Hidden Hurdle for the Jobless

Hiring companies admit they prefer job applicants who are already employed

By Sara K. Smith
|  Wednesday, Jul 1, 2009  |  Updated 2:58 AM CDT
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Hidden Hurdle for the Jobless

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Too bad none of these job fair attendees will actually get jobs, since they've already copped to the unpardonable sin of being unemployed.

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With the national unemployment rate edging ever closer to double digits, you'd think that those employers who are still hiring would be delighted with the array of available talent they have to choose from.

After all, 6 million people have lost their jobs in the current recession -- many of them talented, motivated individuals who lost their jobs through no fault of their own but simply because business went away.

But no, it turns out that many employers have no interest in the enormous pool of jobless applicants. Instead, they prefer to look for people who are already employed. This is like looking for a spouse but only considering married people. NOT CLASSY.

“If they’re employed in today’s economy, they have to be first string,” says Ryan Ross, a partner with Kaye/Bassman International, an executive recruiting firm in Dallas. Mr. Ross says more clients recently have indicated that they would prefer to fill positions with “passive candidates” who are working elsewhere and not actively seeking a job.

There is much to loathe already about modern hiring practices -- for example, the part where applicants must prove that they have already done exactly the job for which they are applying, while simultaneously explaining why the new job would be new and exciting and totally different from their old job. If the match between old and new job is too close, then the prospective employer wonders if the applicant will get bored doing the same work. If the match isn't close enough, the employer wonders if the applicant is capable of doing the work at all.

Now unemployed job applicants must also contend with the assumption that, in the worst employment environment in the past 26 years, they must have deserved to have been laid off.

One can only hope that the boneheaded bosses who insist on poaching from the ever-thinning ranks of the employed will soon end up out of work themselves.

Human resources consultant Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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