Why recruiters must drive change around Unemployment Stigma

In the past, the presence of an employment gap on a candidate’s CV was often a red flag to employers. The greater this gap, the more reason for concern. 

The common misconception surrounding a gap in the CV is that if a candidate is actively looking and unemployed, they are less desirable than someone who is already employed. 

This is an attitude that today’s job seekers are very much aware of. According to a new LinkedIn survey, 84 percent of respondents  [adults surveyed who lost their jobs between mid-March and mid-October] believe there is a stigma associated with being out of work and roughly two-thirds (67 percent) believe that stigma is affecting their ability to find a new job.

Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, the number of skilled candidates available is higher than ever — due to no fault of their own in the majority of cases. Yet sadly, what still remains is the instinct for many hiring managers and recruiters to have a preference for those job seekers who are currently employed, as opposed to those who have an employment gap.

What if instead of limiting ourselves in the quest for top talent, we made the pool significantly wider by giving people who are unemployed a fair chance at excelling in a job role?

Despite the stigma surrounding unemployment, the evidence actually suggests much can be gained from hiring candidates who aren’t actively in a job. For instance, much of the long-term unemployed possess the skills and motivation that can immediately add value to your workforce. In fact, a Deloitte guide into recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed uncovered the following findings:

The long-term unemployed are qualified – they are simply under-accessed. 

A study of nearly 20,000 sales and service workers found that there was virtually no difference between the performance of those who had not held a job within the past five years and those who had.

In fact, the study found that workers who had been unemployed for five years actually performed slightly better in terms of average transaction time and schedule adherence. With the competition for talent growing ever more fierce in 2022,  recruiters simply cannot afford to overlook this qualified pool of candidates. 

Hire more loyal and engaged employees

Research also has shown that companies hiring the long-term unemployed experience higher retention rates and enjoy a more reliable and loyal workforce. What’s not to like?!

Five ways recruiters can challenge the unemployment stigma today

With these benefits in mind, let’s take a look at some of the ways the recruiters of today can challenge the unemployment stigma; from interviewing techniques to onboarding programmes.

Educate and engage with hiring managers

As an expert in talent acquisition, you should strive to provide formal training or knowledge sharing sessions to your clients/ hiring managers in order to educate them about the value that the unemployed can bring to the organisation. Many of us are misguided when it comes to our beliefs around the unemployed, and thus, through engaging educational sessions, recruiters can really tackle the stigma and promote the benefits.

Maintain Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities 

Recruiters should work with hiring managers to regularly review and update KSAs for each job profile to maintain accuracy. Having a full understanding of what skills are needed for the position makes it a whole lot easier to evaluate candidates.

Focusing more time on an applicant’s skill set instead of solely on their previous employment history will allow you to hire the candidates with the most relevant abilities for the job.

Conduct behavioural interviews

A typical interview focuses on asking candidates about previous work experience or positions. Instead of traditional interview methods like this that threaten to add to the stigma related to unemployment gaps, why not use behavioural-based interviewing techniques to evaluate the candidate’s skills and abilities as well as their work ethic and motivations.

As behavioural interviews involve telling stories and relating to scenarios, the candidates tend to get a lot more comfortable with this interviewing style. As a result, it allows more introverted candidates to come out of their shells and concentrate on sharing stories that present them in the best light.

Behaviourally-based selection techniques will provide recruiters with more accurate information to assess the candidate’s attitude-fit for the position and for the business. Research suggests that the opportunity to assess work behaviours is highest when using behavioral interviewing techniques.

Professional networking site, LinkedIn, surveyed 1,300 hiring managers to explore their top behavioural interview questions. Get inspiration from them here

Say no to long-term unemployment filtering

Another key effort that will help fight the stigma around hiring the unemployed is to remove inappropriate filters and screening procedures, such as asking the dates of last or current employment, that automatically eliminate unemployed and long-term unemployed applications. Check that the Applicant Tracking Systems you are using does not screen out applicants based on age or employment status.

Create a tailored onboarding process for previously unemployed new hires

It’s not just about improving the interviewing process when it comes to fighting the stigma around hiring the unemployed. Even after you have found a great candidate and offered them a job, your efforts should endeavor to continue. It’s recommended that recruiters develop a formalised onboarding mentorship program specifically tailored for previously unemployed new hires to ease reentry to the working world.

If you have the capacity at your organisation, assign mentors to new hires who are understanding of their challenges and who can provide support and coaching if required. Networking events will also help the newly hired to feel more welcomed and integrated into the business. Additionally, recruiters could go even further by developing and distributing onboarding materials to managers of the new hires, helping them to fully understand the challenges they may face and provide extra support, if necessary, to enable long-term success.

Here at HdE TALENT, we are proud to be the strategic people partner of many organisations across the South West, understanding the immediate and long-term business requirements to ensure we secure the best people possible. For help and support in achieving your growth ambitions, reach out to one of our team members today.