The U.S. is currently enjoying its longest economic expansion on record, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Because of this, many employers are finding it difficult to recruit qualified candidates in the current tight labor market. If you are experiencing similar challenges, you might expand your recruiting efforts by considering an often overlooked but experienced group of job seekers – the long-term unemployed.
Workers who are jobless for 27 or more weeks are classified as long-term unemployed. According to economic analyst Kimberly Amadeo (Long-term Unemployment, Its Causes, and Effects), there were 1.4 million long-term unemployed individuals in June 2019. These job applicants are frequently overlooked and sometimes excluded from job opportunities—even when they may have identical resumes and skills to other candidates.
If you are like many employers, you may see a long resume gap as a red flag, but according to Deloitte Consulting (A Guide to Recruiting and Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed), hiring the long-term unemployed can actually prove to be a business advantage. Rather than unqualified, the long-term unemployed are under-accessed, and evidence suggests that companies who hire these workers have a more reliable and loyal workforce with higher retention rates. (see The Long-Term Unemployed: Your Untapped Talent Pool)
Targeting the long-term unemployed could also help increase the success rate and efficiency of your recruiting initiatives. If you are currently filtering out the long-term unemployed, intentionally or unintentionally, you are narrowing your talent pool, which could make it harder to find enough qualified candidates to meet your hiring needs. Expanding your recruiting process to include the long-term unemployed gives you a larger talent pool from which to choose the most experienced and qualified candidates.
In 2014, over 200 companies accepted President Obama’s challenge to address long-term unemployment by committing to a set of best practices focused around hiring and recruiting (Considered Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed?). These organizations recognized the benefits to their businesses and to the economy of taking advantage of the talent, experience and skills of the long-term unemployed, and pledged to remove barriers that may prevent qualified long-term unemployed job seekers from applying or being fully considered for jobs at their companies. This initiative produced a set of Best Practices for Recruiting and Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed, including:
- Ensuring that advertising does not discourage or discriminate against unemployed individuals.
- Reviewing screens or procedures that we use in our recruiting and hiring processes, so they do not intentionally or inadvertently disadvantage individuals from being considered for a job based solely on their unemployment status.
- Reviewing current recruiting practices to ensure that we cast a broad net and encourage all qualified candidates to consider applying, including the long-term unemployed, by taking steps that may include:
- Publicizing our commitment that qualified unemployed individuals will not be disadvantaged solely on their unemployment status on our website, in application materials, or in other places where it can be seen by potential applicants;
- Interviewing or otherwise considering qualified long-term unemployed individuals;
- Training our hiring teams and recruiters to focus on the bona fide occupational requirements and leadership requirements for a given role and not just on an applicant’s current or recent employment status;
- Engaging with local and regional entities in order to reach broad segments of the population with relevant skills and experience
- Sharing best practices – including success we have achieved with hiring the long-term unemployed in our own company – within our organization and across our supply chain, with staffing firms, our employer associations and the broader business community.
If your business is experiencing a shortage of qualified job applicants, you may want to consider adopting one or more of these best practices for recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed. As the market for talent continues to tighten, including long-term unemployed applicants in your recruiting strategy may present a valuable opportunity to meet your hiring needs and bring highly qualified employees into your organization.