Alert: If you are employed you may want to reread this article and take action

Warning: If you are unemployed you may NOT want to read this article.

Recently I was a panelist on a TV show dedicated to helping people with career issues.  One of the interesting comments that came up from my co-panelist, a Director of Human Resources and recruitment for a large University, was the fact they were receiving approximately 300-500 resumes for every job posted. That means an applicant has between a 0.20% and 0.33% or if we take the average of 400 applicants, a 0.25% chance of getting a job at this University when applying to a posted job. But wait not so fast, those chances are actually inflated. It is much less when you add this information to the mix; according to the Director of HR, “Like everyone else we want the best talent” and therefore “the University’s recruitment team spends a large proportion of time on LinkedIn searching for the best talent” and approaching the best talent (now viewed as candidates) to evaluate if they are interested in changing positions.  What does that mean for those original 400 applicants?


Zero sum game: Long Term Unemployed

Obviously it means that the original 0.25% chance of landing a job is way overblown and it is actually MUCH LESS. What does this really mean, it means that applying to a job at best is a very very long shot even if you get an interview and especially if you are unemployed it is virtually a zero sum game (hot STEM specialities or remote geographical areas are the exception).  Even though employers are getting tons of applications for jobs they judge the unemployed, and applicants to be less desirable than passive candidates they find on their own. This is a huge warning for those who deem unemployment to be a normal career progression, i.e. get a job, and wait to get terminated then look for your next job. This is very dangerous behaviour for your career and your income potential.

The Question: Why you?

For many years I have been sounding the alarm bell for professionals, that is, beware of playing the “I am not going to get laid off” game. As a head hunter for hire for over 25 years seldom did any of our clients in the STEMs fields want unemployed candidates from us, (unless they were fresh, less than 2 months unemployed and part of a massive lay off). The biggest pre-interview questions for the freshly unemployed were–why were you selected as the sacrificial lamb? Why you? Why were you let go? Of course the inference was always what’s wrong with you? We had nothing against the unemployed but the companies that hired us did –they would flat out say “we want someone CURRENTLY working at X or Y company”. I never needed studies to point out unemployment bias by employers but if you don’t believe me check out my book for some blatant examples including a posting from one of the biggest brands in electronics today stipulating no unemployed people need apply.

Jack Welsh and Paul Hill agree

Throughout my recent book The Panic Free Job Search: Unleash the Power of the Web and Social Media to Get Hired I make the point of making sure to show you step by step how to promote yourself while you are employed to attract employers and how to create a strategic professional network. This is your insurance that you stay employed or at least have very limited unemployment downtime. You need to decide how long you stay and when you go, period…if you won’t listen to me listen to Jack Welsh.

Promote a professional image online and offline

Finally a study that supports what I have been saying for years, the San Francisco Federal Reserve on March 30, 2015, through a landmark study, pointed out that, jobs find you today, you don’t find jobs. :

“Potentially more important, regardless of whether a vacancy is posted or not, employers may reach out to employees at other firms directly even if the employee is not searching for a new job. This practice of employee poaching may explain both why job search accounts for just 20% of employer-to-employer transitions and why job search matters less for those with jobs than those without jobs. First, workers may be poached and switch employers even if they were not looking for new employment. Second, people are more likely to be recruited if they have a current job and an established network and track record.”

The Fed’s Conclusion:

“This implies that, rather than them finding jobs, the jobs actually find them. Analysis of data on workers’ search behavior suggests that this is the case for a majority of the people who get hired.”

The bottom line is put together a career plan, map it out, set a schedule for leaving your current employer or if you are staying, put together a career plan for your next promotion or challenge. See around corners, make sure you understand the threats to your employment, always be promoting yourself, get noticed and build your professional brand and remember today employers and recruiters  find you by specialty so be great at what you specialise in.

If you are still not sure about getting going on your next career move consider this: One of the biggest eye openers I received from a CEO at a client company as result of my explanation of what I considered a great candidate and who I viewed as a victim of 3 layoffs in a row from no fault of his own, was the following, “Paul I don’t buy it–what the layoffs show me is he is not a good decision maker he chose the wrong companies to work for.” Wow being unemployed sure sucks! Avoid unemployment at all cost get your career plan together and start exercising it right away –don’t wait for the axe to fall. Build and promote your professional image online and offline and build your strategic network.

Paul Hill is a job search expert and the principal of Transition to Hired and the lead trainer for the acclaimed program Ultimate Job Search Boot Camp. Paul is currently collaborating with Microsoft to bring job search Meetups and digital technology training to the Toronto community. He is the Director of Career Services at HAPPEN Inc., Canada’s largest network for professionals in transition. You can buy his book Panic Free Job Search and reach him through his web site at www.TransitiontoHired.com