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Internet Based Recruiting 5/2/2011
How You Can Get Yourself In Trouble If You Are Not Careful
By: Dr. Nick Dayan

In a world gone “green” where paper is “out” and computers are “in”, and in a business climate where streamlining processes is prevalent, using the internet for finding applicants is becoming the normal process in more and more companies. In many “resume mining” circles, using the internet has positive attributes that may be appealing; however the disadvantages could cause a situation that have ethical and moral issues as well as possible legal implications. The concern for loss of privacy, lack of confidentiality, and potential discriminatory accusations of an applicant is possible and is being reviewed by many state and federal agencies.

Curiosity and Personal Information CAN Get You in Trouble

A candidate’s personal information that can be seen on websites such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others may be inappropriate for employers to use and can possibly violate legal provisions. Employment lawyers are giving stern warnings to recruiters in companies that are using social media to “view” a potential candidate. It is important to realize that you very well in fact could be violating EEOC law. To protect potential candidates from discrimination, the practice of asking various personal questions for use as criteria in the selection process such as age, gender, race, and ethnicity, were outlawed. Just as it is no longer appropriate to ask for a photograph, you can find yourself in trouble if you are using social media to base your decision on race, creed, or gender. It may be tempting to use a search engine or social media site to find out who the applicant “is” and what they may “look like”, but resist it. Unfortunately many do it, but it is legally, ethically and morally wrong. Because of the ease of online “people profile searches”, you must now document reasons why an applicant is not qualified to protect yourself and your company. Otherwise, if someone claims you were discriminatory, you will be in hot water.

According to one survey of employers, (Baidas, July 2009, Lawyers Warn Employers… National Law Journal), about three-fourths of hiring managers of various sized companies checked a person’s credentials on LinkedIn, more than half also used Facebook, and almost one-forth checked Twitter. Some of the concerns that have begun to test the legal boundaries of employment law relate to information gained from these sights about terminations, racial and ethnic background, gender discrimination and social acquaintances. All of these could lead to charges of employer selections procedures as being considered biased, unfair, or outright illegal. Therefore, using the internet has its advantages and disadvantages for recruiting.

Benefits

Given that employers and recruiters have found a number of advantages to using internet recruiting methods, they proceed with extreme caution in handing this electronic information. The advantage that stands out the most when it comes to using the internet for generating applicant flow is the enormous cost savings.

Internet recruiting versus other recruiting methods such as newspaper advertising, employment agencies, and search firms, all of which can have a substantial cost associated with them, are being “axed” from the corporate budgeting process. Although cost is certainly an issue, and employers are quite concerned about cost per hire as well as the cost of vacancies, consideration should be given to using the internet in conjunction with other applicant flow processes.

Another major advantage is that a very large pool of applicants can be generated using on-line recruiting. Potential candidates may view an employer more positively and obtain more useful information about the company which could generate a higher number of applicants. One side benefit of this type of recruiting is that jobs are posted globally, so potential applicants in other geographic areas and countries can view job openings. This in turn improves the ability to include more diverse persons from a larger audience base.

Internet recruiting can also save time. Applicants can respond quickly to job postings by sending electronic responses, rather than using “snail mail”. This aids in obtaining additional applicant information quickly and reduces the amount of time that a position remains vacant.

Dangers

These are just a few of the positive attributes associated with Internet recruiting. There are a number of disadvantages as well.

According to Larry Humberstone, Co-owner of PJ Lawrence & Associates, an internationally known placement company, a major issue with internet recruiting is that a larger number of resumes must be reviewed. Because of broader exposure, internet recruiting often creates additional work for the HR staff members and other members of the management family internally. Specifically more online job postings must be developed and websites must be maintained and updated often. More emails have to be dealt with on a constant and timely basis. In addition, expensive specialized software may be needed to track and in many cases scan the increased number of applicants resulting from these recruiting efforts. The amount of time it takes to personally review each resume may not be viewed as cost effective for some companies who have limited personnel resources. Scanning software looks for key words in a resume and may disqualify an otherwise exceptional candidate. (Yes another disadvantage.)

Probably the most dangerous disadvantage that may have legal implications or more appropriately stated as complications, is what may be considered the discriminatory practices involved with on-line recruiting. Some applicants may have limited or no internet access, especially applicants from lower socioeconomic classes, who may belong to minority ethnic groups. This becomes a disadvantage not only to the individual, but for the company when seeking the best qualified candidate. Not allowing a way to submit an application without a computer and/or internet access may be viewed as discriminatory. You may also be missing out on a top-notch, actively engaged candidate.

One final disadvantage that I am sure is in the minds of many an employers is that many individuals who access internet recruiting sources are just “fishing” and may not necessarily be serious about changing jobs. Employed individuals who may not be considering other jobs but who are willing to test the waters are called “Passive Job Seekers”. With today’s technology, it is easy and convenient to send out a dozen or more resumes in “the blink of an eye”. In other words, these individuals who are “fishing” are submitting resumes just to see what happens but are not actively seeking a job. This is very time consuming and in many cases a waste of valuable resources that could be dedicated to finding a serious candidate.

Conclusion

Realistically, internet recruiting will in most cases attract the people who are desirable candidates. However, efforts should be made to ensure that efforts in attracting the “right” applicants are a legally sound process and follow a solid corporate policy program. A good internet recruiting program attracts the largest possible number of applicants and makes recruiting efforts successful without violating discrimination laws.

Therefore keep you and your company out of legal hot water. Make sure that all information about potential candidates (whether electronic or paper) is just as safe and secure as you do with your current employee files. Since laws are ever changing, periodically review your recruiting and ultimately your selection procedures with legal counsel, in the long run you will be glad you did.

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