Last week I wrote 5 Things the Long-Term Unemployed Need to Do to Find a Job and it ruffled a few feathers of the long-term unemployed. Here's some of the feedback I received:
If you've never sent out over 200+resumes/applications and received only one phone call from a headhunter who asked me to take less than the stated hourly rate, gotten a few cursory acknowledgment emails, and no other real-life contact, then you don't know what it is to be job-hunting these days. The automated application systems, the keyword searches that screen you out right away, the knowledge that not a single human being is even reviewing your app or resume, can't help but make you feel it's a waste of time. It's enormously discouraging to not even be able to get a foot in the door, to even be given the chance to prove yourself.
Stop preaching to the choir, telling an unemployed person to, essentially, get off the couch and get a job. Nobody, unless they are retired or already wealthy, can afford to just "drop out" of the work force. Instead, direct your articles at the employer, telling him to consider hiring the long term unemployed. Tell the employer to not use the excuse that the candidate has "no recent experience", or believe that the candidate is damaged, since he has been out of work so long, or even believe that no qualified candidates can be found. If the employer hires the candidate, the candidate's recent experience would be a moot issue. End the catch-22 of hiring. Also, end the age discrimination, or the false belief that workers older than, say, 45 cannot possibly know technology, or tired easily, or set in their ways. I'm over 50 and I can code rings around your kids that can barely code a website.
These people all have great points. Being unemployed is awful. Looking for jobs is stressful. Having companies flat out ignore you is demoralizing. Companies, however, are being fools not to look at these people. Here's how to find the best people who have fallen on hard times.
Start Reviewing All Applications
What's the point of your online application system if most people who apply never get looked at? Well, of course, you say, that's the point. The applicant tracking system allows me to weed out people who I don't want to consider. But, stop and think about this for a moment--these people thought they were qualified for the position, so unless you're getting hundreds of applications for each position, take a look. You may find people that your keyword searches and date parameters would exclude. You may see something that sparks an idea--hey, wouldn't it be great if the new marketing director had experience with X?
Stop Focusing on Dates Only
I've laid off literally thousands of people. Most of these people were awesome employees who were in the wrong job at the wrong time. When you lay employees off it can happen as one person from this department and one person from that department, or you can layoff entire groups at the same time. At one point, the company I worked for shut down all the research for an entire drug category. That means that at the exact same moment 50 or so people with similar experience were hitting the pavement looking for jobs. It's difficult for other companies to absorb that many people with the same skill set.
So, you may say, "Well, if you were a valuable employee, you would have landed a job in the first few months." Maybe, maybe not. Not, when you're competing with 49 of your co-workers. So, take a moment to consider that the person who has been out of work for 18 months really is a fabulous person and that the job market isn't the best.
Bargain Hunting Can Be Useful
You should always pay market rates, but sometimes the money just isn't there. It's possible that a person who has been out of work for long period of time will be willing to accept a below market rate salary to get in the game. If someone is willing to do that, and your company can afford a higher rate later on, you should absolutely bring that person up to market rate. Also, you need to understand that if you bring someone in at a reduced they will still be looking for a better paying job, but that would happen regardless of whether the person was out of work for a year or not.
Make a Deal
One of the reasons people are hesitant to hire someone who has been out of the workforce for a while is that there is bigger training cost. Now, keep in mind that every person you hire needs to be trained. Every person, no matter how skilled and up to date they are, have to learn your business, your procedures, and your policies. So, if you're concerned that you'll lose money on training if the person doesn't stay around, make an offer that covers that. For instance, offer a lower salary with a fixed bonus on the one year mark that brings the person to a total salary at market rate. Or, if you have to pay to send someone to a formal training, have a repayment clause if they quit before one or two years have passed.