NEW YORK – Getting a job as a waitress or bartender at Lost Dog Cafe in N. Virginia has never been easy.
Help Wanted signs were scarce, and half of the chain’s staff stayed for at least 10 years. The onset of the pandemic worsened employment prospects when Lost Dog had to temporarily close indoor restaurants.
But as vaccinated customers rushed to eat out and once-loyal workers looked to new opportunities, the company began struggling in May to fill the roughly 20% of vacancies in its service staff. .
To alleviate the shortage, she did something she had never done before: turn to people with no experience. It has also started recruiting workers under the age of 18.
Lost Dog is one of a growing number of companies that, in desperation for employees, are easing restrictions on everything from age to level of experience. Drugstore chain CVS announced earlier in August that it would no longer need a minimum high school diploma to fill entry-level positions in its stores. This year, he also plans to end his GPA requirement of 3.0 when recruiting on college campuses. Meanwhile, Amazon has stopped testing job seekers for marijuana.
Changing standards may have helped boost hiring this summer, although many companies complained that they couldn’t find all the workers they needed. Employers added 940,000 jobs in June and July, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.4%.
The government will release figures for August today, and economists predict they will show another 750,000 jobs were created this month, with unemployment falling to 5.2%. Some analysts fear that job gains will decline due to the delta variant, but are optimistic about hiring in the fall.
The trend towards relaxing the rules started about three years ago when the labor market started to tighten. It accelerated this spring when employers were caught off guard as Americans enthusiastically emerged from months of pandemic containment, eager to shop and dine again. At the same time, workers were re-evaluating their jobs and wondering if the long hours were worth the pay.
The perfect storm led to record jobs, which jumped to 10.1 million in June from 9.2 million in May at a rate of 6.5% – the highest since the Department of Labor began to follow the numbers two decades ago. People voluntarily leaving their jobs rose to 3.9 million from 3.6 million in May.
Employers suspended incentives like higher hourly wages and additional bonuses, but still struggled to fill positions. Data from various sources show that they are now more willing to drop certain restrictions that in the past have excluded certain populations from the workforce.
Job search platform ZipRecruiter, which cleans 16 million job postings of all types of work, says the percentage of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree has risen from nearly 15% in 2016 to just over by 11% in 2020. But that figure fell even more drastically to 7% from January to June of this year. For the percentage of vacancies requiring no experience, the figure rose from around 9.2% in 2016 to 14.3% in 2020, and jumped again to 18.6% for the first six months of This year.
Experts say many of the restrictions were man-made barriers that perpetually held back working poor, especially people of color. Educational requirements, for example, tend to favor white workers over blacks. Compared to 47.1% of white adults, only 30.8% of black adults graduated from college, according to the Educational Trust, a nonprofit educational organization.
Delta Air Lines says 95% of its customer service jobs no longer require a four-year college degree, up from 78% in Q1 2020. Ashley Black, director of equity strategies at Delta, said the move didn’t was not directly due to any shortage of manpower; it was more about finding the right talent for the job and the organization.
“Traditional hiring processes are very subjective and can have multiple barriers that make it difficult for any potential talent to access economic opportunities,” said Black. “Nonetheless, this has a disproportionate impact on people of color. Without being able to easily and credibly assess skills, implicit biases can shape the recruiting and hiring process.”
Sarah White, area manager for Lost Dog Cafe and restaurant consultant, says the relaxed requirements have opened doors to job opportunities that may not have been considered before.
“We get locked into these ideas of what work looks like,” White said. “Now we’re getting people we wouldn’t have hired before. And they’ve been some of the most amazing employees. That would have been our downfall.”
Karen Rosa, 32, started as a waiter at the Lost Dog Cafe last September, but then went on to become a bartender with no previous experience. She says she can now earn a regular income of $ 600-700 per week. She says her server’s income was more volatile.
“They gave me a chance,” she said. “They have been very helpful.”
But there are also downsides. White says she’s been so desperate at times that she has had to hire waiters who have bad attitudes and actually scare off customers.
“We have no one to wait for them, but we also lose them because they are receiving services but it is from someone that I would not want to serve them,” she said.
Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, says the difficulties in finding good workers like waiters underline “a lie” that it is not about skilled labor.
“Not everyone can take on these roles,” he said. “These are skilled jobs, and they should be paid accordingly.”
Companies say they make up for the lack of experience by doing a better job with training. Lost Dog now trains cooks on different types of dishes each day and displays cocktail recipes on the back of the bar rail where patrons cannot see them.
CVS has just opened two new Workforce Innovation and Talent Centers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where it works with faith-based and community organizations to find, train and place workers in jobs such as pharmacy technicians and customer service workers.
No one can predict whether companies will revert to more stringent requirements when they are again full of job seekers.
Brad Hershbein, senior economist and communications advisor at the WE Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said employers can still offer wiggle room over college degrees, but desperate measures such as hiring people with bad attitudes will disappear.
“Employers may decide that there are other ways to screen employees that are more effective than looking at keywords on their resumes or do they meet this education or experience requirement,” Hershbein said.
Information for this article was provided by Alexandra Olson and Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press.