You might have seen the blogosphere and the Twitterati starting to chirp about this one. My home state of New Jersey is trying to regulate it. I’m talking about the increasing number of employment ads that make it clear that all applicants must currently have a job. In other words, if you are unemployed, don’t even bother applying. People might have many different reactions to this, based on whether it is unfair to the applicant. I’ll let others orate about that. I have a different message for you. If you are an employer, don’t do this, because it is dumb. Dumb for you.
I know what the argument is: People who lose their jobs might be lesser candidates than folks who have remained employed. That is certainly possible, but it’s also possible that the people with jobs have played it safe more than those who are out. It’s also possible that those who are looking left jobs voluntarily, or had to move when their spouse had to relocate, or…you get the idea. There are a lot of reasons that people are out of work. I know someone who just quit her job because her mom has cancer and needs her to move back home. Now you wouldn’t want HER on your team, right? You need someone with more loyalty to her job, I guess.
Maybe you are getting the idea. Now, well-meaning legislators are feverishly working to pass laws outlawing such wording in ads. Sorry to be cynical, but that won’t help at all. Anyone brazen enough to write those words in an ad will happily remove them to comply with the law, but still won’t actually hire anyone who is out of work. And it’s not easy to legislate THAT. It isn’t the law that is the problem. It’s misguided thinking.
No, this isn’t a problem the government can solve. It’s a problem that only us business folks can solve. And that starts with you.
You should be going out of your way to interview people who are out of work. Here’s why: Anytime your competitors are doing something irrational, it creates an advantage for you to remain rational.
Early in my career, despite the fact that it was illegal, many hiring managers were discriminating against African-Americans, other ethic minorities, and women job applicants. I couldn’t prove it, but I just noticed who they hired and I noticed who I was able to hire. There were times that I had very diverse teams, because I was trying (as best I could) to hire the best person for each job. And those people stuck with me through thick and thin, which was another advantage for me.
Think about it: Suppose you decided you weren’t going to hire anyone with blue eyes. Or people shorter than five foot seven. Or people from Canada. Or any other single criteria, no matter what argument you can make to justify it. When you veto people based on one thing, you have automatically guaranteed that you aren’t getting the best people, because one of those “best people” is bound to have the exact quality that you vetoed.
Cooking up these kinds of arbitrary criteria can seem smart, especially because they lighten your decision process workload. But it doesn’t actually make the decision you make a better one. To get the best people, you need to sentence yourself to looking at the whole person, not just a process that crosses out names based on a list of requirements.
And a funny thing happened to me when I did that. I ended up with a series of very high-performing teams, loyal teams, teams of people who delivered the great majority of the time under difficult circumstances.
You can do the same thing. Anytime you see an irrational trend, buck it. You will be better off than your competitors who follow it.