If you’ve been unemployed for more than 6 months, you’ve likely already seen employers start to shy away, wondering why it’s taking you so long to find a job. They think, “If no one else is hiring this person, why should I? What if they make me look bad?”
In fact, earlier this year President Obama started urging executives with some larger companies such as Walgreens, McDonald’s and Boeing to hire the long term unemployed. The President said, “It’s a cruel Catch-22. The longer you’re unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem. This is an illusion, but it’s one that, unfortunately, we know statistically is happening out there.”
It’s wonderful that the President has noticed the issue and is trying to change it, but when it comes down to it, the perceived risk is still high. If there is another option for the employer, and THEIR job depends on them making the right hire, they will likely hire the person with the lowest perceived risk.
So what can you do about it? The 2 key words to focus on here are: perceived risk. Just like any hiring obstacle that carries perceived risk, such as hiring an older employee, or hiring someone covered in tattoos, once the risks are identified, they can be alleviated. Watch our free video, Discrimination: Age & More for information about how to handle discrimination issues. However, the issue of an employment gap can not only be alleviated, it can be used as competitive advantage!
Not Looking for Just Any Job!
For a mid to senior level professional, the reality of your situation is that you could be working if you wanted to be working. There are lots of minimum wage jobs out there, or lower level jobs that you could easily do. The fact that you are NOT doing them simply means that you are being selective about your next position. You want to find a position that you’ll actually enjoy, that utilizes your skills and that can make you feel good about what you do.
The first concept you need to get across to an employer who asks why you’ve been unemployed for so long is to let them know, “I’m not just looking for any job, I really want to find the right position for me and after all the research I’ve done about your company and this position, I really think this is it.” That will show them that you’re being selective, and it will show your interest in them, which is critical. Showing specific interest in the company and the position will actually generate interest in you.
Your Gap Gives You an Edge!
Now that’s certainly a nice answer, but it still doesn’t illustrate the advantage you bring to an employer because of your employment gap. As a recruiter, I call a lot of employers and candidates. I negotiate lots of offers. I go to great lengths to stay in touch with, and maintain, my network. So if you called me to tell me you had a job with another company where I could call lots of employers and candidates, negotiate lots of offers, and network a lot, ummm, thanks but I’m already doing that now, why would I go do that for someone else? However, if I was forced to leave my job, perhaps my company had a layoff or something, do you know what the new job would be to me? It would just be another job doing what I do! So what?!?!
But do you know what that job is to a long term unemployed person? It’s a chance! It’s an opportunity to prove that all the other employers were wrong, that you’re NOT a risk, that you ARE worth hiring! You are going to walk into that new position with extreme motivation to prove to everyone that you were a great hire. You’re going to do way more than what’s expected of you to make sure you’re never in that long term unemployed situation again. You’re going to walk in there with a fire that no one else they are talking to can match. To the other people, this is just another job doing what they’ve been doing for years, for me, the long term unemployed person, this is an opportunity to build a strong foundation of employment for the rest of my career, and I guarantee that’s not a responsibility I take lightly.
If you can get THAT message across, that you not only have the skills, but you also have the intangibles that no one else can bring to the table BECAUSE of your big employment gap, they will realize that they would look WORSE for NOT hiring you, than they would for hiring you. This is your day, make sure they know.
If there is someone in your network who is long term unemployed, and you’re not sure they see the competitive advantage they can bring to an employer, please share this video with your network, together we can change the perception employers have on the long term unemployed. Let’s get the word out about this. It’s time everyone gets to work.