If you have been looking for a job in the last year or two, you've likely heard some disconcerting news: more and more companies appear to be passing over—or actively refusing to consider— job seekers who are not currently working. Moreover, there have been reports of cases where specific phrasing in job postings ask those not currently employed to "simply not apply."
All may not be as it seems!
A hiring manager's consideration of recent employment has long been a screening consideration. This is not necessarily a "new" development. In fact, this is merely one of many potential screen-out factors that can be minimized or eliminated by having a professionally written resume that leverages proven strategies.
Nonetheless, a lack of recent employment may have an influence on the hiring manager for a range of reasons. A recent New York Times article1 sites a few:
What does this mean for the millions of unemployed job seekers?
The truth may not be as bleak as many articles make it seem if the right strategies are applied.
Many—including professionals in the job search industry—are overlooking a key element of today's job search: the relatively recent advent of "smarter" resume parsing systems and the prevalence of job boards in the candidate search.
Given that 90% of companies are using Monster.com (or sites like it) in their search for candidates, the hiring manager's approach to screening resumes has likely changed. When an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) breaks down a resume, it tends to give priority to recent skills: As such, twenty years of experience from 10 years ago may not be given as much "weight" as fewer years of similar experience that is current. This means that, all else equal, a job seeker with no current experience is unlikely to appear on the first page of the employer's search results! And this means that many hiring managers are not necessarily privileging those with recent experience; rather, those lacking recent experience simply are not appearing in the top search results.
Smarter technology may be amplifying the impact of a basic hiring strategy that has existed for many, many years; in turn, this has brought about a shift in perspective regarding what constitutes a "quality" candidate.
One of the key elements to finding success as a job seeker has always been the ability to understand and effectively address how current trends impact the job search.
What can be done to stand out when parsing technology is being used?
In short, fill the gap! Consider using other recent experience:
It is true that it is a "buyer's market" right now: Employers have their pick of candidates. This fact simply underscores how important it is to be strategic, organized, and patient. If you keep a clear focus on the potential concerns employers could have and then strategically address them in a well-written professional resume, then you're sure to find the right opportunity!