The Recruiter’s President

The election this year is considered a watershed event in American politics. We have, at this time, three individuals who have a good shot at becoming president. While there are plenty of reports on who will best serve what groups’ needs, it would be instructive to look at who would be of most benefit to the recruiting profession.

To make this assessment as objective as possible, three criteria that affect recruiting will be used to compare the candidates: immigration, since it impacts the availability of labor; supporting a climate conducive to business, since business is the primary source of employment; and legislation that impacts employment, either making it easier or more difficult to hire an employee. Everything written here is taken from the candidate’s publicly stated position, his or her voting records, or information in the public domain.


John McCain: The senator from Arizona has long supported immigration reform. He was the sponsor of the immigration Reform Bill of 2006. Had it been enacted, the bill would have made hiring immigrant workers easier, including a guest-worker program for temporary labor. On the campaign trail, he has adopted a less strident tone, but overall his support for reform remains firm. Rating: A-

Barack Obama: On immigration, Senator Obama’s positions mirror those of Senator McCain. His support for reform and a guest-worker program has been unwavering. But, he did vote to support a reduction in the number of guest workers who could be admitted, had the Immigration Reform Bill of 2006 passed. Rating: A-

Hillary Clinton: The junior senator from New York has a mixed record on immigration. She has strongly supported immigration reform, including a path to legalization for illegal aliens. She is the sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 2008, which, among other things, would allow illegal aliens to collect back pay. Crucially though, she has not supported a temporary-worker program, which would address much of the labor shortages that lead to the demand for immigrant labor, especially in agriculture and construction. She, too, voted to reduce the number of visas that would have been available in a guest-worker program. Rating: B-

Support for Business

John McCain: The senator has an unremarkable record concerning business. He has supported programs targeted at enhancing competitiveness but, by his own admission, his understanding of economics is limited. For example, blaming pharmaceutical companies for high prices reflects a lack of understanding of the mechanics of a capitalist economy. On the plus side, he has been an advocate for free trade and open markets. Rating: B

Barack Obama: The senator from Illinois has not been around long enough to establish much of a record, so any conclusions on his support for business have to be drawn from his stated agenda. His positions are a mix of good and bad. He supports programs for job creation, investing in high-tech manufacturing, tax credits for research and development, and widespread deployment of broadband. On the negative side, he supports maintaining the openness of the Internet on the principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some websites and Internet applications over others. He fails to recognize that allowing this would negate the need for the government subsidies he proposes to use to increase access. He also wants to expand FMLA to cover employers with 25 employees or more (down from the current 50) and make it paid leave. However well intentioned, this creates an extra burden to smaller employers that are responsible for almost 60% of all jobs. Laws like this are only a deterrent to employment. Rating: B-

Hillary Clinton: The senator has received considerable support from business, including over $12 million in contributions, mostly from larger companies. She does support programs that can foster a better climate for business. Her innovation agenda would provide billions for research on energy alternatives, funding for awards promoting technology innovation, and tax cuts for research and development. She also wants to fund incentives for students to enter math and sciences programs. While this is all good, the programs she supports are very narrowly focused and would do little to benefit small businesses which, as mentioned above, are the main creators of jobs. Also, technology is not the only type of innovation. McKinsey estimates that half of all productivity growth since 1995 has come from innovation in business processes, such as hyper-efficient supply chains, led by Wal-Mart. This kind of innovation was not even considered by most companies, and definitely not by the government, until it occurred. Rating: B+

Employment-Related Legislation

John McCain: The decorated veteran has had very limited involvement in employment-related legislation. The only clear example was his no-vote against the points-based immigration system that would have admitted workers based on a government-created formula. Rating: Not Rated

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Barack Obama: Mr. Obama has some admirable qualities, but apparently an understanding of labor economics is not among them, as evidenced by his sponsorship of the Fair Pay Act. This bill has the laudable goal of ensuring that supposedly male-dominated occupations are not paid more than female-dominated ones. Should this bill become law, it would require employers to determine compensation based on assessments of social utility, not market demand. So, it could become necessary to ensure that nurses are not paid less than software engineers. Enforcement would be managed by the Labor Department that would set wage scales. This is how it was done in the Soviet Union. Even the Chinese abandoned such ideas decades ago. Rating: D

Hillary Clinton: When it comes to legislation that affects employment, the former partner of the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock appears to be mainly focused on legislation that can supplement her former colleagues’ incomes.

The Civil Rights Act of 2008, mentioned above, would eliminate existing damage caps on lawsuits brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and add compensatory and punitive damages to the Fair Labor Standards Act. This bill would also make it easier to bring and win “disparate impact” lawsuits where discrimination in employment is alleged. Just being able to show a statistical discrepancy would be enough to claim and win a discrimination lawsuit. There would be no need to show that an employer’s hiring criteria are discriminatorily applied or used with discriminatory intent. This overturns several court rulings that have deemed statistical discrepancies to be insufficient proof of discrimination. The results of this legislation passing are obvious (as are the motivations behind it): It would force employers to abandon perfectly legitimate hiring criteria and also make them more vulnerable to litigation. More than likely, employers will respond by creating unique titles and apparently different jobs or, worse, creating quotas to avoid the possibility of ending up with a statistical discrepancy.

Mrs. Clinton is the sponsor of The Paycheck Fairness Act (similar to the Fair Pay Act) which would do almost exactly what the Fair Pay Act does. Apparently “35 years of experience” have been insufficient for the senator to understand that tinkering with a free market rarely works. Rating: F

Senators Clinton and Obama are the sponsors of the Fair Pay Restoration Act which, if passed, would eliminate any statute of limitations in many employment-discrimination cases. Your employer could be defending employment decisions from 30 years ago.


Lyndon Johnson once said that the bar to run for office was not very high. It only required that a person not be a convicted criminal or certified insane. While the current crop of candidates is certainly far above that, that they do prove that there’s no perfect candidate. The record is decidedly mixed and whatever intentions someone may have today may well flounder on the rocks of Congress. You can reach your own conclusions about who would make a good president. Perhaps you already have.

Raghav Singh, director of analytics at Korn Ferry Futurestep, has developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors. His career has included work as a consultant on enterprise HR systems and as a recruiting and HRIT leader at several Fortune 500 companies. Opinions expressed here are his own.


15 Comments on “The Recruiter’s President

  1. Interesting enough article. As a 5th generation American who has lived in DC, been to a Presidential Inaugural Party (George I), and is active in politics in Georgia (swing voter at 50), I take offense to the supposition that these candidates are not qualified…

    The opposite is true. Take the time to be involved and you will begin to recognize the amazing efforts of the American people to create stong parties, entertain diverse values, and select the best possible people. Legislation is not created to employ more lawyers! Enforcement of laws, and fair representation employs lawyers!

    In my experience, we are truly blessed by the talent who even choose to run. It is the hardest job on the planet. I vote often and early. Get involved, and see if you can write with such a snide simplicity.

  2. What a can of worms! First off, even if I were to only take into account who would be best for my business in my choices for President I couldn’t agree with you on most of this. The best President will be the one who best lifts all the boats in our economy. I figure a thriving economy would be good for recruiters. Also important – a thriving middle class, because a large group of educated professionals with job mobility and lots of jobs to chhoose from makes for a great business climate.
    Things like guest workers and the Fair Pay Act? Guest workers don’t affect me that much – and most H1b Visas I have seen work for exploitative consulting firms that do not help the worker, most of my clients are not interested, and I find the constant spam annoying.
    Fair Pay – as a woman I see the need for this. As a recruiter I sure hope my clients treat their employees fairly. As for more time to sue employers – the Supreme Court managed to kill EEOC complaints with one case last year. If an act was discriminatory 20 years ago and there are many of them over a long period of time resulting in 1/2 the pay of someone with equal experience there should be standing to sue.
    Best for recruiters? Ending the war means more money can go to education and innovation. Helping new environmentally-friendly technology will create new industries who will need skilled employees. Regulating banks and industry correctly would create a fraud-free environment where people can buy and sell homes and feel like their money/assets are safe.
    So which candidate will help fix our current problems and make our economy and business thrive in a way to help all of us?

  3. I really disagree with Righav that the immigration plan laid out by McCain, Obama, and Clinton was a good thing. In fact, having spent most of my career as an engineer, I think just the opposite.

    For the first time in my memory, engineers, and other technical talent are poised to be paid as professionals. For the first time, they will not be just be disposable interchangeable parts.

    For the good of all of us, our immigration needs to be limited and controlled. Our borders need to be secured, and illegal immigration stopped.

  4. Overall, a very good article! Good job of addressing issues that should be of concern to Recruiters and staying with the facts rather than emotional opinion.

    The only other thing I would have liked to seen included was (since he is still officially in the race) some evaluation of Mike Huckabee’s FairTax proposal and it’s potential impact on, in particular, the third-party recruiting business.

    Thanks, Rajhav, for tackling the subject!

  5. I feel that you missed a very important point in the ‘Support for Business’ criteria section as it pertains to Senator Clinton, and Senator Obama. Both have committed (per their websites) to substantially raise the minimum wage in order to make it a ‘living’ wage. Senator Clinton goes as far as to target a federal minimum wage of $9.50 per hour.

    This significant increase in the federal minimum wage would certainly have a negative impact on business in general. More importantly, the effect on small businesses, which as you mentioned above are responsible for almost 60% of all jobs, would be even more damaging. A 62% increase in labor costs for small business would force them to either reduce their workforce (resulting in fewer jobs), or to eventually close their business altogether.

    Altogether I thought the article was very accurate and thought provoking. However, I just wanted to address this missed point to find out if you agree that Senator Clinton’s and Senator Obama’s plans to raise minimum wage so significantly most certainly brings down their grade for ‘support for business’.

  6. Raghav Singh has, again, written an exceptional article which will establish him as a lightning rod for emotional, rather than intelligent, disagreement. There is no other regular-appearing writer on ERE who has the nerve or creativity to introduce and discuss some of the more volatile topics which relate to recruiters. While I do not necessarily agree with all his conclusions, he gets major props for bringing the topic to open discussion.

    One topic which we are in complete agreement on is Ms. Clinton’s apparent disdain for the free market system. Her record clearly indicates that she views large business as inherently evil and greedy, with the exception of large law firms, which are inherently good, and magnanimous.

    Raghav, keep it up!! You provide some of the best food for thought on this site.

  7. Change? What a romantic word that seems to ‘fire people up’. Just remember, not all change is for the better. Any sort of legislation that is against business, inflationary, or targets ‘the rich’ (ie. contrary to popular opinion, the people that employ people and pay most of the taxes anyway), is probably not good for a recruiter’s pocketbook.

    I’m not sure ANY of the current candidates represent a change that is good for recruiters. Be careful at the voting booth.

  8. Wow, for someone who didn’t want this to become a political stumping ground? There is so much to refute here and it is obvious which side of the political aisle you come from. I will just say that I would be embarrassed, if at my convention, we were separated by ‘this race?s’ needs, ‘that race?s’ needs, this ‘gender?s’ needs, this ‘persuasion’ need?s, this ‘economic class?’ needs, etc…What kind of belief system does that create, besides victimhood and ?gimme, gimme?, to solve it?

    Wouldn’t it be better if we provided the freedom to our people to pursue their individual God given abilities and talents in order to come together for a common good, bigger than the individual? We did not become the greatest and most prosperous country in the history of man by accident. We should always strive to provide equal opportunity and access for everyone: Equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. Everyone is not built the same and we all have a role to play in the success. If we can accept that, show respect, and reward accordingly each other’s contributions, to that end, we could promote our unity instead of using diversity to drive us a part. That would be change.

  9. George:
    I am moved by your call for change, especially to correct the grievous problems which you will not mention, which must, in fact, be critical because they are not worth mentioning.
    Change, in itself, can actually be bad. What if your wife announced that she had ‘changed’ the pot roast recipie? Would you applaud that, even if the change was the addition of a large cup of Drano?

    One must ask: change to what?
    We don’t just change from something, there must be a ‘to’ as well and that strikes me as the most important part.

    We?ve been treated to an astounding amount of empty rhetoric in this campaign. Don?t let em? fool you.

  10. How does a person extoll the view that this forum should not be for political stumping, then go off on the strongest stumping presentation anyone has made here? It was nothing more than a stump speech aimed at benefitting a single party and platform. Mr. Singh’s article was simply about how to evaluate the likely contenders as they relate to recruiting.

    Change? I am 57, and cannot recall a single Presidential wannabe who did not decry the current Washington administration, and vow to change things. What a base and simplistic appeal to the voting sheep. Change? Well how about all three telling us what they are actually going to do before we vote them in on their vague promises?

    With 9 months to go, I have not decided whom I will vote for, or even which party will get my vote. Articles like Mr. Singh’s compel me to think, research, and evaluate. Exactly as it was intended…

  11. George-
    You started off great about keeping this forum non-political, and then you took the bait. Please keep this forum about recruiting.

    A – intent
    F – for follow thru

  12. George, I agree with your post. Might I add that everytime we elect a new President he hear the same ole change rhetoric. Everytime we elect a new President they make promises left and right which is not in the best interest of this Country. I call it whoring for votes. We have a divided country and middle America isn’t getting represented, in my opinion. We also live in a politically correct time where you can’t call it like it is or it’s ‘hate’. For those who watched the Texas debate, I found it very telling the type of questions the Latino media were asking and how they phrased their questions. There’s a clue here.

  13. Everyone familiar with my posts in ERE knows I love a good political discussion, but I’ll attempt to frame my comments around the immigration issue, because it does affect the recruiting market.

    The comprehensive immigration reform advocates, whether they be republican or democrat, claim to appease voters on both sides of the aisle and provide a ‘workable’ solution to an impossibly tangled problem. Sounds like a practical thing, but the immigration football is being carried by a quarterback who has an agenda…the agenda of gaining voter blocks and a tax base.

    Both dems and reps salivate over this agenda, so the ‘bi-partisan’ word creeps into the debate.

    But American Conservatives see through all this and cut to the chase. Keeping skilled and professional talent who are applying for legal immigration to our country on hold until illegals can get consideration under ‘comprehensive reform’ is, in my book, criminal. Supporting a bill that legitimizes illegals while keeping legals and badly needed professionals out of this country is akin to hostage-taking. Unfortunately, none of the current candidates for president will stand up for this point of view and separate the rocks from the beans.

  14. Deborah, are you sure you are a Conservative? Last time I looked, big business was backing the need for more visas and educated immigrant workers, which I don’t consider conservative. Globalization is a big money policy, and very Republican, but Conservatives have traditionally favored isolationism and ‘Americans First’. Conservatism has traditionally meant resisting change, status quo and on a good day, less government. (There is always this schizophrenic gap between having the government make personal decisions and restrict personal freedoms, versus allowing business a free reign. God, it appears, is not a libertarian.)

    Seeing through anything in this country is usually a matter of following the dollars, not belonging to a political party. But for better or worse, we have embraced capitalism and dollars rule. Thank God we fight over most of them with votes and not bullets.
    Onward and upward,

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