Need a job? You'll need to have a job first

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The Wall Street Journalreports (subscription required) that "With unemployment at 9.4% and rising, it's a buyer's market for employers that are hiring. But many employers are bypassing the jobless to target those still working, reasoning that these survivors are the top performers."

Some recruiting firms say that their clients are expressing a preference for workers who are "passively" looking for jobs -- fully employed but open to new opportunities.

It's tempting to dismiss this elitist hiring policy as a remnant of the Puritan idea that poverty was a reflection of some kind of moral shortcoming, but in a way it makes perfect sense: If someone has a job in this economy, they must be good.

The real issue here is that it's a buyer's market for employers, with positions that are normally mundane and unattractive attracting a flood of applications and resumes. With so much interest in so few jobs, employers can be far, far pickier than they'd be in a normal job market. They have to be in order to sort through all those resumes and make hiring decisions.

A friend with a degree from an elite university recently found himself unable to snag a part-time gig at Banana Republic. The employer's reasoning? He was overqualified and would leave quickly once he found a better opportunity in his field of interest. That's right: Having a college degree is a good enough reason to reject someone applying for a minimum wage gig.
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