Should We Be Telling the Unemployed Not to Apply?

A report in The Huffington Post two days ago has sent the recruiting world into a paroxysm of self-examination.

Dozens of comments here at ERE and more at RecruitingBlogs and probably elsewhere too, are condemning the practice of excluding the unemployed from jobs.

The HuffPo article reported that some companies are specifically discouraging the unemployed from applying. It cites a few specific example, and says it’s not hard to find ads with wording such as this from Craigslist for a restaurant manager: “Must be currently employed.”

The article doesn’t say whether this is a trend. However, one of the ERE posters commented that “This ‘practice’ been going on for almost as long as I can remember (30+ years of TPR) now everyone is upset because a company actually said it in a job post?”

ERE blogger Brenda Le triggered the discussion when she wrote about the HuffPo article and said: “IMHO — It is a disgrace in this country, given the current economy that companies are practicing this kind of behavior — it can’t possibly be the norm.”

The 31 comments (at the time I posted this article) mostly agree with her. A few suggest the practice may have some validity as a screening tool, but that it’s unwise from a PR standpoint.

Over at RecruitingBlogs the discussion is decidedly more shrill. Some of the comments to a blog post there draw comparisons to Hitler’s generals. Like ERE’s Le, IT recruiter and blogger Nikole Tutton took to task employers who don’t want the unemployed.

“Hey Recruiters! What gives?,” she scolded. “What ever happened to ‘Let’s help America by putting her back to work one job at a time.’? Isn’t this prolonging the job crisis and unemployment by further dividing the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’?”

Like the ERE discussion, most participants are taking great umbrage over the exclusion of the unemployed. One brave recruiter, however, commented, “I never signed up to ‘put America back to work’… My job is to recruit the profile of individual my client desires. If this profile is not discriminatory in nature I have no moral struggle with doing so.”

Discriminating against the unemployed, observes The HuffPo article, is not prohibited, though it could, potentially, have a disparate impact on minorities, especially black men who have an unemployment rate nationally in May of 17.1 percent.

In certain states and metro areas, that percentage is significantly higher. In Michigan, the unemployment rate for black men for 2009 was 26 percent.

While the HuffPo article limited itself to a handful of sites, I checked some of the biggest job boards for phrases such as “currently employed,” “must be currently employed,” and one cited in the article: “no unemployed will be considered.”

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A few of these turn up on both CareerBuilder and Monster. Many are for restaurant management jobs. This one, which says, “Must be currently employed or no more than 3 months out of the restaurant business,” is typical. This one on CareerBuilder for a B2B software and services sales person, says “Must be Currently employed!”

Most of the ads I found appear placed by one or another agency, which may well be taking marching orders from the client. Thus, the general taking orders from Hitler reference at RecruitingBlogs.

Some of the more thoughtful posters make an interesting point about how recruiters covet, above all others, the passive candidate. That would imply an exclusion of the unemployed, who, if they are seeking work, are “active” candidates. Then again, recruiters posting on a job board, are implicitly soliciting active candidates who, for one reason or another, want out of the job they currently have.

To me, that’s a bit of dark irony, since the end result of that process is to welcome (even if unintentionally) those who can’t stand their job, their boss or may be one step ahead of being fired, while rejecting a group of people that includes top performers, team players, and other, similarly qualified persons.

Notwithstanding that logical oddity, there may be good reasons for excluding the unemployed. In the case of someone out of the job market for some time, their skills may have grown stale or, for a rainmaker type job, losing touch with key contacts may be an issue. I’m reaching here, I know, since there are more diplomatic and productive ways of addressing those concerns.

Whatever positive benefit there might be in limiting the applicant pool by excluding the unemployed, the downside seems much worse. At the very least, an employer may miss out on some highly qualified candidates. There’s also a hit to the employer brand. It may be small, but most brand damage is incremental, not monumental.

Where do you come down on this issue? What do you think of employers who exclude the unemployment? What are the pros and cons? Comment here or participate in the discussion at “Unemployed Will Not Be Considered” (Right or Wrong?).

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


61 Comments on “Should We Be Telling the Unemployed Not to Apply?

  1. Fortunately, my hiring managers are enlightened enough to recognize two key things- one of course being the economic conditions of today, and that there are many good people who are unemployed. Two, the fact that the people are currently unemployed are very grateful to find a position, much more so than the stagnant employees who have been around for 20+ years. Hiring managers who reject the unemployed just on the fact they are unemployed are really missing out (particularly with all the recent grads!).

  2. Nothing new going on here. A lot of hogwash about nothing. The employer is just being up front about it. Besides what do you expect from Craigslist? This type of process is practiced everyday by not only the private sector but by government as well but it’s never publicized as bluntly. The employer should have the right to hire whoever he wants. An applicant is not owed a job and applicants are surely not forced to apply to any job that they disagree with on how it was written. If they don’t like what the employer says, they are free to start their own business and compete in the arena of the private sector and then they can put up with everyone else telling them how to run their business.

  3. I think it hurts a company’s brand and is a stupid move. I recommend against it, but support their right to post such a requirement. If you don’t agree with their values, don’t apply. And if I were an employee of that company … I’d keep that posting in mind when another job opportunity presents itself.

  4. Honestly, I think it’s ridiculous. Employers have no problem shedding thousands of jobs and treating people as expendable, but then want employees with no employment gaps and with long years of service. It’s completely hypocritical, especially in today’s economy. I’ve lost three jobs in my career – one when my facility was shut down and jobs moved to another state (even though we were profitable), one for a company bankruptcy, and one when the CEO eliminated the HR department with two days notice right after Christmas with no severance. I’ve been fortunate to find employment quickly in all instances, but in none of those cases was my fault nor the fault of the other impacted employees, but rather due to stupid business decisions and/or poor management. I completely understand that employers have the right to do whatever they want in most cases, but they might be missing out on awesome candidates and are coming across as extremely arrogant. In today’s environment, everyone is an “active” candidate. You have to be.

  5. I am not saying it’s smart business but it’s their business and regardless if a business makes a smart decision or not so smart decision (I am not saying I agree with what this business did) they can do it. Contrary to popular belief, a company is in the business of making a profit NOT supplying jobs. Do I agree with everyhting a company does to accomplish this, of course not but once again it’s their company. So if anyone doesn’t like it they don’t have to work there and are free to leave anytime or not apply to a position. So whine all you want to but until you run a company that has to put up with the attacks from government regulations, taxes on and on, I think a person’s view would change and they would find out that maybe they aren’t as business smart as they think they are when it comes to dealing with all the attacks from wherever they come from. Just because they are attacks doesn’t mean they are right. Let me know when you find the perfect company to work for!

  6. Barry, I don’t think anyone is saying that companies don’t have the legal right to do this; the argument is in the practice and how it impacts the business and the economy. I don’t disagree at all the employers have the right to hire or fire anyone they want, as long as they aren’t being discriminatory (which, in some ways, one could probably make cases that this could be). My point is that companies can’t grandstand on why they need to outsource jobs, or shed jobs to make Wall Street happy, and then turn around and slam candidates for being unemployed or having gaps in employment. I completely understand that companies are in it to make money, but I have witnessed firsthand companies losing money due to stupid decisions made by management, and then employees suffering the consequences of those decisions while management marches on or takes the nice golden parachute and lands a nice board position somewhere. I’ve seen it happen too many times. I personally know really good people who have been impacted by all this and are now “active” candidates and are just as qualified as the coveted “passive” superstar.

  7. Hiring managers who do not interview candidates solely because the are unemployed will surely be going to the warmest parts of hell. (Paraphrasing Churchill with artistic license.)

  8. Hi John,

    Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront, where it needs to be. Most people who know me, know I am a very private person (for good reason), and I struggled with writing the original group post. But, this subject affects me on a personal level and to that end, my closest recruiting friends have encouraged me to just put it out there.

    My husband has been searching for a full time job with benefits for over 3 years now – he began his career as a Firefighter and climbed through the ranks to be the North Regional Manager of Florida’s State Fire Marshal’s Office. There is not much he has not seen or done; he is a Subject Matter Expert in his field and certified instructor. As a government employee, he was not allowed to consult on the side, but his charisma and knowledge attracted many high level and well connected people seeking his opinion and knowledge. Back in 2004, I supported his decision to leave his very secure government position and become a full time consultant, which was lucrative the first 2 years, then became a feast or famine once the real estate market began to dry up.

    At this point, well into his 40’s and armed with a great work history and lots of good references, it was time for him to go back to work for someone else. We thought it would be a no brainer, after all he was very well connected throughout the state of Florida, but when he made those first few phone calls and sent out those first few resumes, we were shocked at the doors that were closed in his face. His status of being unemployed, his age, and his former salary history were a real turn off to, well – everyone. He managed to come in 2nd place at a few interviews, or at least that’s what he was told. He received a great job offer from the NY/NJ Port Authority to be the safety director on a new wing at Kennedy Airport (a whole other story,) but that was squashed by a hiring freeze brought on by a newly elected politician at the time.

    This week, things turned around for him – long story short, he finally followed my advice when applying for a posted position and called the hiring manager directly – he got a job offer! Now a little older and wiser, he will be answering to a person he was responsible for promoting 10 years ago, he will answer to the fire marshal’s office he once managed, and he will answer to the fire department where he was once a rookie firefighter and where his co-rookie is now the chief. It’s a good thing my husband is so well adjusted in his personality, I don’t think too many folks would be willing to go down this road and accept a salary of 27% what it used to be.

    I stand on the side of “Let’s put America back to work!” There are several issues as to why my husband had a hard time of it. He doesn’t fit the profile of a barista. Although his knowledge is broad in his field, he is still tied to a certain industry. He has been “the hiring manager,” but no one is going to let him “crossover” and “retrain” in a new position when they can pull from another company – someone who’s already trained! Not to mention he’s also a victim of tunnel vision recruiters who fail to see the crossover skills on his resume, but that’s another story.

  9. Brenda’s description of her husband’s current situation answers many common questions about hiring overqualified older workers.

    Once a boss he will now be reporting to former peers and subordinates.

    Brenda says that he can only handle what some might see as an assault on their egos only because of he has a particularly health psychological disposition.

  10. After Tony Heywood is fired as CEO of BP, he’ll likely take some time off then end up on lists of search firms’ potential CEOs lists. If a little old oil spill doesn’t hurt someone, why should a little unemployment.

    No else will say it so I will: Barry, everyone here but you seems to understand the issue at hand. It has nothing to do with a company having the “right” to choose anyone they want (which isn’t true) with impunity.

    Now why is that?

  11. We don’t live in a perfect world or work for a perfect company. Frankly I could care less and it’s none of my business if an executive gets a big payout or a board position as none of that does me any good one way or the other. In fact Enron looks like a great company compared to the government as the only thing that Enron couldn’t do was print money and force people to give them money. Government has caused more misery for more people than Enron could ever think of doing. Of course I am being sarcastic about Enron but I hope you get my point. “Let’s put America back to work”, gee I thought that was the government’s job as that’s whats on the road signs I see displayed. Doing away with private business as fast as they can and government will become the “perfect employer” where waste, fraud and abuse far exceeds anything business could ever hope to achieve. Sorry to here about your husbands plight but welcome to the real world not the protected government world.

    Government keeps my theory alive and well every day.. “If you can’t hack in the private sector, government has a job for you where no level of arrogance or incompetence cannot be achieved!”

  12. Barry, this wasn’t a discussion regarding govenment vs the private sector, and whose job it is to provide jobs. It’s about the actions of some employers to discriminate against those who, for the most part, are out of a job through no fault of their own. The point I’ve been trying to make is that employers want the perfect employee with the perfect resume, yet most are responsible for creating situations where people are out of jobs through no fault of their own. I’m not asking government to step in in any way – I’m just saying that for hiring managers to think they are so above it all that they cannot hire someone who has been unemployed is not only bad for the candidates, it’s bad business and particularly bad for the econony. If we keep hiring people who are already employed, simply because we don’t even want to consider them, then we are perpetuating an unemployment treadmill.

  13. Barry, I don’t believe we have had the pleasure of meeting virtually. What’s nice about knowing about unethical behavior is that it will likely trickle down to your level if it’s practiced. So, while it may not do you any good one way or another today, it will on an another day – to be certain, one way or another. You would appreciate a heads up on that wouldn’t you?

    Several people have pointed out that this is not exactly illegal practice but it is unethical and as the company who quickly said “oops” once it was made a media circus of (and I hoped we helped do that B) and said it was a “mistake” in the job ad – it’s a real employer brand killer and could easily turn out to be a consumer brand killer as well. Many campaigns have been raised to boycott companies with nasty employer practices and principles.

    My last thought in this post is that it isn’t the government’s job to put everyone back to work, it’s their job to run government right – and the economy will be stimulated and work. It’s everyone’s job to participate fully and with high ethics in the economy and not try to take advantage of others through unscrupulous means. That’s called pulling an “Enron”.

  14. I know for a fact that government does exactly the same thing as the private sector (and worse) however they don’t do it as blatantly as putting it on Craigslist. Every employer, hiring manger or recruiter uses a criteria for screening. Of course I don’t always agree with the criteria but I don’t always have the last say and I am not saying I have the perfect criteria either. But I have sat at the hiring managers desk and resumes were disqualified for; to many jobs in a short time(of course I never see that defined in a formula), wrong college so I guess there are RIGHT colleges (I haven’t seen that list), didn’t work for the right companies-you name it on and on. If bad business decisions are made, they pay the price. So now we need a law to tell business that they have to hire ONLY the unemployed! That’s the last thing we need more government intrusion.

  15. Barry, when “bad” decisions were made, did you step up and “defend” candidates whom you believed were winners? How actively did you pursue this “better candidate” track?

    Or did you acquiesce to the “power” of the hiring manager?

    BTW, I agree with you that we don’t need anymore govt intervention (which incidentally had nothing to do with the message in John’s post); we do however, need smarter, more business saavy
    recruiters with backbones…

  16. I am sure that this sort of practice is going on without adding the “no unemployed” clause to a job posting. I agree strongly that it is wrong and I would out any company I know who is doing it. Unfortunately some companies think that unemployed people were let go because they weren’t the best and it presented an opportunity to let them go. Wrong. I worked at a company where the client wouldn’t consider any candidate that didn’t go to an Ivy League school even though there were many other very qualified recruits. More unfortunate is that these types of practises go over all the time.
    p.s. I gave the client to another recruiter because I was so angered by his demands.

  17. Barry H needs a serious reality check. I wouldn’t trust this man as a hiring manager, a recruiter or as a candidate recruit. He definitely needs to not have a job for 6 months or more and frankly after his cold senseless comments…. I think he is well on his way. There are many talented people in the ranks of those out of work and there are many untalented people presently employed. A good recruiter knows how to find the right skills the employer seeks and win the war for talent. period….

  18. The article asks, Where do you come down on this issue? Here is my very simple and pared down opinion. Anyone who calls oneself a recruiter does make attempts to pare down their responses when the job requirements are not very specialized. To me, this is a “lazy” recruiter’s way of attempting to achieve a narrowed response. Any recruiter or hiring authority’s decision to use this as a screen is really just phoning it in. And likely it does not work anyway. If I am unemployed and really feel that such a job is my holy grail, I am going to try and apply fervently anyway. Unethical considerations aside, the method is really pretty stupid all the way around.

  19. I find it interesting no one has mentioned the Government’s “mild” discrimination endorsement of late. You know the “tax break” for hiring? The one where the employer does not have to pay Social Security for the new employee this year?

    Perhaps none of you have looked into it. I have. I’m an employer. Guess what? If your new employee WAS employed you don’t get the break. In fact if he/she was let go a MONTH ago you don’t get it. Your new employee MUST have been unemployed for 2 months to get this tax break.

    Did they advertise this as such? Nope. All everyone heard on the news was “Tax break for hiring”. Not “Tax break for discriminating against the employed”.

    So is THIS kind of discrimination OK? Since Uncle Sam is doing it?

  20. Two words: Michael Milken.

    This is pretty simple. (if you believe we still have some degree of capitalism in effect) Sooner or later an arbitrage opportunity will arise for currently unemployed workers IF the employment market is indeed placing an irrational value on people being currently employed.

    If I’m looking at two otherwise pretty equal candidates and one happens to be unemployed because of a general RIF, and is thus devalued by $10K a year compared to the other, who do you think I may favor for the hire ?

    Not fair ? No it’s not. The worker takes the hit for a few years until their market value returns and the spread decreases. A year or two from now this discussion will have different contours as this market reaction develops.

    In fact, if I were a recruiter looking for an arbitrage opportunity, I might consider finding the very best unemployed candidates, coaching them into marking themselves down to the current market price, and then marketing that opportunity to smart firms that like to save some bucks.

    Milken made billions doing it because it turned out that the bond ratings were not real-world accurate, just as the perception at hand is not.

    Oh, and Barry, maybe you could read this entry:

    and explain to the unenlightened masses just what entity other than Government should operate in those ‘markets’ ?

  21. Hiring decisions are NEVER black or white but varying shades of gray depending on a multitude of factors. The final decision, in most cases is up to an individual or a small team of individuals. I don’t believe that any organization has a “blanket policy” for not hiring the unemployed. Can it be a factor in the hiring process – of course it can. So can hair color, weight, height, a limp handshake, over groomed, under groomed, too much make-up, too much perfume, and on and on and on. Do we regulate everything, or do we let hiring managers or teams make BIASED decisions based on what they feel will help them accomplish their goals – even if you think they are wrong? My mother always told me “Life ain’t fair – deal with it” best advice I ever got.
    Career employment is not a level playing field, some must climb mountains while others skate across clear and smooth concrete surfaces.

  22. Back to the orginal statement that the Craigslist person made.. has anyone given the thought that if only the person did hire the Employed then the other business that lost an employee could possible seek someone to employ and maybe they would hire an unemployed person. Gee all this hogwash for nothing. Noting some of the comments on here that missread everything I say, I am beginning to think it’s a good thing that HR doesn’t run the business. In fact some of you “know it all’s”.. go start a business and in a couple years come back here and tell us about all the perfect decisions you have made and all the perfect people you employ and no complaints from anyone on how you should run your business. Tell us all about it! Steve, I have been fired for pointing out issues and I almost got an innocent employee fired over it. Nothing good came of it and I sure don’t like your insinuation that I have to get fired to make a difference. John I live in reality but obvliously you can’t handle the truth. For some inane reason you think that I must conduct business unethically. Quite frankly, YOU can’t or won’t understand a thing I said and manage to misconstru most of what I said. The government is very good at miss contruing everything and I think that would be perfect fit for some of the people making these outrageous accusations on here.

  23. Marty’s comment and suggestion is a far better solution to the problem than the govt’s absurdly flawed hire-unemployed-and-receive-a-tax-break program mentioned by @Jerry.

    Simply hire the best person available and if the person is unemployed, you might be able to play the talent market and get the person at a discount. Neither Marty nor I are advocating a deep salary discount – which I consider to be borderline unethical (or just below my moral floor) but if you’re unemployed, get back on the saddle, make money and help the company: Simple arbitrage.

    When someone neglects the unemployed for simply being unemployed, they’re being very bad investors for their team, their company and for the company’s shareholders.

    In fact, I’d suggest that analysts specifically ask questions of company leaders as to the % of hires who were unemployed. That would sure upend the apple cart!

  24. Love the comments. Jim, great post. Barry, stay strong. What’s great about this article is that it has dredged up our biased hiring processes. As recruiters we’ve all seen some candidates get to the finish line who perhaps should not have, or some candidates not be given a shot, who should have. It has pissed us off and we influence where we can. But to Jim’s point, “Life ain’t fair — deal with it.”

  25. This discussion has certainly taken its twist and turns with varying degree of diverse thoughts. Notably, the conversation has shifted with an emphasis upon the following:

    • Discrimination
    • Fighting for the individual rights of organization to hire whom they please (no one is arguing against this)
    • Government intervention

    I can appreciate the desire to infuse the government in this dialogue so let’s expand on this topic. But first let’s talk about history. Our great nation was founded upon the idea that “We hold these truths self evidence that all men are created equal” but, history tells us that at times our country was at odds with this very fundamental belief; thus creating periods of great struggle for individual freedom and rights.

    Fact #1
    Women fought a long hard battle for the right to vote, the government (we the people by the people for the people) therefore stepped in and passed, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution thus recognizing the individual freedom and rights of women to vote.

    We can talk about the laws that were instituted by the government pertaining to employment but for the moment let’s factor the government out of this conversation and let’s talk about the impact of negligence and incompetence on businesses and their profits. In an effort to get my point across here’s a brief story:

    A very wealthy man was diagnosed with a serious illness and he had 50/50 chance of survival. He had all the money in the world, thus he could pick and choose any physician he wanted. After research, his family recommended an unknown expert but rather than selecting the “unknown” doctor with a demonstrated ability and successful track record to treat his ailment, he selected a doctor with all the bells and whistles (degree from the best schools, the perfect GPA with the great office, great hairdo and great connections).

    The doctor was so excited that he was selected because he saw an opportunity to make a lot of money. The relationship developed and rather than the doctor working with the patience to address the illness the patient (with no expertise) began to dictate to the doctor on how to treat him. i.e. For example one treatment, drink sea water with cod liver oil three days causing the enzymes to eat up the bad cells.

    The weak doctor went along with the patients demands because the patient was paying the doctor. The patient condition worsened; his family tries to intervene by once again suggesting the unknown expert but, the man refuses. Eventually the man dies. The family is outraged and decides to obtain an attorney as well as solicit the support of the local politician to put the doctor out of practice. Eventually the doctor was sued for incompetence, negligence and an unethical behavior.

    The Point
    Competent professionals who truly care about their clients will provide advice with the best interest of their clients in mind even if it means having to make the tough conversations and pushing back on erroneous, fictitious generalization that are grounded in ignorance. As HR professionals, if we fail to do this on a wide scale level then guess what? Your greatest fear of Government intervention becomes a reality. Why? So that the rights of organizations and people are protected from incompetence.

    Hiring processes that are rooted in sound evaluations mechanism ensure that an organization will hire the most qualified and competent people. A poor practice performed over a long period of time does not justify that it’s the best approach. The whole unemployment argument is weak, we only need to look at examples such Michael Bloomberg was fired and went on to create an organization worth billions.

  26. @Barry: I think that almost everything you say is either simplistic or just plain wrong, but I admire your willingness to state your beliefs. We know where we stand with you, and that’s a good thing. Barry: keep fighting the bad fight!

    @Heidi: You said (IMHO, this is the ideal):
    “Competent professionals who truly care about their clients will provide advice with the best interest of their clients in mind even if it means having to make the tough conversations and pushing back on erroneous, fictitious generalization that are grounded in ignorance”.

    “Competent professionals who truly care about their JOBSs will provide advice with the best interest of their SUPERIORs in mind even if it means having to make the tough conversations and pushing back on ACCURATE, TRUTHFUL STATEMENTS that are grounded in OBJECTIVE FACT.”

    Happy Friday,

    Keith “We don’t even know where we SIT (let alone stand) with him!” Halperin

  27. Keith:

    Thank you for the feedback. Sadly there are many folks out there that would rather coward down for the sake of “CYA” or the paycheck rather than stand up for “common sense” business practices. It’s a fine line. Ultimately they become victims of their own demise.

    True professionals equipped with knowledge and solid expertise can justify their worth through the skills, and abilities they bring to the table.

    These individuals have the courage to speak up with diplomacy; they admit when they are wrong; they are savvy negotiators; they can collaborate with others to achieve winning results and they are not so self-absorbed that they refuse to listen to others rather, they possess the balance to respect various opinions while still keeping an eye on ball.

    In other words Keith, they get it done!

  28. @Heidi: You’re very welcome.
    I have had the privilege of knowing a very few individuals with “proactive integrity” i.e., telling Truth to Power, and the political skills to survive in the organization. In my experience when things get serious, Power usually trumps Truth and Politics trumps Integrity.


  29. I must say I am really impressed with what I would call some of the “compassionate recruiters” on this blog with the amount of hate I have seen on here. I think I know where you stand Keith so keep following the lemmings. I could care less if anyone agrees with me. It’s amazing that some of you THINK you are experts at what I do or what my job entails when you have no clue and somehow come to outrages conclusions. Time to go as I am sure you won’t miss me but the feelings are the same. Until next week but I doubt I will bother with this blog because it has gotten down right boring.

  30. I haven’t been quite active in terms of spending time posting on the Social Media outlets lately, but this is a very interesting discussion. My comments are not directed toward anyone, and are simply general in nature – if anyone has read this far, obviously they’re interested, so here’s a quick thought given my own personal/professional development:

    I used to think that an organization’s only goal was to ‘drive profit’. More specifically, I believed that a company’s sole goal was to create shareholder value. I lived with this belief from the time I left the USMC in 1999 all the way through completing an MBA in 2007. I scoffed at any form of regulation; I believed in Free-Market Capitalism and was convinced “Greed is Good.” As a result, I endorsed any Recruiting activities or hiring practices that led to this end.

    Given what we’ve seen happen over the last few years (collapse of the Financial Services sector, the Mortgage Crisis, the Great Recession, and now this latest oil-spill debacle by BP), I cringe at how short-sighted my mentality used to be. It’s like endorsing Nuclear proliferation while unaware of the shockwave is heading your way.

    Does this mean I’m ‘weaker-minded’ than I used to be? No, it means I’m more aware. The majority of us have begun to see the big picture – the accelerated shrinking of the U.S. (average) Consumer Debt is a perfect example. Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning MBA programs endorsing their own form of the medical community’s Hippocratic Oath. Why? So that graduates of these programs are able to come to terms with what “ethical business” means. Why again? So they don’t think like I used to . . . because my mode of thought is part of what got us into this mess in the first place.

    So when it comes to hiring, I’m not saying we swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, but we could definitely use some more balance. The bottom line: There is more to ethical business than purely profits, and there are surely some super Candidates out there who fell victim to the Great Recession’s downsizing. It’s our leadership responsibility, as Recruiters, to convey that a Candidate’s value extends far beyond their current employment status.

    We can either be part of the problem (the easy way out), or we can step up the plate and be part of the solution. The question comes down to what each of us will do when we reach our own moment of truth . . . we can either cow down and give into a short-sighted evaluation of our Candidate’s value, or we can lift our chin up and ask, “What led you to this assumption about what they can contribute to this Organization?”

  31. @Barry: IMHO,if you want to see a hater (or at least a very bitter-sounding person): look in a mirror. FYI, I don’t follow the lemmings-I LEAD them! 🙂

    @Joshua: Here, here!


  32. John,

    Just a quick note – I would certainly defend your right to discuss and quote comments and articles on RecruitingBlogs. However, I just want to point out that a reader could easily misinterpret your comment “Over at RecruitingBlogs the discussion is decidedly more shrill. Some of the comments to a blog post there draw comparisons to Hitler’s generals.” Pointing out this one inflammatory remark could give a reader the wrong impression of our site. RecruitingBlogs obviously supports and promotes lively discussion, but we do not support any language that is hateful. I know it was not your intention to paint a negative portrait of our site, but rather reference the online discussion about the topic at hand, but I thought it warranted a quick note of clarification.

    Thanks, Miles

  33. The problem with an ad such as this one is that if it inadvertantly affects a protected group, it could indeed violate discrimination laws. Also, as others have mentioned it makes for terrible corporate branding and shows poor business strategy and decision-making; this may result in a backlash when consumers discreetly boycott certain products down the road.

    The time when recruiters sought only passive candidates (which personally I never have) is realistically over. Today’s passive candidate often suffers from stress, “survivor guilt”, and overwork. The active candidate has had some time off to regroup, reenergize, and retrain.

  34. I will make my comments simple: (these are my comments and not the views of my company, my blog etc) AND this response is really not in response to any response above. It’s just a rant of my own. I left a note on the Recruiting Firm that originally posted this crap about not hiring the unemployed and they haven’t gotten back.

    This might be a rant but I am pretty sick of reading these lack luster arguments with no substance.

    1. Recruiters who still argue the Passive candidate debate have already lost the game. Passive or active, these terms are guided by perspective. Your job is to find the best available, not the best passive.

    2. If you are overlooking the unemployed, you suck even worse. It’s not your job to put America back to work, but why on God’s green earth would you overlook available talent when they are from massive companies that do not exist anymore.

    My hunch is telling me that the recruiters overlooking these people and those that recruit this way are the recruiters billing around $50K a year and have jumped on the “I can’t recruit job board candidates” bandwagon. The funny thing is that their own personal resume is on the boards and they’ve never placed any significant positions within seriously significant clients.

    These are the same recruiters that fell into this career and are trying to just pay their bills by doing so.
    The argument is old and stale.

    Find the best damn talent you can. Connect with them. Introduce them to your hiring managers. Make a hire.

    Nuff’ Said.


  35. I will make my comments simple: (these are my comments and not the views of my company, my blog etc) AND this response is really not in response to any response above. It’s just a rant of my own. I left a note on the Recruiting Firm that originally posted this crap about not hiring the unemployed and they haven’t gotten back.

    This might be a rant but I am pretty sick of reading these lack luster arguments with no substance.

    1. Recruiters who still argue the Passive
    candidate debate have already lost the game. Passive or active, these terms are guided by perspective. Your job is to find the best available, not the best passive.

    2. If you are overlooking the unemployed, you suck even worse. It’s not your job to put America back to work, but why on God’s green earth would you overlook available talent when they are from massive companies that do not exist anymore.

    My hunch is telling me that the recruiters overlooking these people and those that recruit this way are the recruiters billing around $50K a year and have jumped on the “I can’t recruit job board candidates” bandwagon.

    The funny thing is that their own personal resume is on the boards and they’ve never placed any significant positions within seriously significant clients.

    These are the same recruiters that fell into this career and are trying to just pay their bills by doing so.

    The argument is old and stale.

    Find the best damn talent you can. Connect with them. Introduce them to your hiring managers. Make a hire.

    Nuff’ Said.


  36. Ryan Leary is brilliant.

    Not hiring the unemployed used to be a dark little secret but not anymore. Care to know what gave it a sense of being OK? The boys of the passive recruiting movement. You might know some of them as the thought leaders.

    I have always believed that passive recruiting, although not necessarily evil in its intent was the first legitimization of sanctioned discrimination as it preached the wonders of not hiring active candidates but instead, going to the “deepest, darkest corners of the web” to locate those who are working for others. Quite frankly, passive recruiting lined the oily pockets of many and told us that those looking for a job are losers.

    Honestly, if this is not a felonious embarrassment to the world of recruiting, what is?

  37. I argued in my blog that this policy/practice is not only (1) bad PR, (2) a tactic that would bypass quality talent from many sectors, and (3)impacts many of our younger military veterans who are transitioning to civilian life and who are already experiencing 21% unemployment.

    Lisa Rosser
    Military Hiring Expert
    The Value Of a Veteran

  38. I have read many of these comments and get the feeling that most posters never heard of this before – have you been hiding behind your rose colored glasses?

    During the BOOM times, when companies were hiring almost anyone with a pulse, there was more than one company that scrutinized deeply anyone that was unemployed, in fact, I would venture to say the majority. And there were many that just ‘took a pass’ on those people – because the reality was that IF a candidate was unemployed there was a very strong likelyhood that there was a good reason (not a major recession, company not closing, etc.) for that individuals dismissal.

    Turn the clock ahead 3 to 5 years, major recession, financial meltdown, companies closing, entire departments let go, mergers, plumetting sales, … Just as with any change some people are stuck in the past, and still think that the unemployed carry the “stigma” attached to them during the boom times.

    Personally I believe it is THEIR LOSS to remain stuck in the past. Their competition will benefit by hiring those people, their position will continue to remain open and the costs asssociated with that vacancy will continue to rise.

    The rest of us will continue to look for the best candidate to fill the vacancy.

    PS: ALL candidates are ACTIVE or they wouldn’t be talking to you!

  39. Howard I dont see how recruiting is responsible for the values that employers hold- rational or not. Recruiting might hold a small share for not pushing back, but how much pushback is really possible ?

    The nuttiness about cover letters and resume typos and classim and physical attributes will always be with us. I have said it before and have been laughed at, but I will say it again: every recruiting engagement is a unique moral challenge (for all parties involved) and it’s up to each individual participant to make the right calls. 80% of the time, they are for the good. 20% of the time, somebody’s rights are being stepped on. So goes the world, and so it will always go. The only way to improve the 80/20 ratio is thru fair regulation, which itself is very difficult to accomplish and often best left untried.

    In those situations where poor ethics lead to good profits, regulation is nearly demanded, but I think in this case, the practice has a low or negative impact on profit over time.

  40. Legal or not, “unemployed need not apply” is morally reprehensible on so many levels. It’s discriminatory, brand damaging (who wants to be known as *that* company?), and frankly perpetuates corporate stereotypes of greed, insensitivity, and being out of touch with the rest of reality.

    As someone who’s unemployed and looking for work, and as someone who’s worked in the HR space, this is about the dumbest thing I’ve seen spit out from a recruiter. Well, no. The dumbest thing(s) I’ve seen spit out from a recruiter are in support of these comments, wrapped neatly in today’s favorite pick of business/finance jargon. I simply can’t understand the justification of preferring the employed vs. the unemployed. While unemployed is not a protected class of individuals, I’d like to know just why there might be a preference for an employed individual.

    On the bright side, I’m really happy to see that so many recruiters have denounced such a practice and have shown such compassion for us job seekers. Thank you!

  41. Johnathan,
    In response to your question. As Jim states, some of this is a carry over from the times when there was something wrong with someone who was unemployed for a period of time. When anyone who wanted to work could find a job in a matter of a few weeks.

    There is another interesting thing that i see going on. Companies who are in an industry that has not suffered due to the recession (yes there really are some Margaret)are aware of the recession but in their industry it didn’t happen. They are growing, making money and have made money in the past three years. So what that means is that the unemployed within their industry segment may be questionable. Within those particular segments finding qualified candidates is still tough. For instance, if one is looking for a doc or a PHD research scientist with specific skills and one has been unemployed for a period of time ..take it to the bank that there is something not right.

    Unfortunately, since that exists in one segment of the company the attitude carries over into the areas of the company ie; accounting, IT, sales and operations.

    It takes some lengthy talking and reasoning to change that perception. It’s doable but changing the mindset of a successful company’s hiring managers can many times be an exercise in futility.

    Which brings one to the catch 22. Most of us want to work for a successful company. Which led me to wonder, based on my conversations with unemployed candidates, who wants to go to work for a company that has struggled, laid off people and may still be fighting for survival?

    Most of the unemployed candidates i am working with do not want to interview with or go to work for a company that has taken a hit or may be struggling. So is this a double edged sword? Successful companies want successful candidates. Successful candidates who are between successes don’t want to go to work for struggling companies.

    The street may run both directions.

  42. Just to add a slight clarification to my earlier comment here, I’d like to quickly suggest that it IS possible to achieve both growth in the top and/or bottom lines while also “doing the right thing.”

    Perhaps the profits aren’t quite as large as if an Organization moved forward in unbridled, Wild-West fashion . . . but there are still profits to be made, as well as shareholder value to be created.

    See, much of this falls on us. Here’s why: Financial Markets (such as our Stock Market, Hong Kong’s Stock Market, etc.) are, at their core, a competition for capital.

    As Investors, we decide what company we shall loan cash . . . in the hopes that our return will exceed our ‘loan’. By providing cash, we are thereby given equity, hence how we become “owners” in the firms we invest in. However, if there are organizations that we do not agree with in terms of their business practices (i.e. BP, Toyota, etc.), then we can choose to invest somewhere else. When this begins to happen on a large scale, organizations begin to suffer . . . because there is much less risk in having Investors loan you money instead of having to borrow it from a Financial Institution (i.e. shareholder equity versus debt equity). You don’t have to pay back Investors, but to get out of paying back a Financial Institution, organizations have their hands full.

    What really needs to happen here is that we need to take on our leadership responsibility of letting Hiring Managers know that since the overarching objective is to create shareholder value (and achieve profit), this is utterly independent of a candidate’s employment status.

    P.S. As a quick sociological study, I think it would be interesting to see the ages of the Responders here, along with their overall sentiment. It may have gone under the radar, but I’m sensing a Boomer, Gen-X, Gen-Y split surfacing here . . . could there be a political one as well?

  43. Hiring 2 more employed people this week and hopefully I will be put in for an Obama Presidential Medal. On second thought I would want the award to mean something, so I will settle for Employee of the Month. Isn’t this job great, putting America back to work!

  44. Creating False Scarcity

    Thanks John for your article on this, it got me thinking and I finally saw an article from CNN Money on my yahoo pages about this very thing.

    Firstly, having ‘currently employed’ as a job requirement has some very interesting issues. It is not something that is a job requirement to do a job, so how can it be listed as a requirement for consideration. I would imagine if many within the 17% unemployed were in protected classes or if protected classes were highly represented in the un- and under employed, we may have some larger issues that will surface at a later date.

    Next, this creates scarcity that actually may not or does not exist. When you think of managers requiring this, well, who is telling them it is not a requirement in the first place? Work is surely not getting done, is it an excuse, ‘I can’t find anyone who fits the bill as easily as I thought.’ I have seen managers use this as excuse to not get work done, also, it may be keeping wages artificially high. ‘We cant find people easily and they will not move unless we give them more.’ You do not have to pay someone unemployed more, in fact, they will most likely take the same they were making before or even a little less.

    The Economic Impact

    We continue to have companies hiring agencies who have H1b employees who may be ignoring the American worker. With 17% of the populace unemployed, we will not get things going until they start getting employed. The economic issues are greater. The less we hire the unemployed the more remain unemployed. What I mean by this is that usually for every higher paying job that is created, two or more service related jobs are created. However, if one person is hired who can now acquire things like a house, then even more higher paying jobs are created.

    Avoiding the unemployed is also avoiding a potential groundswell of employment across more sectors. It just does not make economic sense. There is no payback for keeping people unemployed in many industries.

    Also, hiring H1b candidates through agencies has little to no economic impact within many communities. What I mean by this is, many will not acquire things beyond basic necesities. If these individuals are only in a locale temporarily they will not acquire furniture, linens, and other things that more stayed employees would acquire. Where I live half of the stores are still closed yet employers continue to hire droves of agency hires in IT. I wonder what would happen if more full time hires were made.

    Why, for instance, would a health care company hire H1b candidates who would not acquire individual healthcare from them. There is no payback, it is simply money going out. What I mean by this is, let’s say someones COBRA has lapsed. These people would likely acquire short term personal healthcare. If they were hired even temporarily with a health care company, that company may even be the one that is the insurance/healthcare provider. A win/win is created and maybe even more jobs is the result.

    When is it a Requirement?

    Hiring the unemployed and underemployed can really only be justified in a very narrow context. That would most likely be in technology that is very new. For instance, if in IT you are looking for someone who has actually worked with a very new technology and has proven skills in it and you need it now instead of having the luxury to wait to train someone in it, then this may be a justification to do so.

    Joe Slevin

  45. Howdy,

    My feeling about all this is the same way I feel about other ways of discrimination, i.e., it’s illegal to discriminate. Just like race or creed or color or all the other things that ARE protected.

    Given this, will business’ find a way around this? Sure they will… IF OUR GOVERNMENT allows this to happen.

    Meanwhile, we’re being deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness aren’t we?


  46. It is not illegal to discriminate. People do it all the time in different ways. It is against the law to discriminate on certain things and our GOVERNMENT DOES DISCRIMINATE. You would be nieve or blind to think otherwise. You are not being deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as you can start your own business and no one is going to stop you. Then the government is more than happy to tell you how to run your business into the ground.

  47. George – that last thing we need is the government telling us more of what we must do. Will they also stop discrimination against blondes, or brunettes, or maybe redheads. Maybe they can draft a law to stop people from not hiring people that wear too much perfume, or are too tall, too short, or any other stupid reason that someone does not hire someone else. Yea, that’s what we need more laws to rule hiring decisions.
    BTW it’s not that I agree with this “unemployed should not apply” mentality, but it is a companies choice to hire whomever they want (other than blatant discrimination for protected classes – which the unemployed are not and can’t be classified as such) and to make other poor or stupid decisions.
    More regulation by government is really the biggest threat to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Of course that’s just my opinion.

  48. I have worked since I was 15 yrs. old and I was permenantly laid off from my job in February 2009. I keep records of everything and I have applied for almost 400 jobs and only 4 interviews. I have been in my house for over a year and it actually driving me crazy. I would much rather be working than sitting in a house. I have 18 years of legal experience, paralegal certification, 5 yrs. of banking and was a manager of a law firm for 9 yrs. I have been to 4 different colleges but never got a degree but I am very intelligent woman and I know what I am doing and how to do it. I am starting to think the reason I am not getting hired is either because I have been laid off too long or even my age which is not old. I am 45 yrs. old, single mom and supporting 2 teenage daughters on my and if they don’t pass this extension I have no idea what will happen to us. I will loose our home and everything else. I am the only child so I don’t have any siblings to go to for help and my parents have had to help me so much in the past. I am going to court next month with my ex-husband (the system let me down again) this dead beat dad owes me $40,000 in back child support, medical and dental expenses. I have no idea how I made this long but something has got to give and soon.

    My father is 69 yrs. old and has worked for 3 different asphalt companies testing asphalt. He works until retirement age and goes to work somewhere else. The company he is working for now and has been there several years well his bosses and the President of the company have been trying to get me a job at their company. They only have 2 women in the office and they are getting slammed so I had an interview with 2 of my dad’s bosses. They advised me for now it would be part-time but would eventually turn into full-time. But I would be making LOTS more than I did at my previous job to make up for it plus I had to get insurance. My dad’s boss wanted me to update the job application and bring it back to him. As I was completing the application I noticed one of the questions is “Do you have any relatives presently working for this company?” Of course I am not going to lie and these people are my dad’s friends and it was their idea to hire me because they were actually doing my dad a favor since I had been unemployed for so long. Now I can’t work there because my dad works there. My dad informed me an interoffice memo went out last Friday stating family members could not work together. But I was told I was hired the end of May and the job is still posted on their website. Talk about being disappoinhted and now my unemployment has run out SO NOW WHAT?????????

    I have done everything and I am exhausted and willing to take any suggestions. I live in the Tennessee which our unemployment rate is still high and I couldn’t believe it was our senators that did NOT want to pass the extension. So I emailed my politicians last night and gave them my opinion.


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