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A Tale of Two Job Markets

Last week I played golf with a highly successful recruiting firm owner. As usual, I took the opportunity to ask for his opinions of the job market and to learn how he connects hiring managers with the candidates they want to hire. One statement he made I found particularly interesting. He said “There are two job markets.” I had no idea what he meant, so I asked him to explain. In essence, here is what he was saying:

There are two job markets. One is available to employed people, the other is available to the employed as well as the unemployed.

I asked, based upon the recruiter’s experience, what portion of the job market is available to both the employed and unemployed and he answered “20%”. In other words, he felt that unemployed job seekers would be considered for 20% of the jobs available. “Why?”, I asked. He said that his estimate was based upon the percentage of employers he has observed willing to interview and hire unemployed job candidates.

Independent recruiting and staffing firms fill approximately 15% of all jobs. His comment was specifically addressing this portion of the job market. However, it has broader implications for the entire market because it is also true that some percentage of ALL employers tend to ignore unemployed candidates. Based upon my experience, I would estimate this portion which is unavailable to the unemployed to be 60%. In addition, it is also important for the unemployed to be aware that their marketability is reduced the longer they remain unemployed. (See my previous post titled Employment Date Coding).

Regardless of whether my 60% estimate is high or low, it is undeniable that a significant portion of the job market is not available to the unemployed. This fact has the following implications for your career management:

Employed people need to think carefully before resigning from their jobs and downgrading their personal branding from “employed” to “unemployed” as this will reduce their marketability. Knowing this, I always try to sensitize my clients to this and suggest they try to hang in there while looking for their next job. If it is too late and they have recently resigned, I suggest they not be too quick to update their employment status on their resume or LinkedIn profile.

Unemployed people need to make maximum efforts early in their job searches, when they are more marketable. The recruiter told me the story of a friend who was given a twelve month severance. She came to him after “taking off” for a year, earnestly desiring help with her job search. He told her “You are not hirable.” While I believe this was an overstatement, it points to the fact that many recruiters will not propose such a person for positions they are seeking to fill.

Here is an analogy that sums up this matter. You are like a new car. It immediately loses value the day it is purchased and driven off the lot. As it continues to age, it continues to depreciate. Likewise, the day you become unemployed your marketability drops…  and it continues to drop the longer you are unemployed.

I imagine that unemployed job seekers will consider the previous information to be negative. However, if it causes the employed to be more careful before quitting their current jobs and causes the unemployed to work harder at their job searches earlier rather than later, then my work here is done.

Good luck and best wishes for your success.


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