The internet has become a significant tool to find the right talent. E-hiring or e-recruitment allows companies to access a global pool of workers with the desired skills. Employers can store electronic resumes, contact candidates, and conduct tests. Screening is conducted online and interview transcription allows recruiters to analyze the sessions and make hiring decisions. With e-hiring, companies have been able to reduce the time and cost associated with recruiting talent. For candidates, it offers a convenient way of getting placed in a good organization.
E-recruiting is implemented in several ways:
- Via in-house e-recruiting platforms managed by their own human resource managers
- Via social media – sites like Facebook and LinkedIn allows organizations to get in touch with millions of talented candidates.
- Using e-recruitment software that meets their specific needs
- Advertising and managing available positions through a recruiting agency
However, regardless of the method used, companies need to be knowledgeable about the employment law implications of e-hiring practices. As an article from HR.com points out, “all the do’s and don’ts that apply to the hiring process in general, which are designed to avoid discrimination and other claims, apply also to e-recruiting”.
Legal Risks of E-recruitment
The two e-recruiting risks that employers have to be careful to avoid are discrimination against protected classes and disparate impact against ethnic minorities and women. E-recruitment makes it easier to send in job applications. But the increase in application volume comes with increased litigation risk due to the greater likelihood that a qualified applicant will be overlooked. E-applications also pose security concerns. Overlooking these issues can pose legal risks for the organization.
Discrimination against protected classes: A protected class is a group of people that have something in common and are protected by the law. According to federal law, people cannot be targeted for discrimination or harassment based on factors such as race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, national origin, age, familial status, veteran status, or disability. When placing ads on social networks or asking questions, employers should avoid questions that relate to classes that are protected by discrimination laws.
Disparate impact: In the relation to employment, disparate impact occurs when members of a protected group or minority (e.g., a particular race, gender, etc.) receive unfavorable employment decisions (e.g., not being hired) more often than another nonminority group. For instance, when recruiting online, recruiters should carefully monitor the results of tests utilized in the hiring process to rule out any disparate impact on any protected class. Employers should be able to prove that the tests have been validated and that they are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
According to an article from Lexicology, research has proved that online tests such as personality, verbal and numeric reasoning, and situational judgment tests can have adverse impact. Also, employers should be aware of the risks when using social media to collect information about a candidate. For instance, if a candidate’s social media profile provides information about the candidate, such as their age, gender, sexuality, race, disability, political or religious affiliations, and familial circumstances, Lexicology points out that the candidate could argue that the potential employer relied on that information as the real reason to reject the candidate’s application. This may expose the organization to the risk of legal action on the grounds that the hiring decision was made for an “unlawful reason”.
E-application security concerns: HR.com highlights the security concerns associated with electronic job applications. While hard copy applications can be safely locked away, e-applications are vulnerable to misappropriation. Important information such as candidates’ social security numbers and email addresses can be misused. Experts even advise candidates not to provide sensitive personal information online, even if they have verified the authenticity of a job page.
Measures to Minimize Legal Complications in E-hiring
When implementing e-hiring practices, organizations would do well to take certain precautions to minimize legal issues:
- Limit scope of internet hiring: Organizations can consider using the internet to fill only a specific range of positions. This will minimize the consequences of discrimination associated with differential impact. For instance, if the skills required for the job are clearly spelt out in the job description, only a qualified applicant would be competent to apply. Typical occupations include engineers, accountants, web designers, etc. If they lack the skills for such jobs, applicants would be automatically disqualified. Organizations should recruit online for jobs that require basic computer skills and supplement electronic recruiting with more conventional methods.
- Authenticate information in electronic job applications: Candidates submitting hard copy applications are usually required to provide a statement certifying that the information they provide in the job application is true. This certification should be implemented for e-applicants too. HR.com recommends two ways to do this:
- Requiring the applicant to “click” a button labeled “approve” following a statement indicating their agreement to the specified terms and conditions
- Requiring the applicant to place their initials in a box indicating consent to the terms of the e-application
- Take measures to safeguard e-applications: Companies should have special precautions to safeguard applications received in electronic format. Also, as no system is foolproof, HR.com says that employers should consider informing candidates that they will make every effort to minimize unauthorized dissemination, but cannot guarantee privacy. Applicants should be required to acknowledge this disclaimer and authorize the disclosure of information by the employer as the employer deems necessary. Applicants who do not wish to accept the risk of unauthorized dissemination should have an alternative such as hard copy submission or via internet access at a company-maintained location.
- Avoid accepting resumes: According to HR.com, employers should stick to using the applications they design and avoid accepting resumes which are designed by the candidate. The advantage of e-applications is that they will ensure that candidates provide only the information that the employer wants. Excluding submission of undesirable information by the candidate is important for ensuring that a hiring decision was not made based on impermissible considerations such as race or gender. Applications which contain only the required information are also easier to process.
The key to ensuring legally compliant e-recruitment processes is to remain objective when evaluating applications. Organizations should also test their recruitment practices to ensure that they are non-discriminatory.
Incorporating video interviews and video transcription into the recruitment process can make the job of finding the right talent easier. A study conducted at the Kurt Lewis Institute in the Netherlands found that, when used appropriately, the video interview strategy is also discrimination free. According to the study, minority applicants preferred video interviews over paper resumes because they allowed more personal, frank responses. All the candidates were asked identical, automated questions. The research also found that video screening minimized geographical discrimination as candidates from all locations have interview experience on par with local candidates. Video allowed applicants to be interviewed at their home or office.