There is no question that the job market today is one of the worst ever, perhaps even worse than that of the Great Depression. Now, for some fortunate people, it may not be that bad, especially if they have a highly-sought-after education or technical training, if they have special connections, if their expertise falls within one of the few industries which are not, in general, as negatively affected as others (like the healthcare industry) when the economy is down, or if they simply already have employment (although that can change at any moment for anyone). As for those others who are still unemployed, the picture is bleak and may stay bleak for a while longer (for some people, much longer). At the bottom of this group of unfortunate people are people who have been burdened with certain characteristics, traits or circumstances which, quite frankly, make it unlikely that they will be called in for an interview, much less hired. What is troubling about many of these people, though, is the fact that the things that are keeping them from getting a job are in the strictest sense ridiculously unfair. Some of these unfair circumstances include the following:
1. A less-than-favourable report from pre-employment screening companies. The reality is that most companies, nonprofits and government agencies these days are using these types of companies. Simply put, they check out individuals on a wide variety of areas to see if they are worthy of being offered a job. Unlike credit reporting agencies, however, they are not required to provide a copy of a person’s compiled background report, even though these may be the main reason some people are not getting any interviews. Why is this a bad thing? Well, for one thing, if there are inaccurate facts in these reports, job applicants who have been kept from vying for a particular job may never know the reason why they were never called for an interview or why they were denied the job after the interview. As things stand right now, many people are being automatically taken out of the competition for jobs simply based on what the reports generated by these companies say.
2. Any kinds of bad marks on a criminal background check. Unfortunately, one does not just have to have a conviction in order to be negatively affected by these reports. Many times, during a criminal background check, actual arrests, public accusations (if any) filed, formal prosecution reports, etc., are revealed, even if these did not lead to an actual trial or, more importantly, to any kind of conviction. These, as well as convictions for misdemeanours, will often convince some employers (or the people they pay to screen individuals) to write off job applicants. Many people, thinking that they can easily pass any criminal background check, actually fail these tests (thus not qualifying for many jobs that call for “clear criminal backgrounds”) because of these comparatively minor things-things which, by the way, they can usually have removed either through the courts or simply by filling out some special forms. As in most of the other items checked by pre-employment screening companies, there is no obligation on the part of the screening company or employers to inform job applicants as to why they were removed from the list of applicants for a particular job-needless to say, this is highly unfair to all those job applicants negatively affected by this unnecessarily secretive and potentially biased process.
3. Bad credit reports. In general, anyone with a bad credit report will not get a job as a manager of any kind. The assumption on the part of screening companies, head hunters, employment agencies, and employers seems to be that if these people cannot manage their own resources then they certainly are not qualified to manage someone else’s. Naturally, this type of thinking is heavily flawed. There are in fact many people whose finances fall apart for other than poor financial management skills-unexpected and overwhelming medical bills is only one of many possible scenarios! Then there is the fact that credit reports often have incorrect or incomplete or exaggerated information-which is why financial counselors advise people to check their credit reports regularly for these types of errors, addressing them aggressively as soon as possible.
4. Glaring gaps in one’s employment history. Gaps that involve weeks or a month or two may not matter (since it can easily take that long to find employment once one is unemployed) but gaps involving 6 months or more may be taken to mean that there may be something negative in the person’s background. Did this person spend time in jail? Did he deliberately stay on unemployment in order to take it easy? Does she have a problem hanging on to regular employment? These are some of the questions often asked by employers. Naturally, this type of thinking is inappropriate on their part (since their assumptions may be and probably are way off the mark) but this is why one needs to avoid employment history gaps. If anyone has such a gap, that person needs to figure out a practical and effective way to manage it.
5. Bad reports from former employers and listed references. Employers these days are very careful in what they say about former employees. They are aware, for one thing, that they can be sued for libel, if they cannot suitably and formally substantiate anything they say. If they have proper documentation, though, they can bring up a number of negative things about former employees-things which can greatly affect one’s chances of finding a job. This is one of the reasons why one should, if possible, strive to leave jobs on good terms. One should also periodically determine just what former employers are saying about one’s employment capacity. Another caveat is to be careful as to whom one recommends as a reference. Some people inadvertently give names of people who may either not have anything positive to say about an individual or who may feel offended if their name is given without their permission (thus prompting them to say something negative when called by an employer).
6. Inability to confirm employment, education, training, and accomplishments listed on one’s resume. In general, one should strive to not list things which potential employers may either not be able to confirm or which may be very difficult to prove. If one occupied a “classified” job with a secret government agency (like the CIA), for example, it might be best to leave it out of one’s résumé. Barring that, one needs to find a way to explain the discrepancy or omission at the proper setting and at the proper time. If an employer is no longer in business, one can maybe track down the owner or supervisor, possibly listing him or her as one of the “references”–they would then be able to confirm, on behalf of that now-defunct business, previous employment.
7. A work history that does not go along with the job being sought. Unfortunately, employers or, as is more likely, pre-employment screening companies and head hunters, may automatically assume that the job one is applying for is simply not a match for the applicant’s experience and skills set. The job applicant, on the other hand, may have a reason for applying for that job that they could not elaborate upon on the job application, a reason that, if heard by the employer, might give them a more accurate picture of why the job applicant is perhaps highly-suited for the particular job. This is only one of many reasons why employers should not evaluate candidates just based on résumés and why, in general, savvy employers do not hire résumés, but, rather, people.
8. Inability to confirm salary histories; histories that give an impression of being mostly a low-level employee. This can become a problem for people who accepted positions with a low salary maybe so that they could get their foot in the door of a good company, people who worked part of the time on a pro bono basis (which thus reduced their overall paid salary for the year), and people who were taken advantage of by unscrupulous former employers. Unfortunately, even though people may have accepted low salaries for practical or altruistic reasons, they are generally held against job candidates.
9. Looking for jobs in shrinking or disappearing job industries. Some people, thinking that they want to stay loyal to a particular industry, or thinking that they are only qualified for that industry, put most of their emphasis on finding a job within that industry. Needless to say, their chances for finding a job are very poor. These people should seriously be thinking of ways that they can transfer to another industry, maybe by getting additional education and training.
10. Over-qualification and lack of actual job experience. Some people, for example, have degrees in certain areas, but they have little or no actual experience in a field that calls for that type of education. Another example involves people who have lots of education and experience-so much so, that they intimidate or overwhelm potential employers. One commonly-discriminated-against group is people with PhDs. In general, they are expected to be professors, CEOs, and highly-paid executives. What if such a person, though, is only looking for an entry-level job, a low-level management position, or just a regular job? Sadly, the best advice anyone can give may be to just leave out one’s over-the-top credentials.