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  • Irene Iliopoulos

When did the unemployed become the unemployable?


Recruiting to me is like dating, and it seems like every recruiter somehow believes that the only worthy mate is that one person who isn’t looking, and who ignores all our inmails, messages, and calls.


I can’t even count the amount of times throughout my career in recruitment that I’ve heard about recruiters disinterest in job-seekers who are currently unemployed. Blogs have been circulating all over the internet about how job-seekers who aren’t currently working are at a disadvantage. Recruiters don’t like seeing “actively seeking new opportunities” on your LinkedIn profile, for example. We scan passed the unemployed applicants, and bypass those we source. But, why? Why do we automatically assume that the unemployed are unemployable? When did it become the norm to assume that just because someone is not working, they are not worthy of work? There are millions of active job-seekers who are currently unemployed, and yet, recruiters still have so much difficulty hiring.

Articles and blog posts related to what a candidate should do, what they should say, and how they should act are everywhere. We’ve put the job-seeker in a position to beg, and then we criticize them for that too. We tell them not to apply to too many positions, to find enlightening ways to fill in gaps in their resumes, to write tailored cover letters (for people who don’t often read them), and to spend HOURS customizing their resume to a role, when apparently an experienced recruiter only spends a matter of a few seconds skimming through, deciding whether or not you’re a fit. Our current recruitment practices clearly need adjusting…


Job hunting is already hard, let’s stop telling those hoping for their perfect fit that they simply do not fit. Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley’s (1864-1929) concept of the looking glass self roughly states that we view ourselves as a product of how we believe others see us. Basically, I am who I am, because of you. According to Cooley, this works in three steps: we first imagine how others see us (whether that imagination holds any validity, or not), then we imagine the judgments that others are making based on our appearance, and lastly, we imagine how that person (or people) feel about us, based on the judgments that they’ve previously made. The result? We often change our behavior to reflect how we feel people perceive us. Now, it is true that some sociologists believe that this concept wanes over time, but, if it does hold validity of how we build our self-perceptions, what do you think the result is for the already discouraged job-seeker reading all these blog posts about the “unemployable”, unemployed applicant? More discouragement, a lower self-worth, possible depression, and a hesitancy to shoot for the stars. We as recruiters and hiring managers are in a position to change lives, let’s start changing them for the positive, and stop passing invalid biases based on a few articles we’ve read.


My focus at iliopportunities is to ensure that every job-seeker I connect with knows their value, and that each hiring manager understands the importance of a positive candidate experience.