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Economy

UCLA Study: In Vicious Cycle, Job Interviewers Are Biased Against Unemployed

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Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 1:15 PM
click to enlarge Whatever you do, don't tell them you're a reject
  • Whatever you do, don't tell them you're a reject

Besides a skimpy check from Obama every month, there are few perks to being unemployed.

Depression. Self-doubt. Existential crisis, underscored by bed sores. And now, according to UCLA researchers, there's an even more degrading downside to going jobless in the Great Recession, proving once and for all that a wannabe hard-working American just can't win:

"We found that individuals tend to make negative associations with those who are unemployed, which often leads to unfair discrimination," says Margaret Shih, co-author of "Reconnecting to Work: Consequences of Long-Term Unemployment and Prospects for Job Creation."

In other words, no matter why they're out of work, unemployed job applicants are more likely be tagged no-good slackers, and therefore less likely to be hired.

Here's how the UCLA heads came to their depressing epiphany:

For a series of studies, Ho, Shih and their colleagues recruited a random cross-section of Americans over the Internet and had them appraise fictitious job candidates. The researchers found that even when study participants were evaluating the same evidence about a job applicant, the unemployed applicant was at a disadvantage compared with the employed applicant.

Although all participants saw exactly the same resume, they perceived the "unemployed" resume as belonging to somebody who was less competent, warm and proactive than the "employed" resume. As a consequence, participants reported that they would be less willing to interview or hire the individual who was out of work than the employed individual.

Ho and Shih found the same results when participants were presented with a short video of a job interview, a richer source of information about the supposed job candidate. Participants who believed the job candidate was employed perceived the interview to be more impressive than participants who believed the job candidate was unemployed.

Was your former boss a no-good embezzler whose grubby fingers folded the company? Too bad. Did your business go bankrupt at the whims of a few jerks on Wall Street? Tough luck. UCLA researchers say that regardless of the reason applicants were unemployed, resume reviewers had the same reaction to their status.

It's kind of like modern romance: If a guy or girl's involved, the opposite sex is far more likely to find him or her desirable. Go figure! (Goddammit.)

Anyway, if we are to take anything from this recession science, perhaps it's that a little white lie on a resume isn't much more reprehensible than the dark vicious cycle we're working against. At least "part-time babysitter" sounds a wee bit less desperate than "full-time couchsitter"?

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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