November 25, 2009

Stop discriminating against victims of downsizing!

The Boston Globe had an article today which got me fired up, "Amid high unemployment, some positions still hard to fill"

Now, I don't deny that there are highly technical positions which require very specific areas of expertise that are hard to fill with good candidates.  But what irked me about this article was the presumption that laid off employees are Damaged Goods. Not said explicitly, but certainly implied in many of the quotes including:

"...Of course, plenty of high-quality workers have lost their jobs, but recruiters say still being employed suggests stability - and ability"  according to Katie Johnston Chase, author of the article. 


'"There is a stigma with people who have been laid off, with good reason or not' Hux said. " (That is, Ben Hux, Director of Legal Recruiting at Boston Group).

The assumption is that laid off workers are not high quality people--and recruiters must go out and poach from other firms. This is an age-old bias that probably had some merit back in the days when layoffs were not as commonplace as they are today. However, it ignores several realities including: 1) Many people are laid off for purely business reasons, having nothing to do with skill or ability; 2) Many people who are NOT a part of a layoff, stay around for political reasons. Companies are notorious for keeping on low performers who "know the right people" and longevity does not necessarily imply being a high performer;  3) It is this very attitude--that laid off workers are damaged goods--that keeps companies from hiring really talented people who have been a victim of a layoff.

Whenever I hear these stories about how hard it is to fill good jobs in the midst of such high unemployment I want to laugh except for the fact that the discrimintion has such a negative impact on talented job seekers. And let's be real--if you are laid off after 50, good luck in finding a job in a similar position or compensation level. Age discrimination persists and as far as I can see its not going anywhere anytime soon.

We need to stop perpetuating this myth that the only good candidates are already employed. True, employed workers are more "stable" by definition--that is, they are "working", but they are not necessarily the most qualified for the job.  Once freed of these biases companies will find there are many talented professionals available to fill their open reqs and these quality candidates are eager for the opportunity to make a contribution.


  1. Dr. Doo - I fully agree with your comments but there are ways to stay in the "game".
    I got laid off last December and have been working on so much training in Project Management and in building my PMP Certification business. I have taken so many webinars that after 11.5 months -- I maxed out and reach a point of education/training saturation .... that was a few days ago ... now today - I am back at it. My resume reads with an intensity that shows overlaps and a non-stop / give-me-more attitude. I am now giving it all I have to get a position before the end of the year.
    I went to an interview at an agency -- they had 20 people do no-shows on one day. I was the ONLY person in the office .. I was shocked but pleased to get all the attention. The recruiter did say the 20 no-shows were out of work for a reason...ummm I needed to think in that but to do a no show .. not good.
    I suggest people don't sit back and have another slice of pie and glass of spiked eggnog. Keep going -- hit your burn out point -- recover and get up and go again. Hoping this does not appear frantic but I truly believe that it is all about numbers and being in the right place at the right time -- AND speaking to the right people (networking in creative places).

    Thanks for the opportunity to share.
    Wishing you a great Thanksgiving - see I am working while cooking.
    Now to set the table and take a little break.
    Elaine Jackson, PMP
    Baldwinville, Massachusetts

  2. Thanks for your comment Elaine. Yes, do "stay in the game". Most people who keep at it do get re-employed and in many cases they are happier with their new situations. The discouragement factor can be a detriment and one needs to work through that.

    My main frustration with the Globe article is this assumption that out-of-work job seekers are less qualified. I know for a fact that fortunately not all Hiring Managers and Recruiters share this view--especially as many have been through layoffs themselves!

    Have a nice Thanksgiving and given your dedication I'm sure you will do well!