February 16, 2006

The long reach of affirmative action

It's a widespread myth that racial quotas only apply to college admissions. Far more important in the big picture is the omnipresent threat of lawsuits against employers for using hiring procedures that have "disparate impact" by race. The fear of a discrimination lawsuit if a company doesn't hire in proportion to the racial makeup of the eligible workforce makes for an enormous amount of gamesmanship, as this nightmarish article by Anne Fisher in Fortune makes clear:

Job hunting online gets trickier

New federal guidelines meant to standardize how employers track data on the diversity of their job-applicant pool are taking effect starting today for jobs at federal contractors -- and similar rules will kick in later this year at U.S. companies with more than 50 employees. And resumes and search approaches that worked perfectly well before may no longer do the trick.

In the new system, federal regulators will be checking to see that companies are keeping diversity data on all applicants, according to a new, more uniform definition of "applicant."

According to this definition, an applicant must "express interest" in the job, whether by sending in a resume, applying on the company's site, or whatever other means the company requests, says Gerry Crispin, founder and principal of CareerXRoads and a long-time Internet job hunting expert.

That "expression of interest" must show that he or she has all the qualifications for the job listed in the company's job description (not just some or most of them) -- and those qualifications must be specific and measurable...

To comply with these new rules and get the most diversity, employers will have an incentive to keep the pool of applicants for each job relatively small and as random as possible. To make sure you're considered now, you'll have to:

Follow the company's instructions. "If an employer says that, to apply for a given job, you must go to their web site and enter a certain code number, then do that," says Crispin. "Otherwise your resume will never be seen."

Spell out your qualifications clearly. "Pay very close attention to the specific qualifications an employer lists for a particular job, and make sure your resume contains those exact words," Crispin says.

For instance, if a job description includes the words "three years of credit accounting experience," put "three years of credit accounting experience" on your resume. "Don't just list a credit-accounting position with the dates you had it and assume someone will figure it out," Crispin advises. This may mean you have to rewrite your resume for each job opening you apply for.

What if the job description includes the words "three years of credit accounting experience," but you have six years?

Keep your resume up-to-the-minute current. "The rules allow companies to pick a random pool of applicants by searching the job boards for 'most recent' qualified applicants," Crispin notes. "In those cases, no one will even look at a resume that is more than two or three weeks old." Yikes. ...

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the new rules will actually increase diversity in companies or just create extra work for everybody. Either way, if you're looking for a new job, you can't afford to ignore them.

Okay, everybody clear on that? Aren't you glad your government is making it more confusing to find a job?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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