This past February, after what seemed like years of discussion and disagreement, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s rules defining a job applicant were published and come into effect on May 6. While these rules only apply to organizations that have contracts with the federal government, they are generally followed by most other firms to avoid any potential EEOC or other issues that might arise.
Publication was immediately followed by a storm of confusion and fear. Recruiters began to panic. They began asking questions about what records they are required to maintain, whether everyone who visits a website is a candidate, what they have to show if they are audited, and can their applicant tracking system produce the required reports. This ruling is actually long overdue. The Internet and the extensive and growing use of recruiting websites have greatly increased the volume of potential candidates who visit and often submit resumes for positions. Very often these potential candidates are not qualified for those positions because they lack one or more of the criteria that are described in the job description. Yet, because they have applied, should they be considered candidates? Should their resumes be kept? Are they entitled to interviews just because they have expressed interest? This had become a gray area without clear guidelines, and many recruiters have struggled to create a reasonable and manageable process to be fair to candidates and to their own organizations. This OFCCP ruling now provides clear requirements. Simply stated, the OFCCP defines an Internet applicant as anyone:
- Who submits an expression of interest in employment through the Internet or related electronic data technology
- Is considered by the contractor for employment in a position
- Indicates they possess basic qualifications for the positions
- Does not remove him or herself from consideration.
The complete text of the ruling is available at the OFFCP’s website along with an excellent FAQ page that answers the questions I posed above and many more. Below, I’m including links to articles the OFFCP has written to provide you with a well-rounded view of what this ruling says and what it means. To further explore the topic, I am moderating a free webinar this coming Thursday (tomorrow), May 4. A panel of recruiting experts, as well as executives from the OFCCP and the EEOC, will engage in a vigorous discussion. I will moderate this discussion and bring your questions to the group. Full details and signup instructions can be found at www.accolo.com/debate/. The OFCCP ruling should go a long way in bringing about a more quantitative and objective way to define jobs by the skills and performance required, rather than by the general and rather subjective characteristics that are typical today. Job descriptions are often deliberately vague and often misleading so that a large number of people will be attracted. This allows a recruiter the opportunity to pick out the few that, for a variety of objective and subjective reasons, seem appropriate.
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This may have worked in the paper age, but in the Internet age, the volume of respondents that is typical today has already led to overwork. Simply the ease with which a resume can be submitted encourages people who are blatantly unqualified to send in resumes. Taking the time to define performance-based criteria and the competencies required to do a particular job decreases the number of applicants. The OFCCP ruling is very clear that those who do not meet one or more requirements for the position are not candidates. By establishing objective criteria for jobs, screening and assessment becomes more straightforward and will raise the overall quality of candidates that are submitted to a hiring manager.
Read Lou Adler’s comments on this aspect of the ruling in his excellent article last Friday. Also read John Sumser’s succinct and informative article and comments. Gerry Crispin of Careerxroads has written a recent Careerxroads Update containing a number of additional links to material about this ruling. For those of you who are SHRM members, he also provides a link to his 19-page whitepaper on the ruling and what it means. Once all of the dust settles, the OFCCP will have done what many of us have been trying to do for decades: Encourage organizations to define jobs by competencies and performance requirements. This not only makes for a fair process, but it also increases the quality of candidates and employees and makes measuring their performances more straightforward. When you have straightforward performance measurements, tied to competencies, you can continuously refine and improve your screening criteria. In the end, all of this will make your job easier and will allow you to provide your clients and hiring managers with the best possible people. This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.