Pandemic has reduced the stigma of unemployment finds LinkedIn report

The global pandemic is helping to break the stigma of unemployment, according to new research from LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network.

While 82% of HR professionals believe there was stigma surrounding unemployment before COVID-19, nearly half (47%) say it has reduced since the pandemic. Just over a quarter (26%) believe it has stayed the same, and a fifth (21%) think it has increased.

The study of 250+ HR professionals from UK organisations highlights how COVID-19 has been a catalyst for changing perceptions of unemployed candidates. While over half (51%) of HR professionals admit to often being ‘more wary’ about interviewing or hiring someone that is currently unemployed, 61% say they are very receptive to interviewing people that have been furloughed or made redundant as a result of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.

While some unemployment stigma still exists, four in five (83%) HR professionals believe there are advantages to hiring people who are out of work. Talent professionals say that unemployed candidates are often more committed to the role (66%), resilient (48%) and proactive (41%). The top factors that determine whether companies hire candidates include trustworthiness (62%), positivity (59%) and transferable soft skills (56%).

Janine Chamberlin, Senior Director at LinkedIn, comments: “Businesses that fail to look past the stigma of unemployment will miss out on the biggest talent windfall in a generation. Forward thinking companies are focusing less on candidates’ current employment status and related previous experience, and more on their transferable skills, personal attributes and what they can uniquely bring to the business. They are also supporting people as they transition into new roles by offering reskilling and professional development opportunities. With the high levels of people currently unemployed due to COVID-19, companies that assess candidates on their transferable skills will benefit from diverse talent pools and fresh perspective.”

An organisation that is currently helping unemployed people find new opportunities is Pinewood Studios. The company has partnered with the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, ScreenSkills and the Department for Work and Pensions to help 1,000 jobseekers previously employed in the aviation industry at Heathrow Airport reskill for roles in the screen industries.

Andrew M. Smith, Board Director at Pinewood Studios, said: “The UK screen sector is world-class and its growth means it is in serious need of talented people to make the move into film, television and games. There are a huge number of people with highly transferable skills who are well equipped to work in the film industry. I’d really encourage people to think about how their skills can be applied to other roles and ensure they are front and centre on their CV and LinkedIn profile.”

Job seekers say stigma associated with redundancy is easing

Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) people who have been made redundant, either before or during COVID-19, believe there is less stigma attached to being unemployed since the pandemic. Nearly a quarter (22%) say they now feel more comfortable telling people that they have been made redundant.

LinkedIn’s research also finds that businesses look favourably on unemployed jobseekers when they are proactive in their job search. Seeing people post about their employment situation on social media is viewed positively and is seen as an example of resourcefulness (53%), proactive problem solving (48%) and resilience (38%). This was true for Nick Levene, whose LinkedIn post discussing his redundancy helped him find a job as a store manager at Poundland. Retail Director Austin Cooke saw his post and ultimately offered him a job based on his skill set, and not his employment status.