The New Top Job Qualification: Vaccinated

As organizations continue to debate vaccine mandates for employees, job candidates are listing their vaccination status on resumes and LinkedIn profiles. 

At the top of her resume, the candidate listed the attributes she thought would get her most noticed by the recruiter. She had an MBA from Harvard. She worked five years in investment banking. And she was vaccinated for COVID-19.

Two years ago, a candidate would more likely list their favorite sports team on their resume than they would their vaccination status. But as the pandemic persists, many candidates are debating whether to put their vaccination status out in the open as they search for jobs. A LinkedIn search on Monday, the day the US government fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, showed that more than 13,000 members listed themselves as vaccinated in their professional profiles. Rather than viewing it as a violation of their privacy, some candidates see disclosing their vaccination status as a way to show their eagerness to take on a role. “You are seeing some people do this voluntarily, as a way to say that they want to work at this job,” says Brian Bloom, Korn Ferry’s vice president of global benefits.

In doing so, the candidates themselves are placing at the forefront a thorny problem for employers. With more than 10 million open roles in the United States alone, some employers are desperate to bring in talent. But they also have to balance the need to fill roles with the health and safety of their customers and employees. About 52% of the US population is fully vaccinated, although the level is below 50% in 25 states. “I see that this could start a trend,” says Val Olson, a career coach for Korn Ferry Advance, referring to listing vaccination status.

Whether it’s disclosed on a resume or not, experts say it’s clear that employers increasingly want to know if potential candidates have had the shots. While it’s legally murky if companies can ask a candidate whether they had COVID-19, they can ask whether a job candidate has been vaccinated and even make being vaccinated a requirement for a role. “Employers have the choice of not hiring you if you’re not vaccinated,” says Bloom. Candidates can decline to disclose whether they’ve gotten a shot, but that could impact their chance of being hired.

Experts say that from a practical standpoint, it’s somewhat easier to mandate vaccinations for new employees rather than for existing employees. Even if there’s no mandate, at least three states—California, Oregon, and New Jersey—require that companies track the vaccination status of their employees.

Organizations are finding that there’s a wide swath of people who would be great fits for roles but who are not vaccinated. Bradford Frank, a Korn Ferry senior client partner in the firm’s Global Technology practice, says he was working with a CEO candidate who wanted to bring in a new human resources boss and impose a vaccination mandate for his firm’s 1,800 corporate headquarters employees. But the CHRO candidate told the CEO she wasn’t vaccinated and wouldn’t get vaccinated. “It made us think whether we have to ask candidates of their vaccination status,” Frank says.

Still, experts say automatically disqualifying unvaccinated candidates could have a detrimental impact on an organization’s efforts to be more inclusive, since some minority groups are disproportionately unvaccinated, says Andrés Tapia, Korn Ferry’s global strategist for diversity, equity, and inclusion. “If you are going to make something a requirement, you are going to have to make it easier to make the requirement,” he says. That means companies that decide on mandates should consider having vaccinations administered at the workplace for current employees and new recruits while also offering education programs backed by scientific research and delivered by local medical experts