A Word On Requirements For Job Applicants

A recent article in the Washington Times, “EEOC: High school diploma requirement might violate Americans with Disabilities Act” touches upon a common issue for employers. Smaller businesses might feel particularly hampered in their hiring efforts when hearing of such possible complications in the law. What everyone is missing is that as a business, small or large, a lot of undue costs can be avoided by carefully tailoring requirements to actual job responsibilities.

A lot of attention is given in this article to the burdens and disincentives that removing an educational requirement might pose to businesses and society at large. What is only briefly discussed in the article is the necessity of setting hiring requirements that are actually relevant. This issue has been cropping up for sometime now. Another news article from the Wall Street Journal, “Small Business: A Good Worker Is Hard to Find” adds depth of the problem faced by employers.

These two articles sound as though they will cause a perfect storm of hard to fill jobs and government regulations that will punish a company for just looking for qualified help. Perhaps, taking a step back is in order. There was a time when nearly all entry level jobs required significant “on-the-job” training. Even the college degrees of new employees starting out several decades ago (the often referred to “Greatest Generation”), rarely had much to do with specific job functions beyond reading and writing.

Every employer and recruiter should carefully assess what base requirements really are necessary to fill a position before actively recruiting new employees. This is particularly true for jobs that may already be performed by others within the company or industry by individuals with disabilities or even younger workers still finishing their education (high-school, trade, or college). For example in the Denver area, there have even been restaurants that demand multiple years worth of experience in similar restaurants in order to qualify for an interview for a job waiting tables. This kind of a hiring practice may be interpreted by regulators, such as the EEOC, as potentially restricting an applicant pool to the point of having a discriminatory impact (purposefully or not). The Washington Times article, about the high school diploma requirement and its potential impact on people with some disabilities, is a perfect example of potential legal liabilities that can arise when determining hiring requirements.


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