A review the New York Times conducted of job postings on Monster.com, CareerBuilder and Craigslist found that hundreds of employers are still requiring (or “strongly prefer”ring) applicants to be employed when jobhunting.
It’s not illegal (yet) to require an applicant to be employed, as it would be to require an applicant to be a specific race or gender. But New Jersey banned job ads that at least explicitly mention employment as a condition of applying and, the New York Times says, New York and Michigan are considering the idea.
There are a few good reasons to do this besides the fact that this type of discrimination feels wrong somehow: for one, the applicant pool is much smaller if hiring managers stick just to the employed. “Given that the average duration of unemployment today is nine months — a record high — limiting a search to the ‘recently employed,’ much less the currently employed, disqualifies millions,” the NYT says.
However, “there are legitimate reasons that many long-term unemployed workers may not be desirable job candidates. In some cases they may have been let go early in the recession, not just because business had slowed, but because they were incompetent. Idle workers’ skills may atrophy, particularly in dynamic industries like technology. They may lose touch with their network of contacts, which is important for people in sales. Beaten down by months of rejection and idleness, they may not interview well or easily return to a 9-to-5 schedule.”
If you are out of work, don’t become that person. While going back to school might not be an option, maybe you can volunteer, intern, freelance, or take a class or two. It’s true that unemployed workers are fighting an uphill battle, but their skills are valuable too.