It's fairly common knowledge that reporters don't write headlines, even though they are a major source of complaints. I've had to calmly explain that to clients about 10,000 times during my career when a positive piece of coverage is buried under a difficult headline.
So I'm not blaming Stephen Singer of the Associated Press for "For long-unemployed, hiring bias rears its head," even though calling what he's describing the article "bias," is itself bias against hiring managers.
Recounting a recruiter telling an aspiring job hunter why he couldn't send her for an interivew - Singer reports:
The 54-year-old, who had been laid off from her IT job in Illinois, said the recruiter who responded to her online resume two years ago liked her qualifications and was set to schedule an interview. But he backed away, she said, when he learned she had been out of work for 13 months.The employer he represented would not consider applicants who were unemployed for more than six months, she said.
One could call that bias - one could also call it informed judgement but "Hiring Managers Show Informed Skepticism When Screening Jobless Candidates" wouldn't be much of a headline.
The article is pegged to several state-level laws aimed at forcing hiring managers to see unemployed job seekers even if they have no intention of hiring them, or in other words to mandate wasting the time of everyone involved and potentially costing the candidate out-of-pocket expenses like travel.
Singer rightly points out in the text that since there is no way to identify if a jobless applicant is denied a job specifically because of being jobless or any number of other factors, the laws would be unenforceable.
Some personnel managers say evidence of discrimination is sketchy and that hiring decisions are based on a host of subjective reasons that defy remedies imposed by laws."There's much more subliminal discrimination against the unemployed that's hard to document," said Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University's College of Business Administration. "Hiring is an art, not a science. You rely on a gut reaction."
Singer goes on to report fears by business groups that the laws against discrimination are just a back-door gift to the trial attorneys to allow anyone unemployed who applies for a job to sue the company for not granting interviews.
Ultimately, the article is balanced - the headline isn't. When that happens the PR person is in a suicide squeeze between an unhappy client and a blameless reporter.
Reading the article definitely made me sympathize with all the parties involved.