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Resumes that scream ‘I’m healthy’ can sicken hiring process

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Hiring,HR Management,Human Resources

Applicants will slap anything on their résumé if they think it will attract the recruiter's eye. So, recognizing the soaring cost of health insurance, more applicants are adding a Health Profile section to their résumés these days, showing off their great health condition.

You'd think this "hire me, I won't raise your premiums" pitch would impress employers suffering under double- digit increases. But legally savvy employers shouldn't take the bait.

Reason: The legal risks of basing hiring or promotion decisions on such medical information could easily invite a disability or age discrimination lawsuit. That's why you should instruct managers to disregard such health claims on résumé.

Playing to your health-cost fears

Some employers say this résumé trend is more prevalent among foreign applicants, particularly Europeans. Others say they're also seeing health-status descriptions on résumés and application materials coming from older candidates, who fear that age could scare away employers looking to keep a lid on health-benefits costs.

Employers also report seeing résumé statements touting applicants' low absenteeism rates or zero sick-leave records.

Experts say you shouldn't expect these résumé health claims to stop anytime soon.

"In an increasingly competitive job market and with rising health care costs in the forefront of every employer's mind, including health-related information that separates a candidate from other applicants could be the wave of the future," says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago.

Don't consider health status

Decades ago, when the threat of discrimination charges wasn't an issue, applicants routinely listed such health details on a résumé and applications. Job-seekers routinely included personal data such as height, weight, health condition, marital or parental status, even including photographs. Some companies even required such information.

Advice: Don't be tempted to reach back to this employment practice from the "good old days."

Instead, instruct hiring managers never to consider health status in job applications. Tell them to exclude it from the recruitment and selection process and instead focus strictly on job skills, work experience, education and career progression; nothing else should taint the decision.

Most HR professionals know to steer away from health data on résumés. But nearly one in 10 HR people still believes Health Profiles are a "great idea" for the job-seeker, according to a new Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey.

Beware ADA in interviews

Once you begin the interview process with an applicant, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guides what health-related questions you can ask.

The ADA's basic message: You can't ask pre-employment questions that could possibly reveal an applicant's disability. But the law sets different rules for different stages of the hiring process. In a nutshell:

  • Pre-offer. You can't ask any disability or medical-related questions or conduct any health exams at the pre-offer stage.
  • Conditional offer. You can legally ask disability-related questions and conduct medical exams for clearly job-related reasons once you conditionally offer the job. To preserve your right to ask these questions, subject all applicants in the same category, regardless of disability, to the same questions or exams.
  • After employment begins. You can ask employees disability-related questions and require medical exams after employment begins if those queries are job-related and consistent with business necessity. 

Note: You can find a Q&A on the government's disability-related interview rules at www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/qanda-inquiries.html.

10 things to ignore on applicants' resumes

  1. Age, birth date
  2. Attendance history
  3. Health status
  4. Height, weight
  5. Reasons for leaving previous jobs
  6. Marital status, family information
  7. Political affiliation
  8. Race, ethnic background
  9. Religion
  10. Social Security number

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