February 6, 2011 in Business

Too many are working at staying unemployed

Jan Quintrall
 

With so many looking for work these days, hiring has become an opportunity to offer someone a way back into the work force, and that feels good. My best gauge of the improving economy is neither lending nor building, but hiring. Lately, conversations with business leaders on the subject of growing staffs have taken an ugly turn. Seems we need more people in our potential employee pool who actually want to work.

All-too common scenarios include:

• The position is posted, resumes are received, interviews scheduled, background checks conducted, and after sorting through nearly 70 applications, the company offers a job to the top candidate. The salary is over $35,000 per year plus a nice benefits package.

A month or more has been invested, including multiple interviews involving many stakeholders, so the right choice is made. After the job is offered to the potential new team member, the employer sits back, feeling good about taking one more person off the unemployed roll.

But the satisfaction is short-lived: The applicant turns down the offer. You see, they’re making about the same on unemployment and think they will hang out and remain unemployed a while longer. Really? Yes, it happened twice to us here at the BBB, and we are not alone. Other business people report the same problem, and in more than an isolated fashion.

• Another position is listed — a bit more entry-level than the first example. You screen the applicants through phone interviews and written tests before scheduling interviews. Having set aside two full days, you take a deep breath and get ready for eight interviews each day. You know some of the interviews will last only minutes because the person is a clear reject due to unprofessional dress, showing up late or having general hygiene issues, but you are geared up for a couple of long days. It’s worth it because at the end there will be one or more individuals coming off the unemployed list. But wait, you scheduled 16 interviews, and only six people show up. Do the no-shows really want a job, or are they just sending in applications to fulfill the requirements for unemployment? Cynicism tells me they’re simply going through the motions.

Now, I know there are still a large number of people who are unemployed or under-employed and really looking for a new place to work. But there also seems to be a growing number of people who enjoy not working and are making a career out of job avoidance. Businesses are paying for this, and it makes hiring staff more expensive.

OK, off my soapbox and on to how we can address this abuse.

I have a simple idea: When you are on unemployment, you are required to apply for a specific number of positions each week. While many job seekers really do apply as required, others just lie, knowing their journals are randomly spot-checked. And some who have specific skills waste time applying for jobs they are not qualified for. But what if there was a way for employers to report anyone who turns down a job to the unemployment office? And how about a simple reporting mechanism for people who do not bother to show up for interviews? They, too, would lose the weekly check. I am sure accountability would change the mind-set of the recipients.

Sometimes we measure and ask for the wrong thing. In the world of unemployment, measuring applications is not working. Let’s snag the abusers while keeping the safety net for those who need and deserve it.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at jquintrall@spokane.bbb.org.


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