Sloan Professor Publishes Book on Experiences of the Unemployed

Ofer Sharone, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, has written a book that claims that the hiring process in the United States makes searching for a job more emotionally fraught and challenging than it needs to be. His book, “Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences,” examines how job seekers blame themselves or the system for unemployment based on systemic factors.

“Flawed System/Flawed Self” compares American and Israeli white-collar labor markets. In the United States, the job search focuses more on personal characteristics, and whether employees will be a “good fit” for the company in terms of personality. Conversely, in Israel job-placement places greater emphasis on objective skills. Third party firms often conduct pre-employment tests and screenings on Israelis, narrowing the applicant pool before the applicant interacts with the company. Since the American hiring process places a greater emphasis on personal characteristics, US white-collar workers are more likely to take unemployment and job-seeking challenges personally, while Israeli workers are more likely to blame the system. Sharone also believes that US advice for job seekers “unintentionally exacerbates this problem” by giving job seekers the sense that they completely control the outcome of their job searches.

Sharon’s book is even more relevant in today’s economy, where roughly 4.1 million American job seekers have been unemployed for more than six months. While Sharone observes that Americans do not blame themselves for losing jobs, they soon begin to blame themselves when they have trouble landing a new job. American workers may find fault with their networking skills, personalities, or lack of career direction.

Sharone says that the unemployed did not expect to be jobless, “These are people who never thought this could happen to them. They are educated, they have experience, they are exactly the people our society makes out to be the winners.”

“Flawed System/Flawed Self” has just been published by the University of Chicago Press.


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