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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.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and a senior strategist at Converseon, a leading social consultancy. Mike is the author of two books on digital marketing, an instructor at several leading universities, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

7 replies to this post
  1. A significant reason for downsizing has nothing to do with performance. A company is looking to cut $$. The easiest way to do so is chop off the highest paying managers. This happened to me in my career. I was replaced by a junior level person without any knowledge for the job she was hired.

    In another case, a new CEO came in and replaced people to bring in his own staff. I still use my supervisor at that company as a reference!

    Had nothing to do with me. But try telling that to a potential employer. It doesn’t make you look professional. On the other hand your longevity at a company is suspect.

  2. I just read this column and must say legislation is still going about it wrong. If there are discrimination laws for everything else under the sun make one more for the longterm unemployed to be dscriminated against, period. Employers then have to hire and be found out to have to sideskirt the economy issue and from holding back having to hire inexperienced individuals to prove a point across the board. I have been out of my NJ job for 4 years this January with nothing more on the horizon, not even interviews because of things like this. I have much to offer for not so much as I used to make and still doesn’t count. People only want locals as well. Doesn’t help even being in an area where they despise northerners here in Augusta, GA. So I am living off the state and with family because of it. Makes no sense. They don’t mind paying me for that. I need to provide for my kids and contribute to society like I used to, not be blown off. What the hell is wrong with this country? I would move to another country because I have learned to hate it here and what is does NOT do for its people here but for everywhere else. But, I can’t get my $10,000 visa paid for or I’d already leave, so, who has that kinda money laying around? Be glad to go.

    • Hi Mike,

      I can feel your frustration and it is justified. I know so many good people out of work now–more than at any other time in my career, and I’m old. I think that employers who discriminate against anyone for arbitrary reasons will eventually run off the road all by themselves, because they will prevent themselves from getting the best talent. I will keep you in my prayers and hope that the right door will just open for you right away. Thanks for taking the time to let everyone know what it feels like to be on the other end of this ridiculous approach by some employers.

  3. Flag Goofy Job Ads!

    Don’t count on government intervention, it’s time to take matters into our own hands. All of the job sites have a “flag” or “report” button on the pages the ads are hosted on. Click those buttons when you see an ad telling the unemployed not to apply, requiring a credit check for a position that does not handle money, or requiring a disproportionate amount of experience for a job (Such as 10 years of experience for an entry level position).

    It’s time for the job seekers, the unemployed, and the employed who are just sick of what’s going on to exercise their rights and…

    Flag Goofy Job Ads!

    • This is a great idea, Caleb. We should all take to social media to get these companies to face the truth–which is that they are being dumb. Thanks for such a smart comment.

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