Is it true that it's easier to get a job while you already have one?

For many unemployed workers, the social stigma of being without a job can sometimes seem like a ready-made excuse for any failure to land a new position. Indeed, there have been studies suggesting that companies do tend to give preference to resumes from candidates who are currently employed. Moreover, some recent reports indicate that roughly two-thirds of unemployed Americans believe that unemployment stigma has harmed their job search efforts.

Of course, feelings and beliefs may not always align with reality, and may not accurately reflect hiring managers' opinions on the subject. So, is it truly harder to get a new job when you are unemployed? In this post, we will examine that question and offer some advice for unemployed job seekers who are actively trying to find new employment.

How hard is it to find a new job when you are unemployed?

It is important to be clear: there is research to support the idea that hiring managers give preference to people who already have jobs. However, it is important to note that even that research found no real bias against those who had been unemployed for less than nine months. According to the study's findings, employers generally understand that “worker/firm matching takes time.”

At the same time, however, research suggests that employed workers may be more likely to receive positive responses to their resumes and applications. According to analysis from the New York Fed, employed workers who searched for new jobs received half of all job offers despite sending out only 20 percent of all applications. They also received about half of all unsolicited offers from recruiters. In addition, those offers included wages and benefits that were noticeably higher than those offered to the unemployed.

Still, it is unlikely that bias against the unemployed explains all that disparity. The Fed offered an alternative explanation that all job seekers need to consider:

“This finding illustrates the importance of informal contacts and recruiting. Informal contacts can include networking at industry events; conversations with friends, present or former coworkers, or business associates; and unsolicited contacts by employers, recruiters, or headhunters.”

Simply put, networking may explain much of that disparity in hiring trends. Those who are currently employed are more likely to maintain active contacts with co-workers, clients, business contacts, and others in their industry. Unfortunately, many people who remain unemployed for any serious length of time will struggle to maintain their networks, and that will make it even harder for them to find and capitalize on suitable employment opportunities.

What are hiring managers saying amid the Covid crisis?

Late last year, CNBC published an article from LinkedIn vice president of product management Blake Barnes that took aim at the idea that the unemployed would have a grim time finding new jobs. The piece came at a crucial time, after Covid lockdowns had led to double-digit unemployment rate and many of those unemployed workers were understandably worried about how their job loss might impact their ability to reenter the workforce.

Barnes noted that his company's research found that 96 percent of hiring managers claimed that they would have no problem hiring job seekers who lost their job during the shutdowns. He said that data from the LinkedIn platform seemed to support those hiring managers' claims. That should come as welcome news to anyone who lost their job due to the Covid-19 economic meltdown.

What can you do to overcome unemployment bias?

Obviously, the easiest solution for avoiding unemployment bias is to find a new job before you lose your current position. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. As the 2020 shutdowns revealed, the right set of circumstances can lead to millions of workers losing their jobs with no warning, and through no fault of their own. As a result, it is vital that you know how to overcome unemployment bias when you are looking for a new job. The following strategies can help.

Do not let your network deteriorate

Maintain your professional and personal contacts throughout your unemployment and leverage them as best you can. Do not be too embarrassed to broadcast your desire for employment. Reach out to as many contacts as you can to let them know that you would appreciate news about any relevant open positions. One positive of not being employed currently is that you have more time to spend on networking and job search activities.

Avoid the unemployment rut

Being unemployed does not have to be an endlessly depressing period of uselessness. Instead of allowing yourself to be frustrated and depressed, use that time to hone your skills. Search for freelance opportunities or volunteer for a favorite cause. Remember, that freelance gig can be used to fill in the gap in your resume, which always looks good to hiring managers and recruiters. Those classes or online certifications you pursue to improve your skills will also be viewed favorably. Stay active and use your time wisely.

Focus on your brand

Part of your effective networking efforts should be directed toward maintaining your personal and professional brand. Enhance your LinkedIn profile and actively seek out new recommendations. Never stop promoting yourself, your skills, and the value that you can add to any future employer's bottom line. Treat every interaction as though it is the one that could lead you to your next job offer.

Keep your emotions in balance

Lengthy periods of unemployment can play havoc with your self-esteem and emotional balance. Being laid off can cause a loss of confidence, anger, and grief. Make sure that you deal with those feelings of job search depression before you jump back into the job seeking routine, or that negativity will cause all your hiring interactions to be gloomy, unproductive affairs.

Craft your narrative

Everything is marketing, including your job search efforts. While a job loss may seem like a negative, you should avoid thinking of it in those terms when you are crafting your employment story. That lost job can be the launching pad for your next career reinvention if you want it to be. Use your time to make sure that your career story is one that highlights excellence and value, and potential employers will have an easier time looking past your unemployment to focus on all that you might add to their companies.

You can also remind employers that you are available to start working immediately, while other candidates may require two weeks or longer to wrap up work for their current company. Be sure to bring up any new skills you've learned during your employment gap, too. Being unemployed is not a bad thing: find the positive aspects of the situation to work in your favor.


While there is undoubtedly some unemployment bias in the hiring process, it is by no means a given in every company. Other factors may make it more likely that unemployed workers get overlooked. The good news is that you can control many of those factors and improve your chances of getting the fantastic job offer you need.

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