Amazingly, in an economic climate that rivals the Great Depression, some employers have made clear that “unemployed” persons need not bother to apply for job openings.

In these times, when our employment levels have suffered a serious down-shift, people who find themselves on the rosters of the unemployed now must navigate the narrow gauntlet of stiff competition for fewer jobs. And, it is counterproductive to our economic recovery for employers to exclude the “unemployed” from consideration for available job openings.

For certain executive level positions, some employers will court high-performers of competitors with the goal of gaining some advantage over these competitors. Often, however, exclusion of unemployed persons from consideration reflects prejudices that unemployed persons have work performance problems, or their skills and contacts must be outdated.

To be sure, some unemployed people are not interested in working. Those intangible qualities such as “work ethic”, nuts and bolts knowledge and experience, up-to-date skills and contacts, and compatibility with others in an organization can be difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain from an interview, resume, and select references.

On the other hand, it cannot be presumed that unemployed persons lack these intangibles by mere virtue of the fact that they presently do not have jobs. In fact, each of us who has worked in any type of job for any type of employer can readily point to one or more co-workers, managers, or supervisors who we would describe as lazy, incompetent, limited, abrasive, or overpaid. And, these people are employed!

Moreover, it is a mistake to assume that an unemployed person has lost his or her skills or contacts. To the contrary, time spent without a job can often be the most productive in terms of skill and knowledge development. Additionally, persons who are unemployed often spend time pursuing additional “contacts”, engage in various training and certification programs to improve skills, and pursue other avenues to stay “current” in the field.

Job loss, for whatever reason it occurred, is devastating financially as well as emotionally, mentally, and physically. If you are an employer with job openings, or if you work for a One Stop Career Center or Job Corps Center focused on getting people to work, consider carefully the day-to-day duties required of an available job and then look closely at any person, employed or unemployed, who demonstrates an ability to perform these duties.

One Stop Career Centers and Job Corps Centers should make sure that unemployed persons are being afforded an opportunity to participate in every educational, training, and/or on-the-job training opportunity for which they meet the essential eligibility requirements. Moreover, participants should be encouraged to include these training and educational pursuits on their resumes so that potential employers may see ongoing skill-building in the field.

Seena Foster is an attorney and author of Civil Rights Investigations Under the Workforce Investment Act and Other Title VI-Related Laws: From Intake to Final Determination. She is also a Partner with Title VI Consulting, LLP in Alexandria, Virginia. You may visit her website at