I got laid off in February. It should have been fine but then the covid hit and I will soon be considered long term unemployed. During the last recession employers didnt want those people and it was a trap that was impossible to escape.

When I google the topic I find articles like this one:


Can someone explain the reasons for this so I can try to mitigate them?

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    "During the last recession employers didnt want those people and it was a trap that was impossible to escape." I don't think that's true at all. I know people who go on long "sabbaticals" and then manage to return to workforce, without having global pandemic to explain it. – Tymoteusz Paul Jun 27 '20 at 16:17
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    Are you American? There are unique reasons to be concerned about gaps for American employers. – Matthew Gaiser Jun 27 '20 at 16:22
  • You have forgotten to include your country. – guest Jun 27 '20 at 17:03
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    @TymoteuszPaul www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/unemployment-discrimination_n_1719337.html – hatetheunemployed Jun 27 '20 at 17:14
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    Welcome to the site @hatetheunemployed, your question was poorly received it seems. I think a version of it might be on-topic after some edits but you may also want to take a look at this related question approaching it from the other direction: Is it 'easier' to get a job when you already have one?. Related questions like this one might also be interesting for you. – Lilienthal Jun 28 '20 at 9:01

Probably. This is a well documented thing. Some reading for anyone looking for background info on this: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/04/the-terrifying-reality-of-long-term-unemployment/274957/

There are three issues with the long term unemployed:

  1. A lot of hiring is just looking at who else thought you were good.

Imagine that you saw 10 people pick up a loaf of bread at the grocery store, look at it, and put it back down. Would you buy that loaf of bread or assume that something is wrong with it? Probably not. It is a phenomenon called rational herding.

How does this impact the employment market? Employers assume that if you have been unemployed for a long time that other employers have rejected you. They assume they rejected you for a reason and based on that also reject you.

If you are long term unemployed, it is assumed that many other employers have already rejected you. If they rejected you, you must not be that great. People are just following the "wisdom" of the crowd. After a certain period, it is assumed that the crowd has judged you to not be that productive.

  1. In America (I am assuming American based on the article), a major reason for a gap in employment is having been to prison.

The number of Americans with criminal records is the same as the number with university educations. One in 12 are felons. About 1 in 20 have spent time in jail. Criminals are overwhelmingly male, so about 9% of men have spent time in jail.

Companies don't want these people, but the process of finding out whether someone is a criminal costs money. It is also quite probable that there will be people with criminal records in your pile of applicants.

What is a easy trick to weed out the worst ones? Assume that a gap consists of prison time.

  1. Skills decline quickly, or at least appear to do so.

I suspect that candidates who have been unemployed for a long time underperform in interviews simply because they are not using the skills day to day. I currently work in Java for our backend. When I got the job, it had been over a year since I wrote a Java program. Happily for me, the coding test was on the computer, so Intellij could remind me what the names of common functions were and auto import the appropriate libraries for data structures.

Had that been a whiteboard interview, had they interviewer been standing over my shoulder, or had the IDE not been Intellij I might have failed due to having been out of practice and just stupidly trying combinations of words and letters for basic functions.

Even if they aren't losing the skills, employers assume that they do. Long term unemployed are treated as essentially having no relevant experience (see the article at the top)

  • Hiring managers do notice gaps and make assumptions. In my case, I was asked about a gap and allowed to explain it. The OP should probably anticipate someone noticing and proactively provide an explanation - why the gap is there and what have they done to mitigate it. Updates to a git repo could show they’ve still been writing code. – John Oglesby Jun 27 '20 at 19:28
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    While this answers the general problem of long term unemployment, it would be helpful if you consider the COVID-19 situation specifically. I hope that most HR employees are smart enough to connect the dots, when they see the timeframe of the unemployment. – Chris Jun 27 '20 at 20:28
  • In addition to the first point, hiring is like dating: sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111123190404.htm or youtu.be/rNyQNg7AjxQ – Justas Jun 28 '20 at 9:51
  • @Chris they didn't do that during the Great Recession. – Matthew Gaiser Jun 29 '20 at 18:28

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