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Avoiding Biases and Other Strategies for Reducing Post-COVID Long-Term Unemployment

  • Long-term unemployment becoming more prevalent due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • This factor, coupled with an aging U.S. population, may exacerbate existing biases in hiring practices
  • Employers can adopt strategies to give more equitable review to job candidates

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The COVID-19 pandemic and the aging population in the United States are leading to a greater prevalence of long-term unemployment, according to a recent contributor to Harvard Business Review.

Ofer Sharone, a University of Massachusetts associate professor of sociology and author of the book Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences, says the share of workers who have been out of a job for six months or longer has been growing. He says more than 40 percent of the unemployed population, or about 4 million people, now fall into this category.

Sharone says there are several biases that may affect employer decisions when bringing on new workers, which may become more pronounced as people struggle to find work. These include an age bias, where employers eschew applicants with lengthy experience in favor of younger applicants with fewer years on the job; unemployment bias, where employers are less likely to consider those who were laid off or have been out of work for a long time; or biases against people who are considered overqualified for a position or not qualified enough when trying to break into a new field.

Employers should be aware of such biases as older applicants and longer stretches of unemployment become more common. There are several strategies available to be more equitable when reviewing job candidates, including standardized interviews, blind resume reviews, and giving a sample work test to see how well candidates perform.

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