An economy that's spiraling downward or volatile markets always can affect unemployment, because there just aren't enough jobs in certain fields for people who want them. But sometimes the economy, business trade and demand and similar factors don't always explain why some people can't find work. Many of the reasons have to do with their work readiness, job skills, training, employer bias and job-search techniques.
Government initiatives such as the Workforce Investment Act and Job Corps popularized the term "work readiness" as key to ending or curbing unemployment. The lack of work-readiness skills is touted as why some job seekers remain unemployed. These types of skills aren't the skills required to perform certain job tasks. Work readiness refers to whether the job seeker is literate enough to complete an employment application or understands what's appropriate attire and language for an interview. Once employed, work-readiness skills include reporting to work on time, accepting supervisor directives and work tasks and being a team player. People who lack basic work-readiness skills either remain unemployed or they have a series of unsuccessful attempts at keeping a job.
Because of technology, some occupations are practically obsolete. Many receptionists and switchboard operators are replaced by automatic call answering systems that use the callers' prompts to appropriately direct their calls. A worker whose entire career as a receptionist or phone operator now faces unemployment for an indeterminate length of time. She might want to continue in that type of job and just cannot find suitable employment based on the dearth of jobs in certain occupational groups. Economists for the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, Diden Tuzemen and Jonathan Willis, attribute unemployment based on factors like this to "job polarization." Job polarization affects individual workers and the overall labor market; it explains certain changes in the job market because of technology advances and other job-skills-related factors that cause long-term unemployment.
The argument can be made that recidivism rates are higher than they should be for convicted felons because employment opportunities aren't available to them given their criminal history. But some employers consider both arrests and convictions as part of an applicant's criminal history, even when an arrest isn't evidence that a crime was committed, nor indicative of criminal behavior. For that matter, even a conviction isn't necessarily evidence of unsuitability for a job, unless certain convictions strictly disqualify the applicant. For example, a registered nurse who participated in an elder abuse ring probably won't get hired as a registered nurse when she finishes serving her sentence. In 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued enforcement guidance for employers on how to prevent criminal history records from leading to discriminatory employment practices. One such practice is looking at criminal history on a case-by-case basis and whether a conviction precludes the candidate from performing the job functions. Denying employment strictly on arrest records, says the EEOC, can be discriminatory because of the disproportionate number of minorities vs. nonminorities who are arrested.
An interview is a two-way conversation where the interviewer and interviewee have an opportunity to determine whether the job and the company are a good fit for both of them. In part, the hiring manager is obligated to convince the candidate why the company is a good place to work. Job seekers who lack confidence or good interview skills don't make favorable impressions on hiring managers. Their lack of confidence and salesmanship often don't lead to job offers. Many are afraid to do what some career coaches, such as New York-based Jo Singel, advise: ask for the job. Job seekers don't ask for the job because they're timid or afraid they might be appear desperate instead of projecting an image that says, "Yes, I'm interested in working for you."
Play to Win
A usual lottery slogan is "you have to play to win." The same is true for job seekers: the more resumes they send, the better their chances are of getting a job. Many people stay unemployed because they don't commit to a diligent job search and have a narrowly focused and thin-skinned approach to looking for work. They submit one or two resumes, get an interview and pray for that one interview to be "the one" that gets the job. They focus solely on that one interview, and when they don't get the job, they're discouraged and their job search stalls.
About the Author
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.
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