It’s about 300 BC and a gladiator named Spartacus, or Sparty for short, is looking for a new gig because the arena in his town faced a fall off in attendance and had to cut back on staffing. Another gladiator known as Geta-man who lives in a nearby town still has his job but is looking for a new coliseum that offers better pay and benefits.
They both apply for a position at an arena in Rome and the hiring manager Tootus has a difficult decision to make. Both men have the same qualifications and kill-to-loss ratio, and they both passed the anti-personality tests with flying colors. In the end, Tootus decides to go with Geta-man because Sparty is unemployed. Even though he knows Sparty had no control over his employment circumstances, he just feels better with the guy who still has a job.
Since the beginning of time, people have been inclined to wonder, “why are you jobless?” I offer this example because the New York Times did a story this week about how employers are actively weeding out unemployed candidates and tons of media outlets picked up the story like is was something new. I did a column on this in February and a blog post over a year ago, and even then it wasn’t new.
It’s just one of the harsh realities of the job market, and I know most of you already knew this. One piece of career advice that almost everyone has heard before is “don’t quit your job until you have a job.” Why? It’s just easier to find a position when your employed.
I know, if you get laid off you can’t help it, but don’t expect to get equal treatment with the employed. There are states trying to fight this, including New Jersey, which recently passed a provision against the practice. But Jamie D. Prenkert, attorney and associate professor of business law at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, said with the exception of a few states that have added employment status to the list of protected classifications, employment laws do not make a preference for the currently employed or recently employed unlawful – unless that preference disproportionately affects one of the protected classifications, like age or race, which can become difficult to prove.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “It’s nearly impossible to prove disparate impact discrimination without access to applicant flow data or similar statistics and it’s difficult to gather such information when the long-term unemployed are not applying because these ads specifically exclude them.”
In the end, it’s a sword all you unemployed gladiators will have to bear.
So, I’m digging back into my advice bin and offering you this one key strategy: Don’t look so jobless. (more…)