Employers often request a wide range of skills from job applicants. But in the midst of a troubled economy, in which more than 14 million people are unemployed, many companies are adding one extra qualification to that list: having a job. At a time when there are far more applicants than there are openings, employers can be choosier, and they’re increasingly choosing to ignore applicants who have been out of work for 6 months or more. Many job listings specifically state that applicants “must be employed or recently employed.”
Many companies view the practice as an easy way to screen applications, and they assume that applicants with jobs are more in touch with the pulse of an industry. But 90 percent of Americans believe this practice is unfair. However, there’s no consensus on what to do about it. New Jersey recently passed a law forbidding such bans in job listings, but the practice is nearly impossible to monitor or to prove, and some say it puts an unnecessary burden on companies in the state.
Unfortunately, the practice also puts an unfair burden on minority groups and individuals over age 55, as both groups have been disproportionately affected by unemployment and on average remain unemployed for longer amounts of time. In addition, this policy can cause problems for those job-seekers who previously have served as long-term caregivers and stay-at-home parents, who seek an extra paycheck in a tough economy.
For many who are unemployed, their job status has little to do with their actual skill level and much more to do with the economy and businesses going under. Employers would do both themselves and the applicants a service by treating the unemployed as individuals, and reviewing resumes based on merit and experience, not current job status. By ignoring the unemployed, companies are not only hurting the applicants’ chance of finding work, but they are ignoring a large and talented pool of individuals eager to get back to work.