Even It Up!

Shifting the balance for jobseekers

Ability: A New Form of Job Discrimination?

with 10 comments

The post Even It Up! wrote the other day about our experience with Edge Recruitment and their feedback on our application has been niggling at us.  It’s not that they were defensive about their processes (who wouldn’t be under the circumstances?) or they accused us of chasing work as consultants (isn’t that how work is sometimes won?).  What bothered us was the overt discrimination against skills, experience and qualifications of the applicant, and that we had dared apply for a  lower-paid position (although salary wasn’t stipulated in the ad).  Is what we experienced a form of ability discrimination?

It’s interesting, because the rhetoric around qualifications (certainly from schools, universities and the majority of employers) is that they are instrumental to (and even crucial in) gaining work.  Certainly, we have all been led to believe this over the years (if we didn’t, why would we spend thousands on our education – both vocational and academic)?  But what if it just isn’t true?  What if having qualifications is as detrimental to finding work as not having them?

If you participate in Even It Up! Forums, you know that this is not a new phenomenon.  Other jobseekers have also experienced the prejudice and suspicion that comes with being overqualified for positions they may apply for.  The recruiter (direct employer or recruitment consultant) often perceives that:

  • the jobseeker will walk (and quickly) once they find another position more “suitable” to their qualifications and pay expectations
  • they may expect (and demand) more money once they are in the role
  • they may be more “difficult” to manage and not be as pliable as someone who has less experience/qualifications.

While there may be an element of truth to the above assertions, it is not always the case.  Jobseekers apply for roles they are clearly overqualified for for a number of reasons:

From our perspective, the issues are: why should jobseekers have to justify themselves for seeking out work they are overqualified for? Aren’t employers being narrow-minded and short-sighted for not embracing the clear skillset that these sorts of jobseekers will bring to the role (and the organisation as a whole)?

And so the questions become: what sort of organisation are you? Are you an organisation that will embrace the various skillsets of jobseekers that apply for your roles?  Or are you an organisation that is suspicious and judgmental of anyone who applies for a role that (on the surface) they may be either overqualified or underqualified for?

And how willing are you to take the time to find out why before discarding “unsuitable” applications?

Written by evenitup

September 9, 2009 at 5:32 pm

10 Responses

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  1. Having arrived in Melbourne a year ago with a Master’s degree, it’s taken me a year to find work. In my desperation, I’ve applied for jobs at McDonald’s, Subway etc, and been willing to stay at them. No luck. The same has applied at other jobs, for instance low-level data entry positions that I actually really wanted (better than starving, right?)

    I found that employers for higher-level jobs were more likely to get back to me, or offer an interview, than those recruiting for jobs I’m overqualified for. I would say that about 10% of employers/recruiters I contacted actually responded to my application at all (and yes, I was tailoring cover letters etc.)

    So this site makes sense to me… especially after dealing with recruitment agencies who have no idea what the job actually involves. I don’t understand why you’d have anyone who wasn’t going to work with the person deciding who to hire. I’ve only ever been hired by management at the companies I’ve worked for, because I can’t bring myself to lie to recruiters and tell them what they want to hear…

    Sam B

    February 3, 2010 at 9:59 am

  2. Am currently looking for part time admin work and having to dumb down my resume to not show my previous exec experience. (why am I not looking for corp, exec positions any more – a mechange.) However I don’t have an issue with dumbing down the resume – one of the first things I was taught when writing resumes was to have a different resume for each type of role you’re applying for – one doco doesn’t cover all.
    I do however have a problem with employers and recruitment agencies not believing that I am NOT interested in higher level roles.


    September 26, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    • I feel the same way; I am quite happy to tailor my CV to whatever job I am applying for (I have umpteen versions!). But you’ve hit the nail on the head, Bek. Trying to circumnavigate the gatekeepers is a difficult task.


      September 26, 2009 at 7:18 pm

  3. Happy to hear what evidence there is. It is IMHO a bit of a leap to describe this as discrimination though. It is not the same as the vilification experienced by an Aborigine, the violence directed at queers or a woman not being hired because she is not married.


    September 13, 2009 at 11:26 am

    • Granted, but discrimination (of any sort) is the result of small-minded people who are fearful of difference, and seek to maintain the status quo of “normality” (however they define it). It is only the extent, type and manifestation that differs.


      September 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm

  4. We will have to agree to disagree… unless you don’t agree to that of course…


    September 12, 2009 at 1:01 am

  5. Don’t buy this, really. Firstly, I am unsure how often any of this happens; a lot of it sounds rather apocryphal to me. Secondly, though, as someone who has recruited a range of people I can say I would always take on someone with great skills. Thirdly, it is quite OK for an employer to hire one person over another because they think the person will stay at the job for longer; I would. (Other than, of course, unlawful considerations such as whether the person is pregnant etc.)

    Matt Loader

    September 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    • Dare you to apply for a plain, old (non-management) administration role and see how far you get!


      September 9, 2009 at 6:03 pm

      • Sure, and maybe it is true; though , as I say, I hear a lot of stories but have rarely encountered empirical evidence (maybe there is none really about?). It has been a while since i worked in admin roles, but, as I recall, my 2 degrees were no impediment to getting hired. Of course, that was my experience and can’t really be generalised. But neither can everyone else’s war stories.

        In any event, in my view, as someone who has recruited people in several of my roles, I would be concerned to ensure that I am not going to have to go through another hiring process in a short space of time. It’s pretty draining as well as being costly. To me it’s quite legitimate to take into account how long someone is likely to stay in the job role.

        Matt Loader

        September 10, 2009 at 11:51 am

        • Qualitative evidence is in forums on Even It Up! website, and data will be available via Jobseeker Experience Survey (this has been extended). You’ve hit the nail on the head by saying it’s been a while since you’ve applied for admin-type roles. It’s not only the degrees, but positions held + skills collected that amounts to “ability discrimination”. Double dare you to apply for an admin role and include your qualifications + details of all roles held (including current leadership/management one)!. Bet you get nowhere fast! Completely understand about recruiting for the long-term, but that is an uncontrollable element. At the end of the day, no one really knows how long anyone is going to stay in a job!


          September 11, 2009 at 9:46 am

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