Old news, now–CNN found more than a few businesses providing overt instructions to recruiters about NOT hiring people who don’t currently have a job. The reasoning, when it’s provided at all, is that businesses lay off their “performance problems” first, and protect people who are good workers. Sometimes. Not always. Not even often–sometimes entire departments or divisions are cut, or go overseas (“offshore,” or “best shore,” in big business language), and everyone winds up looking for work, good and bad.
The truth is, when a business is overwhelmed with applicants, eliminating people who are not currently employed is simply a way to reduce the pile of resumes or applications that need to be reviewed. Frankly, you’d do just as well, and avoid any chance of bad publicity, by taking every other, or every third, resume out of the pile and sending it straight into the round file. Quicker, too. This is another case of making sure your business is not on the wrong end of a news camera.
In October, 2010, it’s not illegal to discriminate on the basis of current employment status, at the federal level. (I don’t track initiatives in all of the states.) If unemployment is significantly higher in some protected classes than others in your part of the world, documenting that you don’t want to consider hiring a currently unemployed person is ill-advised.
Keep your employment karma clean
It may be that you find yourself thinking that, “I can see that these employers have a point,” in that you do think most laid-off people may have been performance problems. It’s possible that was your experience in your last day-job, if senior management did not address productivity and performance in real time and waiting for an inevitable slowdown to clean house.
You have two opportunities to contribute to a different outcome:
The first is to keep on top of your performance management system, whatever form it takes, and not to fall into the trap of carrying underperforming employees just because it’s easier than confronting the problem. It’s your money.
The second is to hope you never find yourself having to eat your words (or thoughts) if you have to lay off someone good, just because the business isn’t there to carry her.