My 2011 Wish: Why Not Take a Little Closer Look at the Unemployed?

HR should not ignore or avoid hiring the unemployed.

I met a couple of HR friends of mine the other night for happy hour and talked with them about something that was on my mind.

I mentioned that there has been quite a bit of talk around companies not hiring candidates who are unemployed. I asked them how they felt about that. You see, all three of us have been “in transition” at one time or another during the past year, and each of us has a totally different story to tell.

Resumes don’t tell the whole story

Fortunately we’ve all landed on our feet, but what if we hadn’t? How would we be able to overcome that stigma in the hiring manager’s mind that we were somehow flawed or that we just weren’t up to par?

You can’t explain in a cover letter that a new VP came on board and wanted to bring in his or her former colleagues. You can’t explain that there was a mandatory 10 percent cut in consultants and you were truly “just a number,” and you can’t explain that you were laid off because the person who was the backbone of the office, fought a long and hard battle with cancer (and lost), which greatly changed the dynamic – eventually sending it into a nose dive.

Throughout my career, I’ve hired several people. Not once did I ever worry about whether my potential new hire was already employed. I’ve been blessed to work for companies that cared more about skills, enthusiasm, and what the person could “bring to the table.”

I am not suggesting that we only hire unemployed candidates (that would be idiotic and WAY too optimistic – even for me). I’m just asking that we take the “must already be employed” mandate off the table. Instead of looking for what is wrong with the candidate, let’s take a minute to dig a little deeper and find what’s right. There are some great people out there ready to give their all.

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My personal thanks

I’d like to thank all of the people who took the time to comment on my blog and follow me on Twitter after my first post on HROptimist. I was energized by your kudos and kind words. Some of you I have been following for quite some time now, so I appreciate your support.

I wish you all a very healthy and happy 2011 – it’s going to be a great year, I can feel it!

This was originally published on Deborah Herman’s HR Optimist blog.

Deborah Herman is "Your Recruitment Business Partner" at DH Talent Strategies, LLC in Pompano Beach, FL. She's also a blogger at, and a HR professional with 20 plus plus years of director-level experience in staffing, marketing and employment communications. Deborah also serves as a District Director for HR Florida State Council. Contact her at


5 Comments on “My 2011 Wish: Why Not Take a Little Closer Look at the Unemployed?

  1. Love your sharing your experience. Also enjoyed the comment that you hired people for yourself and never was concerned about whether they were unemployed. But there are all those people hired for others….

    While I agree that employed or unemployed does not necessarily imply competency or quality, recruiters as well as hiring managers do behave differently based on status (it is a perfect example of the point Malcolm Gladwell makes in Blink that we often have too much, not too little, information when we make selections/decisions.)

    Sourcers take pride in tracking down ‘passive’ (meaning ‘currently working’ ) candidates and might dismiss those too easy to find. Their ego is at stake.

    Recruiters that have hiring managers whose preferences for passive candidates are well known seldom if ever push back when a candidate w/o a job surfaces. Their backbone is at stake and it is understandable when their own Recruiting leaders fail to have their ‘back’.

    Being out of work is not at all pleasant and the attitudes of those who are out of work are often as compromised as the attitudes of those who have never been out of work. One is likely to conclude that they are doomed to failure and the other seems to imagine they are destined for greatness. Neither should be allowing their working ‘condition’ to affect their behavior when they interview, but they do and, the point is whether the recruiter and hiring manager are competent enough to assess it’s long term impact on performance or simply cave to the positive or negative ‘halo’.

    I could go on but wonder whether those of us who have experienced being let go (yes and it is a great story for when we next have a drink together) actually change their behavior when they get back into a new job. Do they (we) make serious changes in the training, rewards and process of recruiting in the new company so that what we experienced isn’t happening under our watch?

  2. Deborah,

    Many companies were effected by the economy the last two years as a result some had to reduce staff and restructure and begin operating lean in order to stay competitive in their market. Which is why now decision makers feel like it is an employers market and they have the right to pick in choose which includes not wanting to hire individuals that are unemployed. What they are missing is that companies that hire quality people have a significant advantage over those that don’t.
    Recently I was listening to an audio summary of the book “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” By Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

    Larry talks about how getting things done is the most important function of a business leader. Larry examines the 3 building blocks of execution: People, strategy and operations.

    Building Block Number 1: People
    The foundation of a great company is developing great people. As a business leader it is important to have a role in the hiring and interview process. In an interview ask questions to get an idea of how good a person is at getting things done. When checking references ask questions to get an idea of how well the candidate prioritizes, qualities known for and previous accomplishments.

    That just one building block unfortunatley I plan to go out and buy the book and read more about the other two building blocks but it ties in to what you wrote about. Quality is not always individuals that are working or have a degree or work experience it the individual that knows how to get things done.

    Tiffany Thompson
    DaMar Staffing Solutions of Indianapolis

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