Discrimination Against The Unemployed Is Common, But You Can Fight It

Ironically, it's easier to find a job when you already have a job. Unemployed job seekers are subject to a "damaged goods" bias; some employers assume a great candidate would already have a job. A new study, which will be presented at next month's Academy of Management's annual meeting, suggests there is evidence that human resource professionals and the general public have a tendency to show a bias against unemployed job seekers.

Researcher Geoffrey Ho, a doctoral candidate at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a researcher for the study said the bias began "virtually from the outset of unemployment," not only after a long period of joblessness. The study also found that being laid off doesn't lessen the stigma. If you're unemployed and looking for a job, you probably are not surprised by these findings. What can you do to help avoid being discriminated against just because you are unemployed?

Have a well-rehearsed story describing your situation.
Be able to confidently explain the situation at your company in a way that showcases your situation in the best possible light. Use a succinct response to explain why you are out of a job and do not delve into details. For example, if you were laid off: "When I joined X company, their goals and my skills were aligned, but their plans evolved in a different direction, which compelled them to eliminate my (position/department), even though we were on target to make our goals." If you were fired, try to frame your situation in the most favorable light, for example, "When I interviewed for my last job, we agreed on specific plans and approaches, but a new supervisor joined who had different ideas about how to move forward. I was no longer a match, so I agreed to move on."

More: 7 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Up To $40 An Hour

Tell a positive, matter-of-fact story without getting into your emotions.
Do not lie, complain, or badmouth your past employer or organization and do not appear bitter or angry; it will come back to bite you.

Maintain your skills.
From the minute you are unemployed, keep in touch with your network and find ways to use your skills so prospective employers don't think you are eating bon bons on the couch. Attend industry meetings and volunteer to handle projects relevant to your field. Use your skills and list that work and your accomplishments on your resume. If you cannot volunteer for a professional organization, seek out a non-profit group or even a company where you might want to work, identify a problem you can solve for them, and offer to take on a pro-bono project for a set time.

When you take these steps, you can keep your resume and online profiles and updated with current activity so it's not so obvious you're unemployed. Even if you've been out of work for a while, you may be surprised by how helpful it can be to get started on a project or two to update your resume; it's not too late.

Network effectively.
Instead of asking everyone you meet if they know of a job, have a short, targeted pitch to introduce yourself and your skills. Request meetings to learn more about people or companies that interest you, and make it clear you don't expect a job as a result: you're doing research, which will expand your contacts and the number of people who may be willing to refer you for a position.

Use social media.
If you can engage online and demonstrate your expertise by posting links to news and sharing your own commentary, you will keep yourself top-of-mind with those who could hire or refer you to positions. Update your LinkedIn status for a brief (one- or two-week) period to indicate you are "seeking an opportunity in _______" or "available for a new position as _______," but once you've let your network know you are looking, don't be "the person without a job." Secure a project, list it on your LinkedIn profile, and share updates about your work on all of the social media channels.

Additionally, you can learn what is going on at conferences, even if you cannot attend, by watching social media updates – for example, many conferences have people "live tweeting" what the speakers are discussing. You can keep up with all of this from the comfort of your home, and even participate, even if traveling and signing up to attend in person is too expensive.

Another great reason to use social media? Employers are looking there to find candidates. A Jobvite study says, "Social recruiting has become an essential HR practice, with 92% of U.S. companies using social networks and media to find talent in 2012, up from 78% five years ago." Put yourself on social media where employers are looking, and even if you are not employed, you are more likely to gain their attention.

It's not easy looking for a job when you don't have a job, but take advantage of your free time to research organizations and jobs, to network, and connect to a new opportunity that may be an even better fit than your last job. You can help overcome the bias against the unemployed by revving up your network, getting active online, and finding volunteer gigs where you can show what you know.

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I really haven't thought about being discriminated against for being unemployed, but a more scarier thought and that is my age! I've been an Registered Nurse for 38 years. Seventeen yrs. as a ER Nurse. I've been been employed basically at two hospitals. !5years and 20 years at another. You can forget loyalty in this job market. I steill have several years to work before retirement. It's been an absolute nightmare. If you place the truth on an application, it's sure they don't get past that. I am one of the nost expensive nurses. I don't have to be I would work for a lot less. Then there's Health insurance, and that cost more for the employer. I really don't look my age maybe I should lie about my age. Honestly I could Shave off about ten years and no one would question.

August 19 2012 at 7:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Those companies who are biased against the unemployed should be sued and held up for public mocking and ridicule. Government doesn't do a thing about it though they're aware of it.

August 06 2012 at 3:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All great advice, but you have to actually get an interview in order to explain why you are unemployed. I put something on my resume, but if my resume didn't win the resume "lottery", nobody will see it anyway. And most online applications just ask if you were laid off or fired, not why. It really is a no-win situation if you have been unemployed for a long time.

August 06 2012 at 12:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The government's job is not to protect all people from harm. If you think that, then you should move back in with your mommy and daddy (assuming you are not currently living in their basement). People need to take more personal responsibility.

August 02 2012 at 10:54 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Okay, people, discrimination only applies if you are a protected class. Unemployed is not, repeat, not a protected status. The employers are not discriminating against the unemployed, they are just choosing not to hire them. Believe it or not, that is their right.

August 02 2012 at 10:53 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

How about the Government of the People for the People doing its job to protect ALL the people from harm.

August 01 2012 at 2:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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