Out of work? How job hunters can fight the growing stigma of unemployment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(BPT) – Forty percent, or 5 million, of unemployed Americans are considered “long-term unemployed,“ according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meaning they have been jobless for at least 27 weeks. With so many people facing long-term unemployment it’s inevitable that the topic is raised as they seek and interview for jobs.  

The 2012 Job Preparedness Indicator, an annual research initiative of DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board, found these unemployed job seekers are often already up against a challenge as they try to re-enter the workplace: 56 percent of hiring managers often refuse to consider an unemployed candidate, a 9 percent increase from 2011.

The survey revealed that 74 percent of employers rely heavily on their own instincts and experiences to decide what skills are critical to fill open positions within their companies. In fact, of the 516 hiring managers at Fortune 1000-equivalent companies surveyed, only 17 percent use benchmarking or tracking to help sort through the applicant pool.

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These findings echo the stigma attached to today’s unemployed job seekers or simply the job seekers who have a gap on their resume. Therefore, confidence is decreasing – 51 percent of job seekers say that if they don’t have experience that mirrors a job opportunity, they won’t apply for it. 

“This begs the question – how can the unemployed gain more job experience if no one will hire them due to lack of experience?” says Jessica Rau, communications manager for McDonald’s Greater Chicago Region, and a Career Advisory Board member. “Job seekers should utilize these findings to modify the way they present themselves to potential employers.”

Too many job seekers are reluctant to seek professional guidance. In order to determine what to put on applications or resumes, nearly 60 percent of job seekers rely on their own experience to decide what to include, rather than seek advice from career counselors.

“Job seekers need not dwell on their employment gap, but rather be active and engage themselves in professional development,” says Pete Joodi, a distinguished engineer with IBM, and a member of the Career Advisory Board. “In the next five years, a basic understanding of technology and the use of social media are going to become increasingly more important in most career fields and therefore, job seekers can strengthen their skill set by pursing a class, serving as a volunteer to use skills, or taking a temporary job to stay fresh and acquire new skills.”

For those unemployed workers looking to get around the bias, the Career Advisory Board recommends the following:

1. Showcase your situation in a positive light – Be confident, concise and non-emotional in interviews. Employers are likely to ask about the gap, but answer questions in a constructive way by mentioning how you’ve sharpened your skills in the meantime.

2. Keep learning and growing – Fill the gaps on your resume by taking a temporary or volunteer position so that you are actually working while looking for a new job.

3. Be active in your industry community – both online and off – Strengthen your personal brand by engaging with your industry experts on social channels. Attend a networking event, which will put you in touch with new contacts and will enable you to practice telling your story.

For additional career advice and to learn more about the 2012 Job Preparedness Indicator visit www.careeradvisoryboard.org.