Hiring decisions, hard times, and personal & institutional integrity

Employers, managers, and HR folks have a lot of power in an economy where jobs are hard to come by. Sometimes, the hiring decisions they make reveal something of their personal and institutional integrity, or lack thereof. For example:

A second chance

I have a friend, let’s call him “James,” who earlier this year was considering applicants for a position involving some responsibility. Because of the job market in his field and the place he works at, he was able to choose among many qualified candidates.

The applicant pool included a very talented young man who had lost his previous job because of a personal mistake. However, it appeared the man had learned from his transgression and was ready to fulfill his considerable promise. James decided to hire him.

James explained his decision as being one of self-interest, noting that his new hire was likely to be very successful. But knowing James, I have a feeling that an element of kindness played into it. He’s no pushover — he holds a managerial job that would consume someone with the makeup of a marshmallow — but his ability to make difficult decisions includes a big dollop of emotional intelligence and human understanding.

Unemployed need not apply

In the meantime, we’re seeing a pile of news articles documenting the refusal of some employers even to consider an application from people who are jobless, regardless of the reasons behind their unemployed status. For example, in a piece posted to AlterNet (link here), Nathan Birnbaum reports:

Numerous employers, staffing agencies and online job posting firms have adopted policies that explicitly deny employment to the unemployed. And they don’t even try to cover up their intent. The language in the qualification requirement sections of the ads leave nothing to the imagination: “currently employed,” “must be currently employed,” “currently employed on a permanent basis,” “must be currently or recently employed” etc. If you are none of the above, as 14 million Americans are, you’re out of luck.

The offending employers include some very familiar names:

Aside from companies and hiring agencies you may have never heard of, included in the list of prejudicial employers are Allstate Insurance, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the Homebuilding Recruiters of America, the University of Arizona, the University of Phoenix, and the Oil and Gas Field Recruiters of America.Sony Ericsson only ended the practice after they were caught by CNN-Money last year during its reporting on this trend.

Golden Rule

Let’s compare the decision that James made, weighing all the circumstances and ultimately deciding to give someone a second chance, with the blanket policy of refusing to consider anyone who is unemployed. The situations are not completely opposite, but they provide us with interesting food for thought.

In a blog post last year, I suggested that we apply the Golden Rule on the job:

What would happen if we practiced the Golden Rule at work?

You know, that simple maxim we were taught as kids: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Or, more simply, treat others the way you would like to be treated.

In an employment setting, I cannot imagine a better application of the rule than with an individual who is a job seeker. If someone cannot identify with the challenges facing a fellow human being searching for work in a tight job market, then I suggest they shouldn’t be in a position to hire anyone. And when employers adopt this draconian, heartless policy, well, I question their institutional integrity.

Hopefully there are more folks like James making hiring decisions than there are companies like Allstate Insurance,  Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and the University of Phoenix. After all, if we want unemployed folks to get back to work, then we have to give them a chance to do so.

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