Unemployed and Employable

Q: There is an article on the web saying unemployed people looking for jobs won’t be hired because companies only want to hire employed people. I’m unemployed, and I need a job. Is this true? What else can I do to make sure I can get hired?

A: There is an article circulating on the web titled “Out-of-work job applicants told unemployed need not apply”, by Chris Isidore. The message suggests organizations are only looking to hire people who are currently in jobs, and not active job seekers.

In recruiting terms, there are only two types of people – active candidates – those publically looking for jobs who may be employed or unemployed, and have gone public with their search activity; and passive candidates who are not actively seeking a new job but might consider a new opportunity if they were approached by a recruiter – and the offer was attractive enough.

Many recruiters do find that they have client companies who make this situation a reality. The client company will engage the recruiter in a search, and will say they don’t want unemployed candidates; they are only interested in considering the currently employed. This is a disheartening message to many job seekers, and a message which needs to be considered carefully. There have always been employers who are looking for employed candidates only, and I see fewer and fewer of those hiring criteria.

What’s important to point out here is that many of the experts quoted in the article are retained or contingency recruiters and jobs filled by recruiters only account for somewhere between 5 and 9% of job openings – depending on your source. With so many candidates available, companies choose to use recruiters for a few reasons, including having very specific criteria involving specialized skills which are most often not easily identified. They also choose to use recruiters with expertise who can sort through volumes of paper representing resumes of candidates eager to apply for a job they may not be ideally suited for. However, job openings are filled, more often than not, through non-recruiter methods.


Recruiters typically charge between 25 and 30% of the first year’s cash compensation for finding the successful candidate. Some companies believe that a recruiter only earns that fee by generating the research to identify perfect passive candidates, and to convince them to interview. They may find it hard to believe that the same research and the same influence needed to get a passive candidate to consider the opportunity is exactly what is used to source and recruit an active candidate. Recruiters work for the company paying the fee, and do want to make sure they are seen as adding value – value worthy of the fee. They may believe an active candidate is an “A” candidate, but if the company has discussed their passive requirement, recruiters will work to meet the company request.

So while this information is true for some jobs, some companies, and some recruiters, all data says the significant majority of jobs are filled through networking. You asked what you can do to increase your chances of finding work, and networking is the best solution to this challenge. Do not rely on search firms, job boards, or ads. All these methods of job search will play a part in your job search – but less than 25% of your time should be spent in all three of these areas with at least 75% dedicated to developing a strong, diverse, and supportive network.

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