Discrimination in the Workplace

My wife & I operate a recruiting firm. We hear many stories about discriminatory hiring practices, rudeness, and stupidity perpetrated by recruiters, HR Departments, and hiring managers.

We had several conversations this week with job seekers who felt they were not progressing well in their job search because of one form of discrimination or another. During a long bike ride this weekend, my mind made a connection between these concerns about discrimination and the new NBC program The Voice.

In the initial episodes recording artists Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine listened to contestants without seeing them or knowing anything about them in advance. They selected contestants they wanted on their team based solely on what they heard.

Wouldn’t it be great if job candidates could be evaluated solely on what is important to the job?

One of the contestants that stood out in this regard was Beverly McClellan.  Prior to her onstage presentation, they showed her talking about how she felt about the competition. Beverley said she hoped that how she sang her song would be get her noticed and selected. Since it would be a “blind” audition, the judges wouldn’t be distracted by her age (older than the other contestants) and appearance (shaved head, tattoos, piercings).

Her performance was a soulful rendition of “Piece of My Heart” … well-known by those who enjoy Janis Joplin.

The judges liked her.

Since The Voice is concerned about show business and stage presence, Beverly might have been selected because her appearance was unorthodox. However, most shows like this select young (often teenage) women with gorgeous hair and anorexic figures … not a heavy-set Lex Luthor wearing clothes purchased at the second-hand store next door to the tattoo parlor.

She was chosen for her obvious vocal talent.

Since that first show, Beverly and her co-contestants have been coached by professionals regarding what it takes to be accepted by a wider audience. Stars are helping them make the most of their talents, so they too can become stars in their own right.

It’s too bad candidate evaluation, interviews, and the early days on a new job aren’t a bit more like The Voice … focused on what is critical and supported by people who can show a new employee how to improve.

Before use of the Internet became wide-spread … before social networking … Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning … it was possible to submit resumes tailored to a particular position and pass the first few hiring hurdles before being rejected for some real or imagined  short-coming. At the very least, you might get invited to an interview.

Now, there is so much information on the Web about us … placed there by you, your friends, or dug up through data mining by someone hoping to make a buck with the information … that the personal information we might prefer to keep to ourselves can be accessed by anyone with the determination to search or willingness to spend a few dollars.

Age discrimination is not the only infraction we hear about, but it may be the most pervasive … manifested in the widest variety of forms.

Today, age discrimination … age-ism … has many disguises:

  • You are over-qualified.
  • That experience is not current.
  • We don’t think you fit the culture.
  • You have had positions at a higher level.
  • You’ve earned more money in previous positions.

The subtext for these excuses can include many other issues:

  • We are trying to drive salaries down.
  • You could push up our group benefit premiums.
  • Your experience could be intimidating to the hiring manager.
  • You might not be able to keep up with the younger employees.
  • You are likely to retire in a few years … yah, sure, like most jobs last more than three years!

We are interested in hearing your voice!

No Discrimination


In our business blog … Sirius About Jobs … we share thoughts on these issues.  Recently, I posted thoughts regarding an experience I had that was very closely tied to age discrimination. I also published a guest blog on the topic.