Employers Liability

Charles Moore is off to write Lady Thatcher’s biography. A farewell piece in the Telegraph contains some interesting portraits of journalistic colleagues from that newspapers past.

It also contains the classic, and ironic, opening line “Thanks to Mrs Thatcher I was unemployed”

His unemployment didn’t last as long as others who could make the same claim though. By October he had been offered a job at the Telegraph. As he explains

By good luck, there was a vacancy on Peterborough, the paper’s diary column. For some reason, Colin decided not to go through the file of far better qualified applicants: he simply offered me the job.

When I initially read that sentence my first response was to consider the appointment a blatant example of favouritism in action, I also almost automatically summoned up a knee-jerk sympathy for the better qualified applicants. This may be because most of the jobs I’ve applied for have involved jumping through various hoops which I was told “measured” my ability to do the job.

After considering it again though I’m not sure I was right. I suppose it depends on what is meant by better qualified

If someone with three O-levels gets a job as say, a merchant banker, which those candidates with degrees and MBA’s are turned down for then alarm bells should start to ring but in situations where candidates are not chalk and cheese why shouldn’t an employer be allowed some leeway in order to choose a person he or she instinctively feels would fit the job rather than going through each and every qualification gained by all the candidates in an attempt to be, and to be seen to be, scrupulously “fair” ?

The question of racial and sexual discrimination does arise in any consideration of employment policy. Many of the Employment laws, regulations and practices in this country were designed to prevent a person of one race or sex being passed over for work they could do in favour of an equally or less-qualified candidate from a different race or sex.

I am in favour of levelling the playing field in such situations but at the same time I’m not sure it’s neccessarily right to appoint a person only on obviously measurable attributes. In my experience gut feelings about say, how a person would fit in to an organisation, are often more valid than diligently counting up qualifications and giving the job to the person with the highest number of O-levels.