There was an article that I read recently discussing the stigma of being unemployed written by Stephanie Chen of CNN. In it she suggests that hiring authorities and in particular recruiting/staffing companies discriminate against job applicants who are currently collecting unemployment as a “why bother” applicant and not even invite them in for an interview.
“Some recruiters interviewed say companies perceive the unemployed as weak performers or fickle workers. Or they worry that a person without a job has rusty work skills, especially if they haven’t worked for more than six months. Or that an unemployed person will take a lower paying job out of desperation and then flee when a better job opportunity arises.”
The entire article rubbed me the wrong way. Really? They do? Can’t be! My fur stood on end so to speak and I wanted to find out if this was true. Personally I’ve been in the staffing industry for over thirty years of my professional life and that attitude has never been in the forefront of my mind even though I’ve experienced both of our “recessions” with the eyes of a recruiter. But is it true for others? So I tried a little test of my own to determine if staffing experts had preconceived opinions of unemployed individuals.
I went to Champion Professional Systems, a larger local staffing company in Cleveland, Ohio, and asked two of their staffing experts the same exact question, “When you see a person has been on unemployment what goes thru your mind?’. I didn’t explain why I was asking. I didn’t change the question. It was the same for both experts.
Sarah’s response: “Well, I like to get their side of the story before I judge them. I usually ask how long they’ve been on unemployment. If they’ve been collecting a long time I ask why?
Me: “Depending on their answer then what do you think?”
Sarah: “Well some people have told me that the reason they’ve been on unemployment for such a long time is because they knew the economy was bad and that nothing was happening. I usually tell them that it’s moving fast now and that I’m glad they came in! I also ask what steps they are taking to find a job and depending on what they tell me reveals how serious they are in finding that job.”
Julie’s response: “When I bring them in I ask what happened, how long and when it expires. But I do ask if they’ve been looking. Their answer to that tells me a lot.”
Me: “How so?”
Julie: “It shows their motivation. Have they been looking and if not why? If they haven’t been looking then maybe they don’t really want to work and are just going through the motions. Or it tells me that they had family obligations. If they can fill in the gap to explain why they’ve been collecting for a long time it gives me a better feel for them and their motivation. If they can’t explain their gap in employment then I hesitate about their seriousness.”
I could have asked more Staffing Experts at Champion by calling other offices but I felt I had a good feel for the company’s culture. These two staffing experts said the same thing only differently.
Can’t say I know what life is like in Boston or Indiana but at least here in Cleveland, Ohio there is at least one staffing company where discrimination for collecting unemployment does not happen.