This week, yet another study has come out to prove the obvious. It says the long-term unemployed are being discriminated against when they submit their resumes online for jobs. Shocker. Really? Who knew?! I’m sorry for the intense sarcasm, but as someone who is passionate about teaching people how to find work in these challenging times, this kind of information being showcased repeatedly only does one thing: tells the long-term unemployed to give up.
Well, I’m not a quitter - and I don’t want the long-term unemployed giving up on themselves either!
I got so upset, I reached out to a top recruiter to get his thoughts. I wanted to see if he could provide some insight as to what would make him place a long-term unemployed person. Lou’s what we call an “old school” recruiter. He’s very confident in his ability to assess true talent. He even wrote a book as a way to teach recruiters how to find top talent for their clients which also doubles as a book to show talent how to get the attention of recruiters. I called him and said, “Lou, when you meet a long-term unemployed person, how do you decide if they can be placed?”
Lou said, “Easy. I ask them what they’ve been doing while they’ve been out of work. If they can’t tell me at least one measurable way they’ve bettered themselves professionally, I tell them I can’t help them and to call me in a year when they’ve done something.”
Wow. How’s that for honesty?
Lou went on to say he believes part of the reason we have such a high level of long-term unemployment is that we’ve created a dependent workforce. Lou says he sees people every day who still don’t understand it’s their job to keep their skills both current and relevant. When you’re unemployed, if you can’t see the need to do that on your own – you’re sending a clear message to employers you aren’t the kind of proactive, resourceful talent they’re looking for.
So, what’s an out-of-work person to do?
My answer: Disrupt the process. The problem isn’t just in the employers looking at the date of your last job, it’s also in the dysfunctional process of submitting the resume online. Of course the long-term unemployed don’t stand a chance when submitting their credentials electronically – they aren’t there to convey in-person what they’ve been up to. The only viable solution is to go around the process. With that in mind, here are three tips for beating the unemployment stigma.
- Never apply solely online. When you see a job you know you are 100% fit for, start looking for people you can connect with who work there. Leverage your social networks and find someone you can contact about the job. I don’t care if you have to ask a friend to introduce you to a total stranger. In the words of Nike, “just do it!” Nobody can job search alone. You need to ask for help. In fact, you have to do everything in your power to get someone to “pitch” you for that job – or at least get you a shot at pitching yourself. At the very least, getting your killer cover letter and a solid recommendation walked in to the manager can help them overlook the lack of recent employment on your resume.
- Create an interview bucket list. Stop going after the posted jobs and competing against thousands of other applicants – many of whom are employed and will get the interview over you. Instead, identify 10-20 companies you want to work for and start proactively connecting with people who work there. Discuss what types of problems they are busy solving at their companies and what types of skill sets they’ll be looking for to support their efforts. Get the inside track on potential opportunities and a head-start on the interviewing process by making friends with those you’d like to earn a chance to work with. Who knows? If you can develop a professional relationship based on shared professional interest, they just might help you get hired.
- Develop a problem-solving marketing platform. I always tell people, “you are a business-of-one.” That means you must develop a marketing plan for your business’ unique brand. The most attractive talent are aspirin to an employer’s pain. Identifying a problem you like to solve that showcases your professional expertise is vital to off-setting your lack of current employment. If you can talk about how you like to save and/or make a company money using your proven approach to solving problems, you can show them the fact you are between jobs right now doesn’t mean you aren’t a valuable commodity. Instead, they just might see you as an underutilize asset!
NOTE: Success with these tips hinges on one thing.
The above tips only work when an unemployed person believes in their professional abilities. Rejection is part of the job search process, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified or capable. You must trust in your skills and continue to market them. You’ve got nothing to lose, so why not go out there and play by a new set of job search rules? That way, you can use the tips above to give yourself a fighting chance.