Out of work, out of luck: A new effort to help


The president of the nation's largest organization of human resource professionals will join President Obama at the White House Friday to push a new venture to put the long term unemployed to work. How? By hiring them.

It's no secret that companies are reluctant to hire people who are unemployed and the longer they are unemployed, the tougher the challenge job seekers face in convincing employers that they aren't incompetent slackers, cast out for cause.

“It’s time for some of us to begin thinking differently,” Henry "Hank" Jackson, president of the 260,000 member Society of Human Resource Professionals, said in a statement. “In one of the toughest economies the United States has ever seen, unemployment on a candidate’s resume is more of a white flag than a red one. Employers must be able to recognize the human capital potential in the ranks of the long-term unemployed.”

SHRM is urging its members to sign a pledge to review hiring practices and to remove barriers that keep them from employing people who have been out of work.

"What we have done is to gather together 300 companies, just to start with, including some of the top 50 companies in the country, companies like Walmart, and Apple, Ford and others, to say: Let's establish best practices," Obama said in an exclusive CNN interview, expected to air on Friday.

Something clearly needs to be done. Even though the unemployment rate finally fell below 7 percent, to 6.7 percent, in December, 3.9 million people, or 37 percent of the 10.4 million unemployed, have been out of work for more than six months, the U.S. Labor Department reported. That doesn't count the people who have given up looking or just dropped out because they are discouraged by job prospects.

Jackson's group, known by its initials as SHRM, has created a guide for companies to help them develop more inclusive hiring practices. “In the current challenging economic times, many of the long-term unemployed are out of work for reasons beyond their control,” the guide says. “Consequently, an employment gap has less bearing on an applicant’s qualifications or probability for success.”

Reproduced on SHRM's website, this is a list of best practices from the White House and the document the White House is asking employers to sign.