The bad news: unemployment bias is very real. Employers (illegally) discriminate against long-term unemployed people, thinking that they have outdated skills from being out of the job market for six months or more.
The good news: we might be nearing an end to unemployment bias. More than a dozen states are considering legislation that would make this bias illegal, with proposals including banning job postings that require current employment and allowing job seekers to sue under equal opportunity discrimination laws.
The better news: employers may be more understanding than we think of the long-term unemployed, given that we’re still bouncing back from the recession. CareerBuilder recently published a report with encouraging news from employers; 85 percent of employers said they are more understanding of employment gaps post-recession, and a whopping 94 percent said they wouldn’t think less of a candidate who took a lower-level position during the recession than they had previously held.
The experts suggest the following tips to beat unemployment bias:
1. “Follow stories on hot industries and job functions” – Information technology, engineering, healthcare, sales and customer services are top hiring industries nationwide, according to CareerBuilder’s job listings.
2. “Use keywords” – Using the right keywords in your application materials can help your resume reach human eyes; often, large companies screen using an Applicant Tracking System, which picks out keywords to find relevant resumes to send to the hiring manager.
3. “Come in with ideas” – Show your enthusiasm for the position and for the company by coming in with an idea or opportunity for improvement, be it a marketing campaign, cost savings plan, etc.
4. “Make connections” – Use your network to get ahead; expand your professional connections using social media and face-to-face opportunities. If you know someone at the company at which you’re applying, that may give you a leg up.
5. “Follow through” – Two-thirds of workers reported that they don’t follow up with an employer after applying to a position. Bad move, job seekers! Show your interest in the job by making sure to follow up with a ‘thank you’ note after an interview.
My tips for beating unemployment bias:
1. Get social – Social media is a great way to build your network; connect with companies and individuals on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Go beyond just connecting, and try to establish your professional brand online. You might even think about starting a blog; 11 percent of employers surveyed in the CareerBuilder report said starting a professional blog can increase your marketability.
2. Fill the gaps – Your resume is stronger without employment gaps; if you’re unemployed, do something to fill the spaces. According to the survey, 79 percent of employers said take a temporary or contract assignment; 61 percent said take a class; and 60 percent said volunteer. Basically, do anything you can to keep your skills and experience relevant and marketable to an employer.
3. Become an entrepreneur – Start your own business! Twenty-eight percent of employers surveyed said starting your own business was a great way to strengthen your skill sets. You’ll be putting your skills to good use and gaining new ones along the way.
Have you had any experience with unemployment bias? What are your tips to beat it? Let us know below.