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The Do's and Don'ts of Hiring the Long-term Unemployed

Posted by Emily Woodward on June 19, 2014

Long-term unemployment is a big problem in the country-- 3.8 million Americans have been out of work for over 6 months, and it seems like the number of opinions on the issue is just as large. In the context of hiring, it's an issue that is perpetuated both by the bias of potential employers and the discouragement job-seekers subsequently feel. In an attempt to solve long-term unemployment discrimination earlier this year, President Obama even secured pledges from large companies like Proctor & Gamble.

Your company might not be signing any documents, but it is important to consider where you and your hiring practices stand. To help you navigate these waters, we've put together a list of Do's and Don'ts to keep in mind when hiring the long-term unemployed.

Don't: Use it as a way to quickly narrow down your applicant pool

The long-term unemployed are subject to many biases from potential employers. First of all, there's the stigma that these individuals are probably rusty, or that they just don't have the industry skills whatsoever that have become so critical since their last run. There are also the personality flaw projections--employers thinkthey're lazy, or that there must be something wrong with them if no one else has picked them up. However, using these generalizations as a way to make your job easier is a sure way to miss out on some great talent. Don't allow the length of a candidate's unemployment to override their accomplishments.

Do: Realize that things happen

While the above thoughts might come to mind when you see that someone has been out of work for a year, it's important to remember that things happen. Sometimes it doesn't matter how skilled a worker is, they might have simply run into bad luck when their company 
cut their project. This means that there are plenty of talented, unemployed workers out there, you just have to give the benefit of the doubt to find them. 

Do: Look into their past

This brings us to the next point. If you want proof that a candidate's unemployment is due to something other than their own inability, do some digging into their past. Perhaps a call to a former manager will give you rave reviews, or you'll get the real story of why they were let go. Taking the time to consider the applicant's past experiences will give you an idea of what their skills are and how quickly they'll be able to jump back in. 

Do: Consider the relationship between opportunity and hard work

It feels good to hire someone who wants the job. It feels great to hire someone who needs it. For those of you who have seen The Pursuit of Happiness, imagine the emotional scene when Will Smith's character walks triumphantly out of the office after receiving an offer. While it might not happen exactly like this, granting opportunity is a sure way to receive hard work and determination in return. Anyone who has had to work that hard to get land a position is going to work very, very hard to keep it. 

Don't: Hire someone out of pity

Maybe you decided to bring a long-term unemployed applicant in for an interview. You gave them a fair chance, but for various other reasons they just didn't stack up to your other candidates. While you might feel a pang of guilt, hiring out without a good fit isn't good for either of you in the long run. Instead, reach out to your candidate to let them know that it wasn't their unemployment that cost them the job, and tell them exactly what they can improve for next time.

Hopefully this list gave you a few things to think about before tossing resumes to the side. To avoid making any other poor hiring decisions, take a look at our guide to the top reasons managers make bad hiring decisions!