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Is It Really Riskier To Hire The Unemployed?

Is It Really Riskier To Hire The Unemployed?


By Mark Swartz
Canadian Workplace Specialist

For years there’s been an accepted notion that hiring Passive Job Seekers (employees who are currently working and not actively looking) beats taking on applicants who are jobless. But in today’s economy of widespread redundancy, does this belief still hold water?
 
Ponder this: Canada has 18.7 million people in its labour force. Of these, nearly 1.4 million are unemployed. Now consider how expensive it can be to poach employees from your competitors or other companies.
 
Maybe it’s time to think about tapping that reservoir of 1.4 million eager job seekers, instead of focusing so much on the hard-to-get employed.
 
Who Says Passive Job Seekers Are Less Risky Anyway?
 
A few decades ago, when our economy was operating on all cylinders, being unemployed was the exception. If you were an adult of working age who was jobless, there may have been a good reason for this: incompetence, bad attitude, or laziness, among others.
 
This is where the idea that unemployed job seekers are riskier got started. As a hiring manager you’d have wanted to avoid taking on someone else’s damaged goods. And so began the shift toward recruiting the already employed.
 
Passive Job Seekers became highly sought after. The term was used to describe employees who were in good jobs they were satisfied with (for the most part), but who might be convinced to switch sides with some discreet inducement. The simple fact that they weren’t unemployed – yet – made them seem more of a safe bet.
 
Why The Unemployed Aren’t As Chancy Anymore
 
20+ years of slicing and upheaval have changed the employment equation. Now even the best staffers have little job security. All it takes is a merger, or a few quarters of reduced revenues, to put anyone on the payroll a hairsbreadth from the chopping block.
 
Which is why today’s job seeker market is flooded with all sorts of talented people; workers at every level who, for no fault of their own, find themselves temporarily adrift.
 
Meanwhile workplaces have become more competitive. Who’s to say that a prospect who is still employed hasn’t kept their job by means less than savoury? You need to be careful about hiring a Passive Seeker that’s bent the rules or played shady politics just to keep their job.
 
How To Reduce Your Risk When Hiring The Unemployed
 
Let’s not to gloss over the possible risks of hiring someone who’s jobless. There are factors that could weigh against them heavily. For instance…
 
  • Have they been out of work for an excessively long time compared to others at their level?
  • Are they serially jobless (out of work repeatedly)?
  • Do they have a habit of resigning and leaving their employer in the lurch?
  • When they get downsized, is it “for cause” or is it merely due to structural change (for instance the economy, a merger, position elimination)?
 
If someone has been out of work for an extended period, be sure to ask about how they’ve been keeping their skills and knowledge up to date. If they’ve been jobless a number of times, check references carefully to see if a negative pattern emerges. As for resigning, there ought to be a solid rationale for doing so. And getting fired for cause means you should take extra care to find out what really happened.
 
The Joys Of Employing The Jobless
 
Possible downsides aside, hiring the unemployed can be a bonus for all. Let’s assume you find two candidates who are pretty much equal. If one is unemployed and has a good track record overall, they may be hungrier for work than the employed one.
 
This could translate into a higher degree of gratitude and loyalty. Jobless applicants may be more willing to take on extra duties and additional hours for less pay. If they’re intent on re-buidling their employment history they may be inclined to stay with you longer and show greater cooperation.
 
If it’s risk your really worried about, keep in mind that a Passive Job Seeker might have once been unemployed as well. Did that make them any less trustworthy as a candidate? How about you – ever been on the receiving end of a pink slip you didn’t deserve?
 
Let’s put to rest the myth that employed candidates offer you maximum assurance. In an economy where top performers can overnight be collecting Employment Insurance, look beyond current employment status to the quality – and potential appreciativeness – of the individual candidate.