I'm going to take a short break from the usual insurance geeky discussion to talk about employment practices. Specifically, stupid, cruel, lazy employment practices (in a minute, I'll tell you how I really feel.) National Underwriter's Mark Ruquet writes about a practice among some employers that dumps a little more salt in the wounds of the millions of jobless Americans:
Helen Norton, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, said both employers and staffing agencies have advertised publicly that only currently employed candidates may apply for a job. These positions range the professional field from electronic engineers to restaurant and grocery managers to mortgage underwriters, she said.
“Some employers may use current employment as a signal of quality job performance,” Norton testified. “But such a correlation is decidedly weak. A blanket reliance on current employment serves as a poor proxy for successful job performance.”
Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment of the National Women’s Law Center, called it a “troubling development in the labor market.”...
The (federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) did not indicate how pervasive the practice is, and I have seen no statistics that speak to the frequency of it, but the fact that it exists at all should make us wonder what is motivating people to discriminate in this way.
Is it a prejudice that if you’re not working, there must be something wrong with you as a worker? Or are employers just looking for a way to control a flood of resumes from coming their way?
While the EEOC is seeking to understand if this practice is motivated by prejudice, I would like to think that what’s really motivating these employers is a desire to avoid having to wade through a huge stack of resumes.
Ruquet goes on to encourage insurance producers, who as a group need an infusion of new talent, to offer opportunities to candidates who are ignored by other employers because they are unemployed. I wholeheartedly support and echo his point. Agencies and brokerages can give themselves huge competitive advantages by snapping up some high-quality people eager for opportunities.
I have to say that reading about this attitude among some employers (Ruquet admits that the data does not show how pervasive it is) makes my blood boil. During my career, I've endured two lengthy bouts of unemployment. The first was when the major insurance carrier for whom I worked eliminated my department in the name of profit improvement. The second was when a technology company for whom I worked as a trainer got into severe financial trouble following the dot-com crash and the 9/11 attacks. I lost my job five weeks after 9/11; the company went into bankruptcy six months later. I was out of work again for many months before IIABNY offered me the job that I now have.
This just in: Unemployment sucks. Unless you've had someone sit you down and tell you that the value you bring to a company no longer exceeds the cost of keeping you around, you have no idea how it feels. Add to that the pressure of being the primary breadwinner in a family with young children, throw in a pinch of disbelief because you've received glowing performance reviews, and toss in a dash of despair because you've just turned 40, and it adds up to a soup of anxiety and plummeting self-esteem. Every day, job seekers get rejection: The phone calls that no one returns, the e-mails that go unanswered, the employer who never contacts you again after that job interview that appeared to go so well. It is awful. I've met a lot of people in my life that I don't like. I would not wish unemployment on any of them.
So when I read that some employers screen candidates out because they're currently jobless, it makes me want to scream. Our society (certainly our politicians) send the message, "You have to take care of you. Don't look to (government, charities, friends, family, etc. -- fill in the blank) to take care of you. Get to work and support yourself." And the thing is, that's really all the unemployed want to do. They want good opportunities where they can show their stuff. When an employer says, "Only employed candidates need apply," they're saying, "If you're unemployed, you're not good enough for us." And that is an outrage.
Mark Ruquet may be correct -- this may just be a way for employers to wade through piles of resumes. I call that a lazy human resources practice. Part of the HR function is to keep the company's talent pipeline filled with good prospects. Is eliminating candidates who lost jobs during a horrible recession caused by a meltdown in the housing market really the best way to fill that pipeline? I don't think so.
I won't wish ill fortune on these employers whom Ruquet charitably calls "shortsighted." Rather, I'll wish bountiful success on those employers who don't take the lazy way out, who know that a lot of talent has been involuntarily forced off the playing field in the last three years, and who give the unemployed a chance to prove themselves. And I sincerely hope that insurance agencies and brokerages make up a large share of that group of employers.
My blood pressure should recede to normal levels in a few minutes. The next post will be about insurance, I promise.