Caution: Internet Recruitment Could Be Risky to Your Organization

As recruiters, we continuously look for new and better ways to use the Internet in our sourcing and recruiting efforts. Rarely, however, do we stop to consider the legal issues that have emerged. The Internet has definitely changed the way we recruit, but it has opened up some additional risks as well. While I am not attempting to give legal advice here, I would like to create awareness of some potential traps for recruiters who rely on the Internet as a recruiting medium. Defining an Applicant The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) defines an applicant as anyone who expresses an interest in employment, whether it be verbal or written. For most of us this not practical, especially when we are inundated daily with resumes via the Internet, many of which fail to meet the stated requirements. We’ve all expressed this frustration at one time or another – resumes are submitted with no regard to the posted position. Our team suggests something similar to the following example guidelines:

  1. An applicant is an expression of interest from someone who is not currently employed by the company. There must be an open position. The applicant must first meet minimum requisite skills to fulfill the required functions of the job. A company-approved application for employment must be filled out and a voluntary self-declaration form providing race and gender should also be filled out.
  2. An applicant is anyone wishing to be considered for a position who has attended a company orientation, successfully completed a skills-related test, and completed a company approved application for employment.

These are just examples. The key here is to 1) have a definition, 2) publish it for anyone who would be involved in the hiring process and 3) be consistent. The definition you ultimately use should be created in conjunction with legal expertise. Disparate Impact Risks The Internet has broken down many communication barriers and altered the way we locate and communicate with candidates. However, it is important to remember that computer usage is considered concentrated among certain populations and that the ability to retrieve and comprehend the information available may be limited by some with certain disabilities. So what does all of this mean? For starters, organizations that rely heavily on the Internet to create applicant flow could open themselves to disparate impact and/or discrimination claims. Here are few things to consider:

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  • For positions where the ability to use the Internet, such as webmaster, is a necessary job function, use of the Internet is appropriate.
  • For non-Internet related positions, incorporating other media as part of your sourcing plan can reduce your risk.
  • Don’t limit applicant response to the Internet only, and don’t make screening and hiring decisions based on means of applying.

Resume Screening With increased demands on recruiting, we are constantly in search of tools to automate some of our processes. Many of us have come to rely on resume screening software. When using this software, limit the use of keywords to job-related skills or experience. In other words, avoid using such terms as graduation date or zip code. One final recommendation from our experts is not to reply to all resumes or expressions of interest. Once you make the decision to reply to any, you then must respond to every expression of interest in the same way and consider that expression of interest for future positions as well. In other words, if you automatically send an email acknowledgement for a resume you received via the internet, you must also respond to all resumes received via fax or snail mail. An alternative solution is to have a disclaimer that those meeting the definition of an applicant and considered for a position would receive self-identification forms. To reduce potential risk, have a well-defined hiring process and adhere to it. The bottom line here is that while use of the Internet is an important part of an overall recruiting strategy, it should not be your only means for locating and communicating with potential applicants. To do so could put your company at risk. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Kimberly Bedore ( is a consultant and public speaker who develops and implements staffing solutions for clients, resulting in increased efficiencies and significant cost savings. She uses her wide range of recruiting experience to provide companies with a wealth of information related to sourcing and sourcing strategies, recruitment training, and the implementation of solutions and metrics that enable a higher degree of staffing effectiveness.


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