Employers’ assessments of young job applicants

Lonely girl walking through night city street

A new policy brief suggests that unemployment measures aiming at a quick labour market integration of the young unemployed without the consideration of job quality may not be a sustainable solution.

One of the main goals of the NEGOTIATE project is to better understand how early employment instability and unemployment affect the careers of young job seekers from the perspective of employers.

This particular policy brief covers recruiters’ evaluations of young job applicants in different economic and policy contexts across Europe, in order to gain knowledge on some of the mechanisms behind cross-country variations in the individual consequences of early job insecurity.

The findings were gathered through the distribution of surveys to recruiters, and took account of different markers of early job insecurity, such as unemployment, work experience in deskilling jobs and job hopping. The survey was implemented in five different occupational fields (manufacturing, finance, gastronomy, health and information technology), over four countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Norway and Switzerland).

Penalize applicants with experience in deskilling jobs

Among the main findings are the fact that recruiters penalize job applicants with extensive work experience in deskilling jobs (a job that doesn’t make use of or further train previously acquired qualifications).

The marker of unemployment is more harmful in countries with relatively low unemployment rates (Switzerland and Norway), although the scarring effects of unemployment remain lower in comparison to the effects of deskilling jobs. The strictness of employment protection legislations (which is higher in Norway) and a more pronounced dual VET system also affect the way recruiters consider the young applicants.

In Switzerland upper secondary vocational degree holders are more affected by unemployment scarring than higher education graduates. While in countries where VET credentials are to be trusted by employers to be high, VET graduates generally enjoy a higher employability they are the first ones to face unemployment scarring.

Problematic job hopping

As for the marker job hopping, it is to be considered more problematic than unemployment in all four of the surveyed countries. In Greece, 57% of the recruiters showed unconditional reservations towards job hoppers while only 9% towards the unemployed.

With regards to activities during non-employment, recruiters would value most when job applicants have used that period enrolled in occupation specific further education. No explanation on what a person has done during his or her period of unemployment is assessed strongly as being negative, especially in Norway and Switzerland.

Focus on quality jobs

These findings demonstrate that scarring effects resulting from various early job insecurities are not necessarily driven by the same institutional forces.

The fact that deskilling jobs appear to have strong negative consequences for young job applicants contributes to the debate on labour market activation policies.

Unemployment measures aiming at a quick labour market integration of the young unemployed without the consideration of job quality may not be a sustainable solution, as deskilling jobs may be dead-end jobs that don’t help to increase, but might even decrease young people’s employability.

Here you can find the full version of policy brief 6: Employers’ assessments of young job applicants: Findings from a comparative study (pdf).