The American Jobs Act, Unemployment Discrimination and Employment Brand

Online recruiting organizations: Are you ready to stop hiding from candidates?  You should be. Your brand depends on it.

With The American Job Act currently before Congress, employers would be subject to EEOC discrimination claims if they fail to hire an unemployed candidate based on the fact that they are not currently employed. The notion was hatched as a backlash against the perception that employers do not want to hire unemployed workers.

That’s a specific law with a specific target, but if you peel the layers back, it’s the first salvo fired out of frustration from a country full of candidates that are tired of being treated badly by the people, systems and processes that have grown up around recruiting in the last 10 years.

I get it.  Recruiting organizations are under siege by way too many qualified candidates for the positions they have.  More importantly, they’re under siege by way too many completely UNqualified candidates.

While not considering candidates that are unemployed may cut your candidate pool down to a manageable size, it’s not smart from a branding standpoint.  Unless your employer brand is cold and cutthroat, you should embrace all candidates.  You should treat them with respect and you should engage as many of them as possible.

Everyone wants a fair shot. That’s just part of being human.  And when sweeping generalizations like “we don’t consider unemployed candidates” take hold, or faceless applicant tracking systems process bits and bytes and spit out rejection emails (often delayed to appear like the candidate was considered by a human), then the appearance of a fair shot disappears.

Candidates are customers. Candidates are voters. Candidates are individuals capable of expressing their frustration to large numbers of other individuals through social networking.

Here is and actual tweet I came across the day after writing this article: "@jimcramer FYI you herd it here first, [unnamed ATS] is keeping the unemployed... unemployed."

Obviously, not everyone is qualified.  And every recruiter has tales of resume spammers and unqualified, unprepared candidates sucking their time.  But the fact is, if you appear not to care about candidates, then your brand suffers. And now with an entire nation who is totally focused on getting people placed in jobs, delivering a bad candidate experience is asking for more Federal regulations governing how you interact with candidates.

There is a quietly growing awareness in the industry that candidate satisfaction matters.  There is a faint notion growing that engaging candidates and trying to ensure that they are communicated with and treated with respect and reverence, will actually result in a more effective recruiting process.

There are tools available that allow organizations to engage candidates and solicit feedback throughout the recruiting process.  Companies can now listen to how candidates feel about their recruiting process from beginning to end, track satisfaction and fine tune practices to make them as effective as possible. One is called Survale.  It sits on top of a company’s career site pages and asks candidates what they think through short stage-based candidate experience surveys, in real time and with appropriately times follow up surveys.

Without fail, candidates regularly comment “Thank you for asking my opinion.”  So when I say treating candidates with respect helps your employment brand, I speak from experience. Your “Best Place to Work” badge is fine, but it just lays there.  Asking a candidate what they think about how they’ve been treated?  That shifts the earth a little bit and provides evidence that you have a great place to work.

Plus it provides a goldmine of ideas about how to better interact with candidates, tweak your career site and make your online recruiting efforts more effective for passive candidates. The one’s who already have jobs. The one’s you were targeting that got the White House involved in messing with your business in the first place.

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Comment by Kathy on October 5, 2011 at 11:26pm
Bottom line:  there is NO ACCEPTABLE REASON for employers to abdicate their responsibility of closing out candidates.  From the ATS acknowledgement to a job application, "Thanks for applying to our company; we'll contact you if we are interested" to the recruiter following up after the phone screen or interview - preferably live, on the phone, but acceptably by email - to let the candidate know they are not being considered further, this is not rocket science.  I live and work in Silicon Valley.  I have been a recruiter here for decades and I have also been a candidate.  The "candidate experience" is inexplicably miserable with a lot of companies.  I am always sensitive to the importance of letting a candidate know the status. It is just common courtesy, the right thing to do, and more importantly, the smart thing to do.  Word travels fast when candidates are treated poorly. Think about it.
Comment by Ian Alexander on October 6, 2011 at 1:45pm
Well said Kathy.  Like I said, I think there is a faint pulse starting to beat with recruiting organizations with respect to candidate satisfaction. Fingers crossed, we'll see this get better over the next few years.  Your last sentences says it all, "Word travels fast when candidates are treated poorly." You live and work in a highly competitive climate for IT talent.  Engaging candidates with respect and openness can help smaller companies compete against the more marquis employers in the area.


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