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deck2If you are out of work, does that automatically convey that you are a bad employee?  No.

Is it true that employers are not interested in interviewing, much less hiring, people who have been out of work more than eight months or more?  Yes.

“Don’t bring me any candidates who are not currently employed,” a hospital CEO once told me.  None, I asked?  None, he replied with great certainty.  I was tempted to ask him if that meant that I shouldn’t talk to him if he ever found himself out of work, but I felt that discretion was the better part of not offending a new client.

Within six months, guess who was out of a job?  Now, guess who called me?  Yeah, can you believe it?  There is irony then there is that particular unemployed hospital CEO.

Let me set the record straight.  Some of the best hospital CEOs I ever met were in transition – out of work – when I interviewed them.  Almost all went on to hugely successful careers, professionally and financially.

In today’s vastly different economy – the new normal – with millions of unemployed or underemployed executives and managers, companies, including healthcare organizations, increasingly are using arbitrary criteria like employment status – or time in transition – to prune the field of candidates.  Vivian Giang, writing for BusinessInsider.Com, said some companies are doing whatever it takes – just a tad shy of doing anything illegal – to prevent the unemployed from even applying for their positions.  “The reasoning is that the unemployed people are not as talented as those who are able to keep their jobs.  This said, bringing them in for an interview – and turning them down – will build a stronger case for discrimination.”  I am finding this is also true for older candidates who face questions about their level of energy, etc.

Is this discriminatory?  Yes.  Is it legal?  When correctly done, yes.

Anyone, regardless of race, gender, or age, who believes there is no discrimination in the talent acquisition process, is beyond naïve.  For all job seekers, the deck is stacked against them, starting with the sheer numbers of people looking for work.  Discrimination, including eliminating those who are not employed, is just a piece of that odds-are-against-you “stack.”

Is it fair?  No, of course not.  But as I have repeatedly told my children and numerous frustrated job seekers who find their way to my door in search of some bit of advice that will help turn around their search for work, if you want fair, you will have to come to Dallas in October.  It is called the State Fair.

The issue is not whether there is discrimination in the recruiting process, but the tactics you can employ to bolster your chances of finding a job, assuming you are not arbitrarily eliminated because you are out of work. 

If you land an interview, you need to hit a homerun at every level of the process, so be prepared.