Unemployed Need Not Apply

"No unemployed candidates will be considered at all" read a recent job advertisement for a marketing position at Sony Ericsson.

Qualifications for a recent Assistant Restaurant Manager ad posted on Craigslist read "must be currently employed."

And another anonymous electronics company recently posted a job opening for a Quality Engineer that said, " client will not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason."

Unemployed job seekers are crying foul and wondering if listing this information on a job posting is even legal (it is). I can certainly understand their anger and I agree that the fact that a candidate is currently unemployed does not make them less capable of doing the job. But as frustrating as reading these job postings is, the reality is that employers are not telling the unemployed anything new. Many hiring authorities have always preferred an employed job seeker over an unemployed one. Here's why.

Recruiters are called headhunters for a reason.

Companies hire recruiters to find the job candidates that may not be actively looking, but may be the best qualified for their open position. They are not interested in paying recruiters double-digit finder's fees for the "low hanging fruit" -- the unemployed job seekers who have plastered their résumés across dozens of job boards that anyone could find with a few quick keystrokes.

The unemployed hire may be perceived as more of a risk.

Whether it is fair or not, if you are an unemployed job seeker, on some level the hiring manager is trying to figure out why. Yes, they recognize that this is a tough economy and there may be thousands of good candidates out on the street. But a new hire means a huge investment for a company, and they can't afford to have it go wrong. Many hiring authorities believe that there are less skeletons in the closet of the employed job seeker and that the unemployed candidate may have more performance issues.

So on some level maybe these employers are doing unemployed job seekers a favor by putting their cards on the table. At least they are being transparent about their preferences and saving the unemployed job seeker the time of applying for a position that they will never get a call back for. But this doesn't mean that these jobs or others with companies with similar hiring methodologies are out of reach for unemployed job seekers. It just means that the search strategy needs to shift away from the job boards.

Most people get their jobs through relationships. Relationships trump many types of hiring bias. People make inroads into new industries and new careers every day. But they don't do it by posting their resume on a job board. They do it by finding an advocate close to the decision maker for the job who can prove that the candidate who lacks a certain qualification is not a risk and in fact would be a great hire.

The same is true for the unemployed job seeker. In a sea of employed and unemployed candidates where the hiring manager has no relationship with any of the applicants, the employed candidate looks more appealing. However, if the unemployed candidate had a relationship with someone inside the company who recommended them, that bias would disappear. Employee referrals are one of the greatest sources of hire because an employee referral carries much less risk for a company.

So instead of getting mad, get smart. Reach out to your contacts for employment leads, build relationships through business and social media sites, and research companies with specific needs you can fill and target those companies directly. Step away from your computer and stop zapping your resume out into cyberspace for eight hours a day. You may just find that some of the common employment biases melt away once people get to know you as more than just another unemployed job seeker.

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