Employer Perceptions of the Employability of Workers in a Social Business

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Objective: This study examined employer perceptions of employability of job candidates working in a social business for people with mental illnesses. Method: Using an analogue research design, 99 employers participated in a simulated job hiring process, rating 2 applicants on potential to do the job, fit with workplace culture and likelihood of hiring. One job applicant worked in a social business, and the second was either (a) working in a conventional business, (b) with employment lapse attributable to mental health issues, or (c) with an unexplained employment lapse. Paired samples t tests were used to compare ratings. Qualitative data were collected regarding the rationale for rankings and a content analysis was conducted. Results: Employer rankings were significantly higher for the applicant working in a social business compared to either applicant with an employment lapse. Employers rated the candidate working in a conventional business significantly higher compared with the candidate in a social business only on ratings of likelihood to hire. Employers valued the recency of work experience in the social business, citing concerns about risks associated with employment lapses. Their comments suggested a lack of understanding of the nature of social business. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Experience in a social business appears to lessen the disadvantage of unemployment in the job hiring process, but does not appear to be ranked on par with experience in the conventional workforce. The social business sector could benefit from considering ways to publically portray these work opportunities to enhance acceptance and inclusion.

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