Blog Archive

Monday, April 18, 2011

How You Spend Your Time When You are Unemployed Matters

Written by Terra Carbert
Senior Recruiter
Minneapolis, MN

In this economy, we as recruiters encounter a lot of candidates who are currently unemployed.  The news is buzzing about employers who intentionally “screen out” unemployed applicants as a practice.  I’ll be the first to tell you that is not a practice we support at McGladrey.  In the interview process, I do spend time talking with candidates about how they spend their time.  If you are unemployed and looking for a new opportunity, choose how you spend your time wisely, because it matters.

Candidates need to be prepared to answer the question, “What have you been doing since you left company X?”  The longer you are unemployed, the more important your answer to this question is to your job search success.  It’s okay for someone to take the first couple of months of unemployment reevaluating their goals, spending time with family, traveling, or working on projects that may have been put off by an intense work schedule.  However, beyond a couple of months, if re-employment is your goal, then what you do must reflect that you want to get back to work.  I know it’s a cliché but actions do speak louder than words and that is what I look for - action. 

When I ask how people spend their time, I look for responses that demonstrate they are working hard to stay sharp at their skills and also to find a position.  Here at McGladrey, we value passion, drive, and ambition.  When a candidate tells me they’ve been “waiting for the right opportunity,” (as many do) that comes across to me as passive and is likely not a good fit for our culture. 

So, what should you do?  Here are some things people have impressed me with:

1.       Join networking groups both online and offline where you can get to know people in your line of work or those who handle hiring in your field.  (I am personally a member of 50 groups on LinkedIn; when a candidate in the field I recruit for pursues contact with me, I take notice).
2.       Volunteer your expertise to a non-profit organization doing work that is relevant to your existing experience.
3.       Tutor college students at a nearby campus that offers courses in your profession – bonus, this service is usually something you can get paid to do!
4.       Take classes relevant to your job search and keep any existing licenses active.
5.       Better than taking a relevant class, teach one, even if it’s just at the local community center. 
6.       Be willing to look at temporary assignments, they often lead to long-term opportunities and can connect you to others in your field.

When a candidate tells me that they’ve joined relevant networking groups, they are volunteering their skills at a non-profit, taking classes, and “aggressively pursuing the right opportunity,” they leave me with the impression that they have the qualities we look for in an employee.  If a prospective employee can demonstrate to me that they didn’t just sit around and wait for opportunity to fall in their lap, I don’t even consider unemployment a factor in their consideration. Your competition is out there pursuing these activities – what are you going to do?

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