How To Beat Unemployment Bias

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Posted by: David Garcia August 06, 2023

Unemployment bias is a stigma or stereotype surrounding people who have been unemployed, particularly those who have been out of work for a long time. It assumes that gaps in work history mean a candidate is unskilled, lazy, or undependable. However, this is often not true.

As we have seen with COVID-19, a person may become unemployed and have difficulty re-entering the workforce for many reasons. Screening out candidates for gaps in work history passes over many qualified individuals. Employers should create policies that help hiring teams focus on candidates’ qualifications and transferrable skillsets rather than inaccurate stereotypes. 

What Are the Reasons Behind Unemployment Bias?

Nearly 80% of HR professionals believe recruitment and hiring are affected by unconscious biases – especially when it comes to unemployed candidates. Many hiring managers may view a gap in employment as a sign of something wrong with the candidate. They may think the candidate was unproductive, bad at their job, or too lazy to stay employed. This is unemployment bias. 

Unemployment bias is widely acknowledged as inaccurate, yet it continues to exist. This bias harms companies and unemployed job seekers, as it prevents good candidates from getting a fair review and employers from hiring good employees. 

The thought processes and stereotypes that drive unemployment bias are deeply ingrained in our society. Recognizing and reexamining personal biases is the best way to combat this problem. There are several reasons someone may have a gap in their work history that has nothing to do with their skills and qualifications. 

As we saw with the recent pandemic, people may be laid off from their jobs due to external factors that have nothing to do with their performance. Others may have to leave a job to care for a sick loved one or even due to their illness. Still, others may have left the workforce to be stay-at-home parents. These situations require hard work, dedication, and perseverance – all desirable traits in an employee. 

Effective Strategies for Beating Unemployment Bias

Unemployment bias – and other negative stereotypes – won’t disappear on their own. Employers must be the main proponents of change. Here are several strategies to try:

Examine Your Own Bias

One of the best ways to combat any stereotype is for someone to examine why they hold those underlying beliefs critically. It may be easy to justify those beliefs initially – which is why they exist in the first place. But do they hold up to a challenge?

Look at examples of people and stories that counter the stereotype. Are these examples just exceptional people, or is the stereotype inaccurate? In today’s fast-paced world, companies can’t afford to lose out on good people because of inaccurate assessments or biases. 

Raise Awareness about Unemployment Bias

Companies should ensure that everyone – especially HR personnel and hiring managers – receive training on recognizing and combating unfair biases. This may look like discussions about what drives these discriminatory stereotypes and why they are inaccurate. 

Organizations should also institute policies to reduce stigmatization in recruitment and hiring. It should be clear to recruiters and HR personnel that resumes should not be thrown out because of gaps in employment history. Changes like these can help increase a company’s chances of connecting with the right candidate. 

Prioritize Empathy

Unemployment can be a difficult, discouraging, and vulnerable situation. Many unemployed people may be struggling financially and feel worried or uncertain about the future. These stressors can greatly affect a person’s confidence and well-being. Candidates may feel massive pressure to secure a job and might be more nervous during the interview process. 

It’s critical for recruiters and hiring managers to practice empathy as they move through the recruitment and interviewing process. Job searching is a stressful process for anyone, especially for those who are also facing negative stereotypes

Reexamine Job Descriptions

Hiring and HR staff should routinely review job descriptions to ensure they accurately describe the position and are free from discriminatory requirements. For example, office jobs often require candidates to be able to lift 40 lbs. This is unlikely to be a part of the job, but it eliminates many people with disabilities from the candidate pool. 

Discriminatory and highly-specific requirements like this may prevent someone who is otherwise a good match from applying for or getting the job. People are adaptable and have transferrable skill sets – especially those who have been through difficult times, such as unemployment. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is It Harder To Get a Job When You Don’t Have One?

Unemployed candidates may face many hurdles to re-enter the job market, including unemployment bias. This is an unconscious stereotype that assumes something intrinsically wrong or undesirable about someone unemployed. Hiring managers may assume the candidate’s fault that they’ve become unemployed. 

Final Thoughts

Unemployment bias is an inaccurate stereotype that should be removed from the recruitment and hiring process. ScoutLogic can help employers fairly and efficiently screen candidates so the best and brightest have a chance to shine.

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