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It Is Getting More Difficult to Screen Applicants
It Isn't Your Imagination
By Michael C. Dennis MBA, CBF, LCM

It is getting more difficult to screen applicants to determine who should be called in for an interview, who should be invited to meet the hiring manager, and who should be offered a position with the company. There are many reasons that selecting and hiring the right person has become more difficult including these:

  • Companies don't promise lifetime employment, or that the company will do everything possible to avoid layoffs if and when business takes a downturn. As a result, workers do not have the same degree of loyalty to their employers as they did in previous generations. As a consequence, some well-qualified applicants may have less than ideal work histories. They may have done some 'job-hopping' -- spending relatively short periods of time at one or more previous jobs.

  • At one time, the fact that an applicant had been laid off was an indication that the individual might be something less than the ideal job candidate. This is no longer necessarily true. Employees are being laid off is record numbers, and often their dismissal has nothing to do with their job performance.

  • At one time, breaks in employment were uncommon. An applicant that explained a break in their employment as resulting from the need to take time off to handle one or more personal issues might be seen as a potential malcontent. Today, employers want but don't necessarily expect to see an unbroken work history, and are often more willing to accept a 'quality of life' explanation for extended breaks in employment.

  • At one time, a company could call or write to an applicant's former employer, speak to their former supervisor, ask specific questions and would often receive a candid [and sometimes unflattering] assessment of the applicant's job skills and work ethic. Today, because of changes in State laws and the potential for litigation, most employers conducting background checks find it difficult to get useful information from an applicant's former employers. In many cases, even with a release signed by the applicant a potential employer is lucky to get dates of employment, job title and compensation.

What does all this mean to the hiring manager and the company's human resources department? It means that the human resources department cannot arbitrarily or mechanically dismiss applicants on the basis of any of the issues/problems listed above. Instead the human resources department and/or the hiring manager must develop better interviewing skills. Both the manager and the H/R representative need to gather and if necessary tease information from job applicants in order to understand their accomplishments, their failures, and their strengths and their weaknesses.

The information contained in this publication is not legal advice, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Readers are encouraged research issues and questions carefully, and to contact an attorney in their State to clarify any questions or issues raised after reading any of the items in this publication.

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