Financial Adversity and Employment Print E-mail

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Steven, a computer programmer, had been laid off for six months. He finally received a job offer in a consultant capacity on a large project for a financial services company. He was thrilled to be back at work after beating the bushes for a new job for several months. A week into his new job, the HR manager called him into her office and explained during the company’s normal background checks, they had discovered he had a low credit score. She handed him a copy of their report from the credit bureau and said they were going to have to let him go. With a shaky financial background, he was not eligible to work on the project. Steven was devastated to find himself back in the job search once again.

Think this is an unusual occurrence? Think again. Employers often make a decision on a candidate during the hiring process based on his/her credit rating. The theory is people who have a great deal of extra debt or a history of poor financial management make less-than-competent workers and are higher risks for embezzlement or other illegal activities. Many people think this theory is unfair and a bill has been introduced to Congress (H.R. 3149) this year that would prevent employers (with some exceptions) from using a credit report in the hiring process.

As we head into year two of the recession, it seems it would be difficult to find anyone who has a stellar credit report, especially considering the layoffs that occurred in the first quarter of 2009. Steven and other job seekers find themselves in a no-win situation – they are behind in payments because of unemployment, but they have trouble finding a job because they are behind in payments. There is not a great deal that can be done to mitigate the debt load without a job!

Time is money in so many ways and when unemployed, time is made of platinum. The longer someone is unemployed, the more difficult the job search. The longer someone is unemployed, the worse the credit score becomes and the less funds are available. Unemployment is something that should be tackled as if it were a case of Ebola virus and had to be eradicated immediately. Waiting around and taking it easy while drawing unemployment can be deadly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median duration of unemployment in August, 2008 was 9.5 weeks. A year later in 2009, that average had extended to 15.4 weeks. In August, 2009, 52.2 percent of unemployed workers had been unemployed for 15 weeks and a full third had been unemployed for more than 27 weeks. Those figures are reversed from a year prior when only 19.7 percent were unemployed longer than 27 weeks.

The job market today is a scenario of survival of the fittest. Watch a flock of pigeons chasing breadcrumbs and you get a mental picture of the situation: those who are aggressive get the jobs, while those who are passive get nothing. Here are some tips for conducting an aggressive job search:

  1. Start Immediately – Do not take a week off to “decompress”. You don’t have the luxury of the time. Use the emotions of suddenly being out of work to propel you forward and motivate you to find your next job.
  2. Go Big – Job search in this economy is very much a numbers game. There are fewer open positions and more available candidates. Do not conduct your job search like you conducted your last one. You need to get your resume out to as broad an audience as possible. Websites, networking, job boards, cold contacts, and recruiters are all ways to get your resume out to the hiring managers.
  3. Don’t Skimp – Job search requires investment of both time and money. Skimping on either will hurt you in the long run. Treat your job search like a full-time job and work it 8 hours a day. If you need help, invest in professional services to assist you. An investment of both time and resources at the beginning of your job search will pay off in a shorter period of unemployment.
  4. Persist – Keep working your job search even when it feels like you are spinning your wheels. Employers are seeking ways to exclude applicants for jobs. Those who don’t give up in their follow ups are more likely to be selected. Recruiters and hiring managers will use attrition as an exclusionary method – they wait to see who gives up and who persists.
  5. Move Away from the Herd – It is commonly reported that something like 85% of all open positions are never advertised anywhere. They are filled from referral, from within, or from existing candidate pools. If you only target advertised positions, you are only targeting 15% of the open positions in the market while competing against 100% of the other candidates. Target companies, not openings.
  6. Cut Back – If you move to having to live on savings and unemployment, it is time to revisit your budget. It is okay to temporarily forego some of the “necessities” to which you are accustomed such as lattes and cable TV. Budget wisely and frugally. Spend money on your core needs and job search expenses that will pay off in a shorter period of unemployment.

Time is of the essence and not using it wisely can prove expensive. People who do not attack their job search aggressively from the very start do serious damage. The delay hurts their financial situation and that, in turn, can make finding new employment more difficult. Job search also costs money and without cash, the effectiveness of a job search is hindered. Consider this – a person making $50,000 annually averages about $25 an hour in salary. Just one week of no income costs that person $1000. Multiply that $1000 by 15 weeks! When someone walks out the door of her old employer with a pink slip in hand, what would be her reaction if someone said “You are about to lose $15,000 unless you get very aggressive in finding your next job”? It would provide a very different perspective. Use that energy to jump start your job search and turn the tides in your favor!