Why Being Turned Down for a Job Increases the Likelihood of Being Turned Down for Another

You know all about bandwagons. Whether it’s a sports team, hit single, or local restaurant, when a few people want it, everyone starts to want it. The reverse is true too; a few people loudly hate blended Scotch, and suddenly only chumps drink it—and hey, you aren’t a chump, right?

A new study (pdf warning) published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics suggests the same is true of hiring practices: the longer an applicant has been out of a job, the less hiring managers want that applicant, even if they’re just as good as the other applicants for the job.

To test this, researchers did something truly impressive in scope and created 12,000 cvs for fictitious people, with real phone numbers and email addresses. The cvs detailed similar educational and job experience and were tailored for clerical, administrative, customer service, and sales jobs. The only difference in the cvs was how long the fictional person had been jobless, which ranged from no time at all to thirty-six months.

Researchers then used the cvs to apply for 3,000 jobs advertised online. Odds of being called by a prospective employer declined steadily as the length of a candidate’s unemployment rose, going from 7.5% for one month of unemployment to mere a mere 4% at the eight-month mark, where it plateaued.

So, what to do about that employment gap? You can start working on another degree, upgrade your skills (programming and another language are our picks), start volunteering, freelance, consult, or maybe even start your own little side-business—anything to get rid of that gap.

Photo courtesy of the Lane-Team.

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