Dispelling the HR myth of “Unemployable” and how to make sure you aren’t

What do they mean by “unemployable”?

The Savvy Intern Blog shared a quote from an HR professional that has those of us hoping to land our first jobs unscathed by the economic downturn shaking in our boots.  According to this professional: “Once you are unemployed more than six months, you are considered pretty much unemployable.  We assume that other people have passed you over, so we won’t want anything to do with you.”  Wow, really?  So basically, you go on a few interviews in a few months and don’t find a perfect fit and you are black listed as far as HR departments go.  Doomed to be unemployed for all eternity.  Unemployable.

Fear not, friends, for whoever said this is misrepresenting the entire HR field and probably just skipped her morning coffee.  The debate about the validity of this statement has been ongoing in the world of PR news, which tells us one thing if nothing else: if one person in the industry disagrees with it, we can breathe easy knowing it doesn’t hold true for everyone who comes across a resume with a bit of a gap.

Why this is a flawed concept

Of the many issues I have with this statement, there are a few that are very important to remember if you are out there in the real world and feel discouraged by it:

  1. Every job listing has different requirements.  Maybe you did not meet all the criteria for job A, but you are the perfect fit for job B.  There is no way that someone in HR at job B will look over your resume carefully enough to notice an unemployment gab, but fail to notice that you are just what they are looking for.
  2. Maybe you are a highly qualified job seeker, and you have been offered jobs that you just didn’t feel met your expectations.  This doesn’t mean you are lazy, but it is important to be realistic in this case.  Entry level positions may not be everything you hoped for, but they are a growth opportunity.
  3. You may have taken 6 months off to do something thrilling that can make you a better fit at another company.  For example, you might have volunteered in Nicaragua for 6 months after graduating.  There are all sorts of reasons for a 6 month period of unemployment.  Be wary that you might be criticized for it in the resume review process, and explain what you have been doing in your cover letter.  Not only will it clear up any misconceptions, but it will give the company somethign to remember you by if you were fortunate enough to be doing something amazing.

The concept of unemployable is by no means a universal one in the business world.  Without a degree in accounting or finance and only experience walking dogs, Goldman Sachs might consider me unemployable.  Does that mean a dog walking start up company would consider me unemployable?  Absolutely not.  Employable is in the eyes of the beholder.

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