Why It’s Bad Business to Hire the Long-Term Unemployed
The Obama administration has overseen the utterly preventable destruction of human capital that is arguably unprecedented in human history — and it's their fault.
March 15, 2011 - 12:00 am
Those greedy employers are up to their nefarious tricks again. They’re even being overt about it.
If you’re unemployed, many of them won’t hire you. They won’t even talk to you. They don’t want you to waste your time, or theirs, filling out a job application, or submitting your resume. How absolutely awful of them.
Wrong. The “unemployed need not apply” phenomenon is an all too predictable and awful result of over two years of horribly misguided economic policy.
First, let’s acknowledge that employers are mostly acting rationally.
Especially in this economy, perhaps until recently — and that’s a big maybe — the main focus of many, if not most businesses, has been to figure out how to stay in business. In an environment where a serious hiring mistake may mean the difference between keeping the doors open or closing them, employers looking for help cannot afford to take unwarranted risks. Before they go into the hiring market, they ask themselves if the old reliables in their current crew can handle the increased workload caused by staff departures. They may also consider whether some or all of the tasks involved can be outsourced, automated, or even eliminated.
If they reluctantly conclude that they must hire someone new, company managers will go through their own internal networks of relatives, friends, and acquaintances to see if they can find someone — employed or unemployed, but largely prescreened — who is up to doing the work. They may also look at the possibility of proactively recruiting people who have impressed them in their business interactions while currently working at customers, suppliers, or competitors.
When the avenues just described come up empty, employers will let the general job market know that they are looking. It is there where the bias in favor of people who are currently employed comes out, and for several valid reasons.
If a person is already working somewhere else, they’re demonstrating that on a daily basis, not in the recent or sometimes distant past, their work habits and output are more than likely satisfactory to someone else. There’s at least a decent chance that this person has kept his or her skills sharp, and has kept up with technological and market developments in the industry. The effort involved in training such a person in their new job will often be fairly minimal. There will also be a lower likelihood that the person will flunk a background check, credit check, or their drug test.
With the unemployed, especially the long-term unemployed, the situation completely flips. Work habits and attitudes, even if once great, become suspect. Skills may have eroded. On the job training efforts are more likely to be substantial, take longer to stick, and are more likely to fail. The chances that the new person will steal because of financial hardship, has gotten into legal trouble while unemployed, or has fallen into substance abuse are all greater.