Jonathan Cohn

The Unemployment Trap, Cont'd

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Do the long-term unemployed face a stigma? Do employers assume that, because these people haven't found work, there must be something wrong with them?

On Tuesday, I wrote that this unemployment trap may help explain why a surprisingly large number of jobs are going unfilled right now. Reader IowaBeauty thinks the trap is real, but that it works in a different way than I described:

Having looked at a fair number of resumes in my career, I know the effect to be real, but I don't think it's quite for the reason suggested here. I've never thought about how many other evaluators may have passed over a candidate, but I have made the calculation that someone spending their time looking for work for 8 months is going to be significantly less plugged in to market and technology movement in their field than someone who just got the ax yesterday, and thus require more time and effort to "spin up" in a new position. In creative and information-dense jobs, one loses one's edge remarkably quickly (I've noticed it in past positions it in European employees after they take a 4 week August break). After a year out of a job, many mid-career applications look like entry-level candidates seeking a mid-career position, because their knowledge and skills go stale so quickly.

Candidates tell me all the time the effort they make to stay current. I completely believe they are making the effort, but there is no substitute for responsibility and action to keep skill sharp. And again, after a certain length of time, "staying current" as part of your pitch starts to look desperate--almost an admission that you're not.

 

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