The national unemployment rate is down to 6.7 percent – a three percent improvement from over the last four years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But even as the rate is in decline, there are still upwards of 4.1 million job seekers who have been unemployed for six months or longer. And for many in this group, their lengthy unemployment isn’t the only commonality they share. More seasoned professionals are now being bypassed for younger, less qualified candidates.
In an effort to help alleviate this problem, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have initiated a project, the Institute for Career Transitions, in order to both assist the long-term unemployed in landing jobs, and to also understand candidate hindrances on the path to employment. Research found employers showing favoritism when hiring as they were four times more likely to follow up with candidates unemployed for less than six months, regardless of their amount of experience or skills.
“Skills aren’t the obstacle for most of the long-term unemployed,” said Rand Ghayad, MIT Initiative Research team member. “Screening by employers is.”
There is no question that in today’s job market, employers are more selective and risk averse during the hiring process. Hiring is also taking longer, and the number of candidates screened for a position is larger. Employers will typically say candidates don’t have the skills to fill the skills gap, but it’s the positions that require “unique” skills in the workforce that are going unfilled.
Qualified candidates are being overlooked for professionals of younger generations as employers are seeking talent with certain technical skills, and older workers are stigmatized as not being tech-savvy. A generalization also exists that more seasoned employees are risky hires due to the greater likelihood of injury on the job. Additionally, there is the prevalent fear among employers that if they do hire someone who is overqualified – and they don’t match their total compensation from their previous company – retention rate will plummet.
To help combat this trend, the U.S. government is offering companies incentives through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). This program provides tax credits to employers who hire qualified candidates who have been unemployed long-term due to significant obstacles. This is one of those unique opportunities that benefit both the candidate and the employer that is largely going untapped.
At Hire Dynamics, we believe that jobs that require maturity and fine-tuned people skills are a great way for older workers to find a niche that fits their expertise. For example, my executive assistant Twila has been with me for ten years. Her expertise and commitment and loyalty to the company have been unmatched. Like Twila, more seasoned workers can find similar positions that are a perfect fit where they can demonstrate the high caliber of their work experience only veterans can display.