Hiring blacklists and how to get off them

Dalton Trumbo

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo found himself blacklisted from employment during the McCarthy Era. Image: Huntington Theatre Company/Flickr/CC BY

According to Wall Street Journal, a large number of human resource departments and job recruiters keep unofficial blacklists, sometimes called “do not hire” lists, that record the names of individuals considered to be undesirable employees. These dark spots can be very difficult to remove from a job history.

Can stick with a job-seeker for years

These lists can follow a job hunter for years, excluding them from getting jobs. Since the lists are “unofficial” and often denied, it is often very difficult to determine where and why the blacklisting began. This situation can also make it very difficult to remove a name, once it has found its way onto such a list.

More prevalent in tough market

Susan Whitcomb, president of the Fresno, Calif.-based Job Search Academy, said the tough job market fuels the practice:

“Negative notations about applicants seem more prevalent nowadays because job hunters pursuing scarce vacancies are so desperate.”

Reasons people get blacklisted

Often a job-seeker lands on the list for legitimate reasons, such as misrepresenting facts or being emotionally volatile.

Fred Cooper, managing partner at Compass HR Consulting, said:

“Most employers maintain records of employees that are not eligible for re-hire. This is usually because they have been terminated for cause.”

Other reasons that a prospective employee might find him or herself blacklisted, according to Cooper, is for leaving under questionable circumstances; applying for different jobs with the same firm, but using conflicting references; for previously failing a background or drug test; or for simply interviewing so poorly that she or he was deemed unworthy.

But sometimes a job-hunter will land on one of these lists for far more competition-driven motives, such as deciding to go with a counter-offer.

Unfair labor practices

Specifically referring to employees blacklisted for union activities, anti- or pro-, Cooper said a company could draw unwanted scrutiny over the practice:

“In the case of labor relations law, it is unfair labor practice to discriminate against — blacklist — employees who encourage or discourage acts of support for a labor organization; and one does not want the Department of Labor investigating an allegation of an unfair labor practice.”

[A payday loan cash advance for those unexpected setbacks.]

Getting off a ‘do not hire’ list

A job-seeker who seems to be unable to catch a break may have unwittingly landed him or herself on a “do no hire” list. Though it may be difficult to find out for sure, a career counselor may be able to track down the red flags on a person’s work history, according to the Wall Street Journal.

If the blacklisting occurred because of a misrepresentation of facts or a firing for due cause, the strike make be hard to remove. But in the case of less damning or more personally motivated types of blacklisting, perhaps the smudge can be erased with diligence and by going the extra mile.

Cooper said:

“If the former or prospective new employee has turned their life around, learned from their mistakes, has matured and can somehow demonstrate that a virtually ‘new person’ is now asking for another chance, perhaps that second chance will be given.”

And a little schmoozing couldn’t hurt. Heather R. Huhman, of Come Recommended job-matching service, said that if a blacklisted prospective employee bought her lunch, responded effectively to feedback and was willing to offer a two week unpaid trial to demonstrate ability, that she “would give extremely strong consideration to removing her from my blacklist.”


Wall Street Journal
Chicago Tribune
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