Recruiters can receive hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes for any job opening, so it’s easy to look for reasons to discard an application. But if you’re chucking resumes because someone’s been out of work for a while you could be doing your organization a disservice.
A recent study from Northeastern University found those who were out of work for more than six months found it disproportionately more difficult to find work.
Head researcher Rand Ghayad originally looked at the relationship between job openings and unemployment for a range of demographics and found the ratio remained steady for all groups except the long-term unemployed. In a follow up study Ghayad created fictitious resumes, sending 4800 false applications to 600 job openings. Three-quarters of the applications were for unemployed people, with a range of details on how long they’d been out of work and what their work history was.
Some of the results aren’t surprising. Employers prefer applicants who haven't been out of work for very long, applicants who have industry experience, and applicants who haven't moved between jobs that much. However, long-term unemployment trumps it all.
Ghayad found that applicants with relevant experience, who had been unemployed for more than six months, were less likely to be called for an interview than those without relevant experience who had been out of work for a shorter period.
However, HR pros might be doing themselves a disservice by ignoring those who have been out of work. A UK company that focused on hiring the long-term unemployed found they had a year on year retention rate of 90%, significantly higher than the company average.
John Lewis government initiatives manager Suzy Welby said up to one in seven of its new positions were filled by applicants found through a program for the long-term unemployed, with excellent results.
“Some might ask why we are doing it but I say, why wouldn’t you do it? There might soon be three million unemployed, many of whom will have the skills we want, and that is not a group you can ignore,” Welby said.