a resume. If you have had many short-term positions, make a compelling argument for why you made those decisions. If you haven’t, cite your prior record of stability as an indicator of future behavior.

Unemployed candidates were not of value to their company, or they would still be employed.

Put your termination into context. Note what was happening to the total company during the time you were terminated. Did you survive several rounds of layoffs? Was your department merged with the same department in your newly acquired company? Did the company decide to make wholesale cuts during the recession? Were you the “last one in” in a company whose policy is then “first one out?”

Unemployed candidates don’t have current skills or current
client relationships

This may be true if you are trying to get back into an industry you left. Stay connected to your industry association. Attend trade shows and take a temporary assignment that will keep you in the industry. Network regularly with people in the industry in and out of your discipline and  up and down the corporate ladder. Check into continuing education classes provided by professional associations or colleges.

Unemployed candidates have something wrong with them. Nobody wants them.

“Something wrong” can be an excuse for not hiring anyone, but the most frequent impressions stems from some indicator that the candidate is lazy and really doesn’t want to work, is too old to coach, or lacking skills. 

As soon as you become unemployed get to work getting another job. Do not decide to use your severance pay for a vacation. While you are searching for a new position take some additional training in a few software programs, or e-learning in your industry.

Your main objective should be to make finding your next job, your full-time job.

Rose Mattran

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