Facebook Twitter

Zoë Petersen

Perspective: Don’t put your vaccination status on your resume

Including health information on a resume was a bad idea before the pandemic. It’s a worse idea now

SHARE Perspective: Don’t put your vaccination status on your resume
SHARE Perspective: Don’t put your vaccination status on your resume

Of all the bad career advice circulating in the world today, this suggestion stands out: Include your COVID-19 vaccination status on your resume.

This was a recommendation in a news release put out this week by an accomplished career coach, a man whose credentials include degrees from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

He advised job seekers to disclose their vaccination up front because an “increasing percentage of employers are requiring this status and including it in your resume takes this uncomfortable objection off the table.”

Given that Starbucks announced this week that it is dropping its vaccination requirement for workers, this advice didn’t age well.

The career coach’s other advice (don’t use jargon, don’t give your home address) may be sound, but it’s bewildering that anyone would suggest bringing up the COVID-19 vaccine in the introductory phase of job seeking. Yet this has been suggested by others for months.

The website Resumebuilder.com last fall polled hiring managers across the country and found that 69% said they were more likely to hire people who have been vaccinated. A third of managers even said they would automatically toss resumes that didn’t include the job seeker’s vaccination status. This practice was highest in the tech sector (78%), even more so than in health care (60%).

Granted, the survey came out at a time when it looked like President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates might stick. Earlier this month, however, the Supreme Court blocked the mandate that applied to companies with at least 100 workers, while upholding one that required vaccination for workers in health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.

Polls still show that a majority of Americans favor employer vaccine mandates, although the percentage has declined in recent months (from 61% in September to 56% in January, according to the polling firm Morning Consult).

With or without mandates, normalizing vaccination status on resumes was always a troubling idea, even for the happily vaccinated.

It’s certainly legal for most employers to ask the question; only Montana and Tennessee have enacted legislation that prohibit companies from making employment contingent on vaccination. While sometimes thought to shield all personal health information, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — HIPAA — does not apply to all employers. Many listings on job websites like Indeed or Monster say that being fully vaccinated is a condition of employment.

And despite dropping its vaccination requirement, Starbucks’ chief operating officer, John Culver, said the company continues “to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate,” which is well and good.

But on a resume, including one’s vaccination status is virtue signaling of the worst kind, as it dangles not just the promise of civic responsibility, but of good health.

Professional achievements and earned degrees suggest we have the skills to do a job; vaccination status suggests that it’s less likely we’ll be taking sick days in the near future, or causing our colleagues to do so. (And there’s no guarantee of that, given that the omicron variant is proving mightier than vaccines.)

Potential employers might like to know this; in fact, they might also like to know our exercise regimen, cholesterol levels and resting heart rate in order to predict our future absenteeism and overall performance, but none of us (let’s hope) want to go there.

Nor should we want to venture toward a place where other types of vaccinations are commonly listed on resumes. (A measles vaccine is another requirement now showing up in some job listings.) But the main reason job seekers should resist this trend is that it could backfire. “If you feel strongly about it and are willing to give up opportunities that don’t match your decision, you can go for it but also recognize that you are going to close as many doors as you open,”  Shelly Stotzer, CEO of Crosworks Career & Talent Strategists, told CBNS in Columbus, Ohio, last year.

It’s regrettable that vaccination — indeed, the whole pandemic response — became so politicized, but this is where we are in 2022. With the “Great Resignation” under way, and companies desperate to find workers across disparate fields, hiring managers can’t afford to be choosy. But trumpeting health information of any kind on a resume was a bad idea three years ago. It’s an even worse idea today.