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Employers avoiding the long-term unemployed, headhunter says

April 18, 2013|By Roger Vincent
  • People fill out applications at a job fair in Montpelier, Vt.
People fill out applications at a job fair in Montpelier, Vt. (Toby Talbot / Associated…)

The nation’s economy is coming back and many employers are cautiously staffing up, but they’re not often hiring people who have been out of work for a long time, according to a headhunter firm.

“The longer one is out of work, the more difficult it becomes to achieve job search success. And, unfortunately, this is a situation that has not reversed, despite steady improvement in the overall job market,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The Chicago firm finds workers for employers.

The number of Americans out of work for 27 weeks or longer has declined since reaching a high of 6.7 million in April 2010. As of March, the count stood at 4.6 million, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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However, much of the decline may be attributed to long-term job seekers abandoning the labor market entirely, and therefore no longer counted among the unemployed. Long-time job seekers still represent nearly 40% of the nation’s 11.7 million unemployed, Challenger said. That is down only slightly from a peak of 45% in April 2010.

Job candidates who have been out of work for six months or longer are perceived as having outdated skills, Challenger said. As a result, they are often screened out early in the recruiting process.

“For long-term job seekers who make it beyond the initial screening process, there is the challenge of addressing the significant gap in experience with the person conducting the interview,” Challenger said. “The interviewer is going to wonder why you have not been hired and whether your skills or work ethic have deteriorated.”

Recommendations to help long-term unemployed people break the cycle include online networking and looking beyond job postings that appear online or in print. Only 20% of available jobs are ever advertised, he said.

“This is why expanding and staying connected to one’s professional and personal network is critical,” he said. “It increases the chances of being in the right place, at the right time, when one of these hidden opportunities arise.”


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