THE BLOG

Refusing to Hire the Unemployed

08/16/2010 02:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Joe was at the top of his game. He was a well-respected manager when his wife's job tanked, forcing the dual income couple to go into quick action. The wife found employment out of town and bid a fond farewell. "We'll only have to be a commuter family for awhile," they thought. After all, Joe can get a new job with his credentials.

You've heard the rest of this employment story before. Joe thought that he would get a quick response to his job search. He pushed out his résumé expecting results. As a suddenly unemployed professional, Joe applied for countless employment opportunities that seemed like perfect fits, but could not get a single interview. "What is going on?" he thought. "I have all of the qualifications, but it doesn't seem to matter."

Joe was coming face-to-face with a new and all-too-common HR trend -- refusal to hire the unemployed. According to the U.S. Department of Labor July 2010 unemployment report, 9.5% of Americans are currently unemployed. In that 9.5% sit amazingly qualified individuals who have lost their jobs due to factors that have nothing to do with their performance -- the economy, company mergers, hostile takeovers or a firm's realization that it can no longer afford the employee who earned tons of merit-based bonuses and promotions over the years. Now isn't that motivating for those of us who are high achievers and contributors?

Of course companies layoff employees who are not contributing to the bottom line, but too many people lose their jobs because of conditions that have nothing to do with their performance. What about that talented sea of people, the new version of the starving artist, who is overly qualified for the position? Many unemployed workers are Baby Boomers who made too much money. Are we planning on tossing away this sector of our society that solidly meets the posted selection criteria? Is this the American way? Are we going to be relegated to the freeway off ramp in a suit waving our resumes to the passersby? I've seen it and it sickens me.

What about the very talented students who are soon to be fresh out of college with no jobs? Are companies planning to discount that sector of society as well?

Now, if employees want to get ahead of the employment curve and look for job opportunities while they are still employed, let me tell you this: if the company gets wind of your job hunt, they will view you as disloyal and show you the door. Just this week it happened to a stunning former colleague who was trying to do just that, find a job while still employed. Yep, they found his resume on Career Builder, and he was fired. He has now joined this new category of discounted candidates. Another employment Catch-22? I think so.

Employers

Sure you have throngs of candidates that you must evaluate. Sure you need to make decisions based on solid relevant data. You need to follow your selection criteria, really? What a novel idea. Yes, this is the key. Employers write up solid and defensible selection criteria, post it, use available tools to find the qualified candidates and follow it. That is the way you will hire the right candidate.

If you don't want to spend time wading through cabinets full of résumés and cover letters, there are wonderful internet search tools out there that you can use on job posting sites to weed out unqualified candidates before they get to the point of serious consideration.

Perhaps the cream will rise to the top of the employment heap and the most qualified will become more evidently consistent with your criteria. Many employers claim that they can't afford the staff necessary to screen all of the qualified candidates. In the end, it's a much less expensive process than paying attorney fees to defend your hiring practices in a challenge.

Candidates

Job candidates, you need to be prepared to explain your qualifications and prove that the employer should and can afford to hire you. Put it out there, front and center!

  • Tailor your résumé to the position. It's more important now than ever because of the competition.
  • Be ready to explain exactly what you can do for the company. Make yourself indispensable.

Maybe more of these qualified and unemployed candidates can band together and call out those employers who flatly discount the unemployed workers in favor of unethical selection criteria. Perhaps the huddled masses will be able to prove that hiring practices are tied to the traditional statutory rights of age, race, sex, with virtually no assessment of real job qualifications.

New Legislation

Finally employers take note of the new HIRE Act, signed by President Obama on March 18, 2010. The bi-partisan "Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act of 2010" provides incentives and tax relief to private business and encourages the hiring of unemployed workers. The provisions of the HIRE Act include:

  • Applies to employees hired between Feb 3, 2010 & Jan 1, 2011
  • Exemption of the public sector employer's 6.2% share of the Social Security payroll tax for the employee (if unemployed for 60 days or more or worked fewer than 40 hours for another employer during that period) for the rest of 2010.
  • If the new employee remains on the payroll for 52 weeks, there is additional eligibility for a tax credit of up to1,000 on the tax return for 2011. The employee must make at least 80% of the pay received in the first 26 weeks of employment.
Hire the most qualified candidate and not just the son of your cousin's best man or niece's sorority sister. You never know when the tables will turn and you will become the next unemployed candidate. And make sure to keep an eye out for Joe. He could be waiting in the wings to make you look great!