At a recent Sacramento jobs fair

Some companies have even gone as far as posting signs, stating you must have a job just to fill out an application.

The article is here and the pointer is from Chris F. Masse.

Comments

It seems to me that a job fair is a particularly poor way to recruit for the already employed, given that they're typically at work while the fair goes on.

IVV -- indeed, and the fact that a job fair can operate with only already-employed job seekers should tell us something fairly worrisome about the market. I would take this as strong evidence that labor mobility isn't the problem right now.

I have to say that this is borne out in my own industry, software engineering: We're interviewing candidates as fast as we can get them through the door, most of them already employed somewhere else and looking for a job change. But it's still incredibly hard to find people good enough to be worth hiring. The problem is skills mismatch, and from that point of view "ignore the unemployed; their skills are probably useless and certainly rusty, they will cost too much to bring up to speed" may be an adequate heuristic.

I've never seen it this way and I've been interviewing a good number of people recently. Major firms are horrible at picking good labor from bad labor and often layoff skilled workers, many with good social skills.

The biggest source of inefficiency in many companies is their HR department. It is a bad principal-agent problem. The only way for HR to justify itself is by making the HR part of recruitment long and cumbersome. And often times the HR screening is where the best candidates are lost.

Anecdotally (from the Chemical Industry), everyone treats the HR and safety departments as a obstacle to be stepped around. Somehow software companies seem less bitten by this bug.

I read an article somehwere, That companies were getting way to many applicants to be able to go through them all. To speed things up, they filter out all the unemployed and just look at the employed candidates.

I think they do that because:
1) The employee is employable.
2) Someone else's HR department did all the hard work already (the company the employee is coming from)

I think companies are missing out of potentially valuable employees that got fired for no other reason than poor management, and/or slow economy.

There's probably a large enough pool of employed workers seeking job changes that companies don't have to care too much.

It doesn't matter.

Hiring an employed person creates a job opening at his former company. Eventually a job goes to an unemployed person.

Which is better - five employed people get slightly better jobs and an unemployed person gets a job, or an unemployed person gets a job?

To be clear, the sponsors of the Sacramento jobs fair did not post a "no unemployed need apply" sign. It is individual employers who set that policy. I cannot tell from the article whether any of the employers attending the jobs fair had signs to that effect at their booths.

Some employers require college degrees. Basically the same thing.

"It's morally reprehensible." I tend to doubt that. You are basically saying that it's moral to expect the company to take the risk but immoral for that company to expect another company to take the risk. We just happen to be in a period where there is no return for anyone to accept the risk. Is it morally reprehensible to want to buy an occupied home versus abandoned?

I talked to a GE recruiter and he was pretty full of himself and his company. He said "we can be picky and only take the best." I was more polite than him and didn't say "so can I, mayge I could help you out, but I'm not really interested in an insolvent bailout business."

Here's a spin on this question:

Consider a newly minted PhD on the job market.

Given the choice between employment (sessional lecturing at Pudknocker U.) and unemployment (staying on the job market rather than taking a lousy job), you're better to do the latter 9 times out of 10.

All the arguments about the value of don't-hire-the-unemployed could be extended to academia. Working at Pudknocker keeps at least some skills from getting rusty (teaching, if not research), it shows that you are 'selectable' (at least, more selectable than the person who is entirely unemployed).

So why do hiring committees at universities prefer the unemployed to the underemployed, while industry prefers the underemployed to the unemployed?

You are basically saying that it's moral to expect the company to take the risk but immoral for that company to expect another company to take the risk. We just happen to be in a period where there is no return for anyone to accept the risk. Is it morally reprehensible to want to buy an occupied home versus abandoned?

I would have said THAT if I meant that. I made no comments about who deserves to actually get hired. If these stories are true (and I have some doubts) they are explicitly cases of discrimination against unemployed Americans, during harsh economic times. And your defense for such discrimination? Expedience.

Perhaps you feel that employers have no moral obligation to fairly review the qualifications of reasonable applicants. I don't deny that it's more onerous to screen a bigger pile of resumes. But it is shameful to deny a person who needs a job a fair chance at a job if they are qualified.

This practice is lazy, but it's clearly defensible in narrow terms of corporate efficiency and expedience. Outside those narrow domains, it's morally deficient. And most folks will recognize that if the stories are true.

Some economists are quite used to disregarding human factors that can't be reliably quantified and incorporated into a model that does something like maximizing efficiency or profit. Mathematically, that's a feature. Morally, it's a bug.

@Grant Gould:

There seems to be a major break in communication between employers and the labor market if what you describe is true. Wouldn't it be possible to solve the skill mismatch through training of your own employees? Then you could guarantee the skills were in your own group. If there is concern that the employee will bolt to another company immediately after training, you can just offer the training with the requirement that the employee stay with the firm for a set period of time.

Or perhaps the role isn't all that integral to the firm if the firm can afford to keep it open? If this is the case, then can the position really be said to exist?

This practice is lazy, but it's clearly defensible in narrow terms of corporate efficiency and expedience. Outside those narrow domains, it's morally deficient. And most folks will recognize that if the stories are true.

Explain why it is "morally deficient"? What is wrong with it, other than you have some sort of vague knee jerk reaction? How is saying "employed people only" any different than saying "people with a 4 year degree only"?

I think you guys are all missing the point.

Lets say you lost your job as a software engineer. How hard would it be for you to get a job? Not a job as a software engineer, not a senior level software engineer position, but simply a job?

Perhaps, it isn't about not hiring people who have been laid off, but about not hiring people who rather be unemployed instead of work a job below their qualifications. Even if you got a job flipping burgers at McDonald's, you would meet the qualifications and be allowed to attend the fair.

Sounds like experimental evidence in support of the economist who won the Nobel price but lost last year's opportunity to be appoint to the FRB.

Maybe he should submit this article along with his Nobel in support of his renomination.

Getting a job flipping burgers is NOT going to help the resume of a software engineer - NOT AT ALL.
Early on in university I worked at an internship doing economic analysis that was not related to software development. When I was applying for jobs after university I was always asked in interviews to explain myself for having taken an internship unrelated to software development.

Also, I have not gotten jobs due to being seen as overqualified (I had an interviewer ask me outright "What will stop you from leaving for your own field when the economy improves?"). I would have a better chance with the (crappy) market in my field than with burger-flipping.

"Perhaps, it isn't about not hiring people who have been laid off, but about not hiring people who rather be unemployed instead of work a job below their qualifications."

Maybe, to recalibrate income expectations.

There is an item in the news that people may not be aware of that explains why there is more active solicitation of active employees than before.

Six companies this year--Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Pixar, and one other--were charged with entering into an illegal agreement not to solicit current employees by the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division. They entered into a consent decree this January.

If you want a reason why there is more active soliticitation of Current employees than before, you can look to this action as a possible explanation, at least as to them.

This might be a good empricial before/after exercise for someone.

Wouldn't this policy make more sense at a time of low unemployment than high unemployment? i.e. when you expect the average quality of the unemployed to be lower?

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