Job hunting
October 4, 2004 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Conventional wisdom says that it's easier to find a job while you're currently employed. Why is this? [more within]

My own experience is that it's actually difficult to find the time to do a proper job hunt while employed full-time -- searching for good work seems to be a part-time job in itself. My guess is that the conventional wisdom works this way because employers view those already employed as more desireable employees -- true?
posted by weston to Work & Money (16 answers total)
Seeking a job while employed might be more difficult logistically (i.e., finding time for interviews), but I believe that it keeps you in a healthier frame of mind. If you're employed, you can relax and know that even if this next cover letter doesn't get you an interview, you still have a steady income. If you get a rejection after an interview, you still have a job. And if you are employed, then a potential new employer has to admit at least one thing about you: someone at some time thought you were worth it.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:14 AM on October 4, 2004

because employers view those already employed as more desireable employees

...or the reverse may be true, people without a job go against our vision of the world as a place where capable people have jobs and keep jobs. Even if you're unemployed through no fault of your own, it's hard for many people to often accept this and prefer to believe that people are unemployed due to some supposed weakness or character flaw. So, if you're unemployed you're a less desirable employee, even though I would assume it's somehwat easier to hire someone who isn't currently working [they can start sooner, you don't have to match salaries and benefits, you don't have to deal with NDAs and whatnot] If you have a job, you do not have this hurdle to overcome. Then again there's that other problem... if you can get hired away from THAT job, what's to say you won't let yourself get hired away from THIS one?
posted by jessamyn at 11:19 AM on October 4, 2004

Seems to me the CW refers to the fact that if you're looking while employed, you have the security of a paycheck, as grabbingsand says.

If you have a good work history and can rationalize the time out of work (i.e. layoff, retraining, etc.) I don't think the psychology of hiring gets all that bogged down in "well, he must have something going for him if he's already employerd". Surely not EVERYONE who was downsized/rightsized/outsourced became permanently unemployable due to their temporary setback.
posted by briank at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2004

I agree with you, weston, except that it's a bit easier to sell yourself as employable when you're currently employed and it's you dumping the company, not the other way around. Especially if you've had your job for a while. Otherwise, it's no fun calling potential employers during business hours from work, taking time off for interviews, etc.
posted by Shane at 11:35 AM on October 4, 2004

I suppose it's possible that more "desirable" jobs come from personal contacts within your industry, rather than through cold interviews with the folks down in HR.

And you're more likely to be in contact with people in your industry while you're actually working.
posted by bcwinters at 11:58 AM on October 4, 2004

In my experience, I had the hardest times finding work when I was out of work for months, because I NEEDED ANY JOB ASAP and probably came off as desperate and nervous in interviews. Maybe I looked good on paper, but I wasn't a fun person to be around during the interview, so how well of a coworker would I be? The same could be said in my search for love when I was younger -- I could never find a girlfriend when I wanted one, but when I least expected it, I met amazing women.

The last job interview I did while happily employed and I totally didn't give a shit whether I did well or not (I was just exploring new job possibilities, I didn't need a new gig asap), I was honest, upfront, funny, and completely relaxed. I told them what was wrong with their product and gave them half a dozen ideas how to make it better.

They allotted the whole day for 4-5 different interviews, but the main CTO guy gave me an offer after the second one, and it was the first time they'd ever given someone an offer before the interviewee left the premises. I turned it down, but realized that in future interviews I have to let go of fear and be myself.
posted by mathowie at 12:03 PM on October 4, 2004

Response by poster: Good answers -- not what I'd expected, but the effects of internal desperation angle makes sense.

Related question: how easy is it to find a job in a different city while working at your current job? Conventional wisdom says this is hard, because many employers like to hire locally... are there any tricks (other than quitting the current job)?
posted by weston at 12:04 PM on October 4, 2004

Weston: My parents just moved here to Chicago from New Mexico, and my mom had a job before she got here. It was kind of tedious for her, actually -- she came out here to visit and met with recruiters. Several weeks later she came back to go on interviews the recruiters arranged for her. While she was out here she got a new job, gave her notice, and was back two weeks later.

She worked for the government, though, so she had tons of vacation time saved up. Don't know how feasible that is for you.
posted by sugarfish at 1:20 PM on October 4, 2004

It may be that it really isn't that much easier, and part of the conventional wisdom is just a function of people's perceptions. People tend to remember more strongly events that were traumatic than ones that were routine. If you spend 3+ months looking for a job while you still have one, it may not be much of an issue at all, but the same search while unemployed could be a huge problem.
posted by mcguirk at 3:04 PM on October 4, 2004

what matt said.

I recently went through a protracted period of unemployment, and while I was contracting, it wasn't paying the bills.

Being relaxed at interviews really helps...

And having been on the other side, the desperation comes though no matter how hard you try to hide it.
posted by sauril at 3:19 PM on October 4, 2004

: For the same reasons that it's easier to find another sexual partner if you have one already.

Attitude, and deep level (pheremonally projected even) confidence.
posted by troutfishing at 3:36 PM on October 4, 2004

I up and walked out of a job that was ruining my life. I took about 6 weeks before I actually started looking and interviewing, and I think those were the best ones I've had so far. However, the prospective employers didn't think that. I still get crap from contracting agencies and hr reps about it.

When I was laid off and had nothing for 4 months, my interviews sucked and I then took the first thing that got offered to me.

I'm currently looking and am going to try to be picky this time around.
posted by pieoverdone at 3:46 PM on October 4, 2004

I think troutfishing got it just right - it's the same reason that girls only hit on me when I'm already in a relationship. No matter how good you are at projecting an air of confidence, our (hr directors') b.s. detectors know something's up.
posted by notsnot at 7:47 PM on October 4, 2004

The smell of commitmenttm
posted by shoepal at 8:07 PM on October 4, 2004

I'd rather hire someone who was presently employed over someone who isn't.

Someone who isn't is probably comfortable without a job. That doesn't give them much push to work that extra mile. Someone who is employed feels the need to be employed.

Whether you like it or not, most people believe that with the present unemployment rate, that in most countries it's near impossible to stay unemployed in *some* kind of job without a serious flaw. There's always exceptions, I suppose.
posted by shepd at 7:40 AM on October 5, 2004

Other people have made some of the same points, but I feel compelled to answer as well.

The most important reason that it's easier to look when you're already employed is that you have the security of a paycheck. You can weigh the advantages of the new job versus those of your current job and come to a reasonable conclusion without worrying about paying the rent.

I was laid off some time ago, and intentionally started freelancing. Most of the time, it's been wonderful, but there have been times when I've been teetering on the brink. And that makes you (at least sometimes) unpleasant and edgy to a lot of people, not just potential employers. I'm tired of this edgy feeling and have started looking to get back into the full-time world.

As to weston's second question, I have found it to be highly inconvenient. I would strongly advise against quitting the current job. See if you can get interviews in the destination city. Then, work it so that you're using personal days or vacation for your trips there. As long as you're not asking for relocation money, I doubt it makes much difference if you're local or not. Backstory: I moved from Boston (back) to New York several years ago without any problem. But this was back in the go-go 90's. In anycase, having already been hired made a big difference in being able to financially handle the transition.

Shepd, I have seen many extremely dedicated people stay unemployed for a long time. It's not good for a person's mental health, but it is possible. And I would submit that the current US unemployment rate severely undercounts the unemployed, and makes no mention of the underemployed.
posted by lackutrol at 1:27 PM on October 5, 2004

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