The Unemployed Need Not Apply

July 10, 2009

There is always someone offering fanciful or overly simplistic solutions to complex problems. And the press is all too willing to put them forth as fact or trend.

A recent Wall Street Journal article suggested that companies looking to hire executives are turning their backs on unemployed candidates in favor of passive candidates who are already employed. The reason appears to be that employed candidates are perceived to be better bets to succeed than the unemployed candidates. Why? Because, the article suggests, if the unemployed candidates were any good they would be still employed. Got that? Also, by focusing on recruiting passive candidates with specific and related experience, companies avoid the drudgery of screening and evaluating scores of possibly unrelated and unspecific candidates. Less time wasted, better candidates. End of story.

Last week another article suggested that recession weary companies are downsizing their youngest, least experienced employees. They call it a ‘last in-first out’ strategy and it is driven by the assumption that this demographic is the least knowledgeable, least productive and thus most expendable. It is also, according to the article, driven by the fact that the seasoned employees are more likely to sue for age discrimination if released thus damaging the reputation and pocketbooks of the firms in question. The message, if I understand correctly, is that if you are going to engage in age discrimination, target those least likely to sue.

Meanwhile another publication ran an article on the plight of the baby boomer generation in this economy. It suggested that it is the most ‘seasoned’ employees, not the least seasoned, who are being targeted for downsizing. They cite high labor costs, limited growth potential, and lesser motivation as reasons. The article also speaks of the ideas and energy of younger employees and the importance of harnessing these for long term corporate success.

So little insight, so much contradiction, such garbage.