Unemployed? Then Don't Bother Applying

Last Updated Jun 7, 2010 6:15 AM EDT

Everyone knows it's easier to find a job when you have a job. But, it looks like companies are now admitting their preferences and even excluding unemployed applicants altogether. Here's a quote from an engineering job posting: "Client will not consider/review anyone not currently employed regardless of the reason." Predictably, the blogosphere is up in arms. But, everyone is linking to the same source (The Huffington Post), which admits that the original source took down the requirement.

So, take a deep breath.

It's not as big of a deal as everyone is making it out to be. There are a few companies that are trying to stem the tide of resumes by eliminating groups of people. I'm sure it's true that the unemployed are more apt to send a resume for job postings for which they are not qualified. Stop doing that: You're giving the rest of your unemployed friends a bad name.

Any smart company will be willing to look at people who are currently unemployed. I've been involved in the layoff of literally thousands of people. THOUSANDS. Some of those people were incompetent and we were happy to get rid of them. (Yeah, lady who called me to complain that her severance should be increased by two weeks because she had worked during leap year, I'm talking about you.) Most of them, however, were good people who we would have been happy to hire back if we had an available position for them. When a company is cutting a product, a facility, a function, or a group they are going to lose good people. And if your company is bought out, well the flood gates are open. Being in bad financial straits also necessitates the termination of good people.

There are advantages to hiring unemployed people. No lengthy delay for a start date. No non-competes to worry about. No fears of counter offers from the current employer.

But, how do you avoid the stigma of being unemployed? Well, some of it you absolutely can't. Don't try lying about your current employment status. You'll get busted and could lose an offer. But, here are a few tips.

  • Network, network, network. I guarantee that even if the staffing department has a lame requirement that you must be employed, if the hiring manager wants to hire you, it will be overridden. You need to network around the recruiters.
  • Don't apply for jobs you aren't qualified for. I know you're smart and you could learn to do the job, but if it requires a master's degree and you don't have one, don't apply.
  • Keep busy during unemployment. If I asked, "So what have you been up to in the 6 months since you were laid off?" and the answer is, "applying for jobs and eating Cheetos," you're not making it past the initial screening. Do, something, anything, related to your field. Go to a conference. Volunteer with your professional association. Call up your child's teacher and say, "I'm an accountant. I'd was wondering if you'd like it if I came and did a presentation on how math applies in the grown up world." And then make sure it's a great presentation because if it is, the kids in your child's class will go home and talk about that awesome Accountant, Clara's dad. And who knows, their parents just may need an accountant.
  • Stop the mindless applications. Before you send in that resume, research the company and write a quality cover letter. Be prepared on the off chance they call.
  • Don't answer the phone if you were asleep when it started ringing. Honestly, I understand. Some people are night people. If you don't have to be to work, why not stay up late and get up at 10:00? Nothing wrong with that. But, if you get a phone call at 9:30 on a Tuesday morning and you answer with that groggy voice it's not going to look good for you. Better to let voice mail get it and call back after you've sung a few verses of your favorite song to get the sleepiness out of your voice.
  • Did I mention network? You have to get out there. You cannot survive unemployment without doing it. And if you are fortunate enough to be employed, think of your unemployed friends when a position opens up at your company.
Don't panic when someone tries to tell you there is no hope. Yes, some companies are stupid, but you don't want to work there anyway.