We all know the economy is bad; we all realize this is a recession. President Obama in his state of the union speech talked about the 7 million jobs lost in the last year and a half. But lets talk about something else; lets talk about those who are hiring, those who have been hiring throughout this economic crisis and long before it. President Obama wants to create a jobs bill, wants to create new jobs, but what about those competing for existing jobs? Why aren’t they being hired; why aren’t people willing to take anything, actively looking for a year, sometimes two or even longer not finding work? Quite simply it’s because we have made getting a job about everything but the job. It has instead become about superficial things like attractiveness; it has become about places looking for any reason not to hire someone, looking for any reason to discriminate, any excuse not to give someone a job. They no longer give chances just say no you’re not what we’re looking for. Work ethic, dedication and determination no longer cut it.
Employers will ask bizarre questions, like what animal you think you are, but not the important questions. Job candidates are judged not on their knowledge of the job, their experience, their education, willingness to learn, demonstration of an aptitude to learn new skills, but on the condition of their teeth, their normal walking gate, the type of glasses they wear, what amateur psychological analysis says about their hand writing. It is no longer about what you can offer the company; it’s about your marital status, child status. Most employers don’t even seem to know what’s legal and what’s illegal to ask in a job interview or put on an application. Applications everywhere for basic retail, clerical and other jobs ask for birth date, when, in most states, they can only ask if you are at least 16 or 18, for some environments 21; applications asking if you have been arrested or convicted of a misdemeanor, when they can only legally ask about felony convictions. One young man looking for a job was asked about his epilepsy in an interview. Unfortunately, for a knowledgeable candidate, if you do not answer an illegal question you look like you’re hiding something, if you tell them the question is illegal you look like you are being a smart-aleck or confrontational, and if you answer the question, that answer may well put you out of the running for the job.
Too often it is more about pedigree, than passion interest or knowledge regarding a job; even those positions that say education may be substituted for experience or those that want a degree but include the phrase: or a combination of education and experience, will take the experience or the degree, in the respective instances, every time. A non-traditional background or a different way of gathering the same skills is a death sentence when looking for a job. Speaking of education and experience, companies are becoming greedier wanting more and more of both yet refuse to give any. Even for entry level basics like clerical many want 1-2 years experience, longer than any internship in the field; at the same time, they likewise insist on knowledge of computer programs unique to their office setting. If it is a dental office they want experience with dental office programs, legal office they want experience with programs regarding legal documents and vocabulary, even religious originations now have some sort of software to handle church documents, activities and functions.
Those looking for employees seem to think that all they have to do is put out a want ad and potential employees come to them packaged and ready made. That’s exactly how companies want their employees; they are terrified they might actually have to train someone how to do something, despite the specialty programs only used in your subset of clerical work, for example, that without experience in that subset the candidate will have no knowledge of. This is a double whammy to job seekers, as these specialty programs, though similar may vary slightly from office to office.
These same companies, employers and businesses looking for workers are the first to bemoan the abysmal applicant pool, complain about being inundated with rèsumès of the unqualified or the under qualified. Yet they are the same places of business who routinely have out of date or inaccurate contact information on their own websites, can’t write a functioning want ad, who put ads on-line or in the newspaper missing vital pieces of information including a complete job description, that lack phone numbers, mailing addresses, e-mail address. Contact people named in the ad who have no idea there is even an ad in the paper, hiring managers in a completely different location than the company listed in the ad, human recourses directors on maternity leave, just to name a few; that is when you can get them to come to the phone at all. And despite what job-seeking experts tell everyone about following up, when applicants try the person they need to speak to is never available, they come to the phone and spout unintelligible gibberish. “Well we are conducting interviews if you did not get called for after one of those I guess you didn’t make it through our process.” This is just one example of what someone got when they attempted to follow up on application materials. Too many follow up attempts, on-line, over the phone, go completely unanswered.
Hiring mangers, supervisors and executives shoot themselves in the foot again just in how they want applicants to respond to their ads. Some only list an e-mail, that is nearly always broken, others only list a fax number, some say call here, others are blind box ads. Of those that give their address, when googled or searched for it comes back to a complex of rented office space with multiple phone numbers, where people cannot connect with the business to follow up, cannot make employers interested in them. Others lose out on applicants when they force them to apply in person, expending limited amounts of gas, cab or bus fair potential applicants simply can’t afford it. Rather than including an e-mail and a physical address, two basic means of contact along with a company name so it can be found, no matter where it is, persons in charge rarely put a company name in the ad, they insist on one way to transmit applications, rèsumès and cover letters. A majority of bosses have become so accustomed to the office tools around them, they forget everyone does not have e-mail, that usually only those with a home office, running their own business have free access to a fax machine. Smart employees know if they use company property to look for a job they will lose their current job.
Other obstacles perpetuated by employers involve on-line applications; it takes extensive computer knowledge and time to compete digital applications that just seem to get longer and longer, which can be quite a hiccup for someone using a library computer with time limits. Some even come with questionnaires detailing likely work scenarios persons are to answer without any knowledge of this companies management structure, often without any former experience in that type of work. Give a wrong answer or too many wrong answers and no job for you. Several of these type of applications also have a voluntary portion that candidates can choose to fill out or not; however if they choose to do so they are greeted with personal questions about whether or not they receive welfare, food stamps, social security questions about health, number of work days missed on pervious job and a whole host of other things that are not only none of the employer’s business but information that could not be obtained legally any other way. Again removing more applicants from an already shallow pool and serving as nothing more than another scrutinizing tool.
Next establishments put themselves at a disadvantage when they refuse interns and volunteers; they are never seen in high schools, colleges talking to students or guidance and career services personnel about the demand for particular jobs in the region or across the nation. They do not work with their local career centers and training programs to put training for the things they need into these facilities to better choices when it comes to employees. In fact, some in the most desperate need of employees to fill positions are ones you never or rarely see in the want ads; openings for vocational rehabilitation counselors, job placement workers, in some cases even lawyers are never found in your local newspapers’ want ads. Parties looking for workers in so called specialized fields confine themselves to their state website, field specific job boards or large job sites like monster.com, where people new to the field may not know to look.
And the final, and the most destructive, way potential employers destroy prospects for themselves and for every applicant to any job, is their discrimination, their illegal and should be illegal tactics, used not to hire someone. Going beyond the new lows listed throughout the article are headline making corporations refusing to hire smokers, places caught on tape saying we don’t hire mothers, a hotel saying we don’t hire men the latter two completely illegal. Businesses are now routinely running credit checks on applicants for jobs that have nothing to do with banking, accounting, bookkeeping, credit counseling, financial advising or cash handling. We found another more qualified candidate has become the new code for age discrimination, as one gentleman found out when he was downsized from his IT job and went looking for another. He got letter after letter saying they found a more qualified person despite his 30 odd years in IT, predating the personal computer beginning with his time in the military, despite doing networking and related tasks for some of the largest companies in and outside the US, despite staying up to date on the current technology and trends. What they actually found was someone with a degree in IT no less than 30 looking to put the required 2 years experience on their rèsumè and move on, someone who ideally won’t need health benefits or use their retirement.
Further discrimination occurs when those in charge of hiring make assumptions about applicants without ever talking to them, when they look at the work history and see you were formerly in a high playing job and now applying at a grocery store, retail outlet, fast food, they think what are you doing here and promptly throw your application in the trash. The same fate awaits many of those with a degree looking to work somewhere, make some sort of income, because they are over qualified for the job. Applicants that are toyed with brought in for a third or fourth interview when they can clearly tell the interviewer has no intention of hiring them; applicants told they will get bored with the job, regardless of the fact they know what it entails because they have previously held the position. One such job seeker, knowing the cost expenditure for training in this particular job, offered to sign a 5-10 year contract with the company; they were still told they would get bored with the job and sent on their way. Job contributors to the morning shows highlight one woman who was told she was overqualified for a position and instead of sending the standard follow up she sent them, in a series of e-mails, 10 things she would do if she were hired for the position. While this woman did land the job, people have to be careful they do not hand the employer a manual on how to aid their business that can then simply be given to whomever they decide to hire leaving them out in the cold.
By the time businesses have siphoned out people who can’t apply by the single method listed, people who can’t reach companies to follow up or are given the brush off, people whose glasses, teeth, handwriting or Myspace page someone took issue with, people who were disregarded due to credit check or age or the fact that they have a child, the fact that they are married and might, the fact that they smoke, what’s left? Businesses continually find themselves constantly scraping the dregs of applicant pools because they choose to, because they choose not to look past all the dross that doesn’t matter, because they choose not to take an applicant at face value. They choose to make things harder on themselves than they have to be.
For instance, all businesses- learn to write a job ad; write an ad for what you want instead of waiting until people try to follow up to tell them you want more years of experience or knowledge of certain computer software. Make sure the name of your business is there so people can find you, make sure there are multiple ways to apply so that everyone who wants to apply can do so. Make sure that your contact information is current on your website, make sure the e-mail you use for this is not broken and can handle the incoming volume. Tell the contact person listed in the ad that they are the contact person, before you place the ad. Organize your business in a sensible manner; don’t put out an ad while your HR director is on maternity leave, if you are looking for a receptionist know that it might not be a good idea to have 200-500 people tromping through your office space. Use e-mail and mailing address instead; if you already have a receptionist, have them sort through the incoming rèsumès, not the lawyer with 60 hours of work on their plate.
You are going to pay at least minimum wage to the person you hire, so spend that money until you get someone running a complete want ad, as opposed to 2 lines and a phone number, only for you to rattle off 3 or 4 ways for them to apply. Also the interview should not be the first time an applicant sees or hears a complete job description that makes them dizzy just hearing it; if you are hiring for something with standard business hours and you need someone to work something other than the usual 8-5 post the hours in the ad so those interviewed aren’t taken by surprise and either have to stop the interview completely or fake their way through it when they realize they can’t work the hours. People who follow up deserve a response, deserve some kind of interaction with you, and not “thanks for the follow up”. Block out time in your business day to take such phone calls and answer such e-mails.
President Obama wants to do something about jobs, then he should focus more on enforcing laws regarding fair hiring as well as writing new legislation. It should be illegal in all 50 states to ask about child status and marital status; it is already illegal not to hire men, mothers or to ask about medical conditions in interviews. What is needed is enforcement. It should be legal in all 50 states to bring concealed recording devices into interviews and to be able to record phone conversations with employers as it pertains to follow up. Businesses caught refusing to hire someone based on sex, child status, marital status are reported on by the better business bureau or other appropriate agency and fined a significant portion of their reported profits. Likewise fines would be handed out to businesses caught using the condition of someone’s teeth, walking gate, glasses or other physical attributes as a reason not to hire.
For the gentlemen with 30 years IT experience there should have been a speedy grievance process to follow that would have gotten him at least one interview and perhaps a job. There should be a grievance board in every city that reviews suspect rejections or complaints brought by those looking for work. Businesses would have to present adequate justification for not hiring said person. Companies with contact people blowing off candidates trying to follow up, unaware of their employer’s want ad would be fined, those telling people in interviews they will get bored with a job or refusing candidates with previously higher paying salaries or more prestigious jobs in their work history, would be fined. Over qualification would no longer be an acceptable excuse to pass on a potential employee.
Legislation would be adopted that made it illegal not to hire someone based on the legal activities they choose to engage in, such as smoking; law would ban the use of psychological analysis of handwriting. Also banned would be doing a credit check on potential employees for jobs that either require no financial prowess or only involve retail related cash handling skills. Other legislation needed would included mandatory job training for all employees and limits on both the number of jobs that a company can list requiring experience and the number of years experience they can mandate a candidate have in order to be considered for the job. No more long questionnaires and voluntary portions attached to any application, just a not so clever way to illegally obtain personal information on applicants. All of this forcing a change in business culture, forcing companies to create internships and accept volunteers, forcing them to give a fighting chance to young people just starting out or people just beginning in a field, forcing them to follow reasonable rules of law when dealing with possible workers. Employers would soon learn it was better for their bottom line to follow the law.
Positives that come from considering and implementing these steps are the unemployment rate goes down, way down. People have more money in their pockets to spend, which keeps businesses all afloat. Companies would soon discover that they had a better environment, possibly better sales or service, when they stopped “having to” hire individuals best described as air heads and could find people not only willing to do the job, capable of learning but plugged into what they are doing. Going back to the internship/volunteer model, establishments begin to realize it takes less work to then hire for an opening because A- more people know about their business and B- interns and volunteers who had a good experience are more likely to come back looking for a job and those in charge also know the intern. If president Obama wants to see the job market turn around he will do all the things mentioned. Washington has attempted to crack down on Wall Street, is working to regulate big banks; now to complete the task of economic recovery, it is time for an over haul of the employment system, removing the insurmountable obstacles that have been built up against something everyone needs, a job.