“Acceptable” Discrimination?

Hello Boomers,

The New Year is well underway and our national hopes for economic recovery are on the uptick.  Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high.  The good news is that our leaders seem to have finally “gotten it” and sound as though they will now concentrate on finding ways to help increase job opportunities.  Our hopes and our prayers are with them. 

But perhaps our hopes and prayers are not enough.  Perhaps more needs to be done.  Perhaps we need to right a wrong, to become intolerant of “business as usual”  when that has cost far too many far too much for far too long.   

We often hear from business leaders that they have a tough time finding qualified candidates to fill their job openings.  We know that is a problem and the process of finding qualified candidates takes time, uses resources, and is expensive.  

Businesses often advertise in multiple arenas to find qualified candidates.  Of course this elicits many responses so employers need to screen and narrow the field of applicants.  While conscientious candidates apply for jobs that are a close match, many postings still gather far too many unqualified job seekers.   The attitude that “Employers will never find their “perfect” candidate so why not apply?” creates an avalanche of very marginal, if not useless resumes that must still be scanned by the employer.  

Such resume spam has helped create many of the very issues that  job seekers complain about most:  recruiters who don’t call back, resume  “black holes” where no one  even acknowledges you applied, hiring managers who don’t call back after a seemingly positive interview, key-word searches that eliminate resumes that don’t include the “right” words, etc., etc., etc.

Employers have necessarily adopted ways to hone an unwieldy process.  But somewhere along the way many employers began eliminating whole categories of people who might perfectly fill the needs of the organization, who might have all of the required skills and experience, who might even solve the very problems the employer is seeking to address.       

“The Unemployed Need Not Apply” position is still taken by far too many employers.  The situation hasn’t improved much and the attitude is perhaps even more overt than it was a few months back when there was a huge outcry about this practice, when people wrote and called their elected representatives, when they signed petitions and outed companies for such maneuvers.  The only piece of that story that seems to have survived until today is that far too many employers continue to eliminate the unemployed when seeking to fill open positions.    

This practice is not based upon lack of qualifications, experience, or education, all things over which the candidate has some control.   It is based upon lack of employment over which, in this economic downturn, candidates have had little control.  It is blatant discrimination, perhaps one of the few types that we still tolerate in this country. 

After three plus years of unrelenting unemployment, it is unconscionable that  “The Unemployed Need Not Apply” attitude is still pervasive in corporate America.  Even with recent government incentives for hiring the unemployed, it appears that more needs to be done to stop this practice.  

Moving forward, we will almost certainly see more help for businesses in the form of tax breaks, incentives, etc., to help them create the jobs that we need.  Let’s attach some strings to those incentives by requiring businesses to hire the unemployed.  As a taxpayer, I have no problem supporting business growth through incentives during this tough time – as long as businesses support taxpayers by removing people from the unemployment and welfare rolls, by giving them jobs so they can pay taxes too. 

For a short time, just long enough to get our unemployment numbers down to more moderate levels and reduce the burden on our states, just long enough to stop the housing foreclosure frenzy, just long enough to increase tax revenues to help local, state and federal governments pay their bills and stop borrowing,  just long enough to get many of our families, our cities, states and our country’s finances on more solid ground,  wouldn’t it be nice if more businesses conveyed the attitude that “The Unemployed Are Welcome Here”?  Our hopes and our prayers would sure be with them.

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