The No. 1 Sign You're a Victim of Unemployment Bias — And 3 Ways to Change Your Narrative

woman in interview

Adobe Stock / Fairygodboss Staff

Profile Picture
May 29, 2024 at 12:33PM UTC

Looking for a job when you don’t currently have a job is difficult and stressful enough. Unemployment bias makes it harder.

Unemployment bias is a bias that employers hold against job applicants who are not currently employed. According to a 2021 Indeed survey, 77% of job seekers and 83% of employers agree that it’s easier to get a job when you have a job. 

If you’re an unemployed job seeker and employers are hesitant about your employment gap, skills and industry knowledge, you may be a victim of unemployment bias.

There’s no doubt this bias is unfair, especially in a pandemic working world when companies are more likely to furlough or lay off workers. Luckily, being aware of this bias is the first step to combatting it — so you’ll be equipped to address it and overcome it in your next interview.

1. Address it — briefly.

According to the same Indeed study, 74% of hiring managers believe the best way to address unemployment bias is to do it head-on. Whether you decide to bring this up proactively — which 48% hiring managers recommend — or you’re asked to answer, discuss the circumstances of your current employment situation so there are no mysteries or ground left uncovered; however, do so briefly and with your attention toward the future and what you’re looking for in employment. While you want to let the hiring manager know why you’re unemployed, you don’t want to dwell on the subject. If you’ve done anything to build your skills during this time — whether a course, volunteer work or a project — now’s the perfect time to mention it.

2. Stay up to date.

Hiring managers are worried about unemployed job seekers because of their knowledge and skills — specifically, that they won’t be up to date with other candidates who are currently working. Get ahead of this bias by proactively researching and staying in the know about your industry news and what’s going on in the general career space (i.e. have you heard of the Great Resignation?). The same goes for your skills. If you’re trailing behind on new technology or training, show the hiring manager how you’re proactively taking steps to learn and master anything new.

3. Show your impact.

Hiring managers are also worried about the potential success of unemployed job seekers once they’re on the job; 70% of employers believe a currently unemployed candidate will be less productive if hired. Show that you’ll hit the ground running by bringing new ideas about how you’ll tangibly impact the company if you are hired. Use your past successes to demonstrate your track record, then build on your previous accomplishments with your new ideas. This will show the hiring manager that it won’t take much time to get you up to speed — and that you’ll make a positive impact once you join the team.

Unemployment bias may be making your job search harder, but it doesn’t have to make it impossible. By changing the narrative and showing you’re ready to jump into a new role, you’ll soon be a level — or even stronger — candidate than employed job seekers.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for combatting unemployment bias? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always