Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Should a Law Prohibit Job Ads That Say "Currently employed only?"

I was interviewed today on KCBS on the pending laws in three states that would prohibit want ads that ask for employed or short-term-unemployed applicants only.

Here's an expanded version of what I said:

I understand the urge to feel sorry for the long-term unemployed and thus support such legislation, but would that be fair to job applicants who are employed? I mean, what would you say to the person who has been a good-enough and motivated enough employee to stay employed, even if the job isn't great. Now he'd like to look for another job and he's told that long-term unemployed people will now have as good a chance as he does of landing the job. Would that be fair to that applicant?

And would it be fair to the employer who placed the ad? There are no perfect hiring criteria: an attractive resume could reflect that the person hired a resume writer rather than that he's a better candidate; a college degree is no guarantor of an applicant being better than someone without a degree. In the economy of the last few years, employers often get dozens if not hundreds of applicants for every position. So employers need ways to narrow down to the handful of people they'll interview. The pool of employed people no doubt consists of, on average, better job candidates than the pool of long-term unemployed people. If you were running a business and got a hundred applicants, wouldn't you narrow down, in part, by looking for candidates who were employed or recently unemployed rather than the long-term unemployed?

If the long-term unemployed become a legally protected class, the EEOC or other government watchdog agency would likely require all employers to regularly report the percentage of their employees who were long-term unemployed when hired, just as employers are required to report the percentage of minorities in each employment category.

A similar law is also being proposed to protect ex-felons. If a business, say KCBS, were required to not discriminate against felons and the long-term unemployed, mightn't KCBS's quality be affected?

And if it becomes illegal for an employer to screen out felons or the unemployed, what's the next protected group? Applicants without college degrees? Underskilled applicants? People with difficult personalities? Fat people, ugly people, quiet people, and bald people also don't fare well in landing jobs. Should employers be required to hire a proportionate number of all those and issue quarterly reports to the government to ensure compliance?

We can make everything equal by requiring employers to hire at random. But if we care about quality goods and services for all people and care that employers don't offshore and automate even more jobs than they already do, we should decry legislation that makes it more difficult to hire based on merit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent philosophy! Many employers want to start relationships with potential employees who are currently employed, but are we also at the point where we should also apply these ideas to how we date as well? If people who are not currently employed represent 'problem employees', then surely people who are not currently in a relationship when you want to date them could represent 'problem mates' to many people. The solution to that is to have an affair.

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