According to the Wall Street Journal, many employers in this economy think that the best candidates are those who are still employed and are "bypassing the jobless to target those still working, reasoning that these survivors are the top performers." See it
Bobby Fitzgerald, the restaurant owner quoted in this article, seems to think that restaurant servers and managers are only worthy of being hired if they have a current job. Even though he claims 'two dozen or more unsolicited résumés come in each day', he'd rather fly a candidate from Alabama to Phoenix to interview for a job based on the candidate's current employment status - employed. He's also proud to flaunt his guerrilla recruiting tactics by sending his managers to poach talent from his local competition because he thinks that an employed worker brings more value to his restaurants.
Perhaps it's Mr. Fitzgerald's proud photo along with the negativity and his comments in the article that bother me so much. Millions of professionals are unemployed in the market due to the economic crisis, many at no fault of their own. We're so far past the point of equating the unemployed with damaged. This kind of short-sightedness in this marketplace makes my blood boil.
While it is common, especially during good economic times, to give preference to an employed candidate or to question the reasons behind a layoff, there are many other factors to consider before running off to the WSJ to tell the world about your company's silly hiring policies. Some of these story sources didn't even bother to think about how their comments may affect their reputation. Ticking off the community of unemployed readers and their friends and family members isn't the smartest way to drive business to your company or enhance your employer brand.
Companies don't always make cuts based on performance issues. Entire departments are being eliminated and other companies are going through three of four rounds of layoffs. Sometimes the business just can't sustain even the best performers. And even if the layoff had something to do with the person, such as a cultural or personality clash, it doesn't mean that the candidate couldn't be a top performer in the right environment.
Let's make it clear though. I'm not advocating that preference should be given to an unemployed candidate because he or she is out of a job. I just hope most employers can set aside their preconceived notions about unemployed applicants and evaluate potential prospects based on their relevant experience first, not their 2009 employment status.