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How Hard Is It to Get a Job if You’ve Been Out of Work for 6 Months? — Dollars and Sense

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John Moore, Getty Images

They say the best time to look for a new job is when you already have one. Turns out there might actually be something to this phenomenon: New research suggests that the longer you’re out of work, the harder it gets to find a new job.

Researchers conducted a study in which they applied for more than 3,000 online job listings with 12,000 bogus résumés. All of the résumés were given the same qualifications except for one difference: the amount of time the phony applicant had been unemployed.

What they found was that applicants who had been unemployed between 6-8 months had only a 4 percent chance of stirring up any interest at all—a whopping 45 percent lower chance than those applicants out of work under six months.

This is called “pink slip stigma,” and according to study author Kory Kroft, the reason it exists is because of how potential employers perceive an unemployed person’s productivity. “There’s two kinds of employees, productive and unproductive,” said Kroft. “Firms will use the number of months you’ve been out of work as a proxy or signal of how productive you are.”

After eight months the stigma plateaus, meaning that an applicant who has been unemployed for 12 months has about the same shot as one out of the work for 24 months.

Researchers add that all applicants have about a 93 percent chance of having their résumé ignored when applying for a job online. The best way to conduct your job search is through actual human interaction.


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