If you are a federal contractor, you are probably aware that there are significant recordkeeping requirements for job applicants applying through the Internet. What you may not have considered is how the Internet Applicant Rule strongly ties to your use of modern recruitment solutions using applicant tracking systems (ATS) for federal contracts. If your ATS fails to follow Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) compliance rules, an audit could cost you thousands.
Understanding the Internet Applicant Rule and OFCCP Compliance
Federal rules require the capture of each applicant’s race, ethnicity, and sex. The Internet Applicant Rule requires companies with 150 or more employees and federal contracts of $150,000 or higher to retain all application and resume responses that come via the Internet for two years. For companies that fall below the threshold, the period is one year. If the company is involved in an audit or litigation, the records must be kept for the entire tenure of these legal proceedings.
The U.S. Department of Labor defines Internet applicants as “job seekers applying for work through the Internet or related electronic data technologies from whom contractors must solicit demographic information.” These applicants must satisfy these four criteria:
- The person expressed interest in the job via digital technology, whether an Internet career portal or an email.
- The contractor reviewed their application.
- The applicant stated they possessed the basic qualifications for the job.
- The job seekers did not recuse themselves from the application process at any point.
OFCCP guidelines require contractors to maintain information on their solicitation of demographic data from these candidates. Their ultimate goal is to ensure companies don’t use basic qualifications for the job to discriminate against a candidate. OFCCP’s compliance office reviews the records kept by the vendor’s recruitment, hiring, and other employment activities. Failing to comply could not only jeopardize your government contracts but could also cost you thousands of dollars in fines.
But that’s not all. Because this rule is associated with the perception that a company could be discriminating against a potential candidate, there could also be negative blowback tarnishing a company’s reputation.
Ironically, it is the actual way you track candidate data that could put you at risk for non-compliance with the OFCCP. While hiring managers concern themselves with human-related on-the-job discrimination and unconscious bias during the hiring process, it is these backend technology systems that could also put you in hot water.
Discrimination in Hiring and Your ATS for Federal Contracts
The OFCCP Internet Applicant Rule affects how data is captured from the more obvious technology tools like email, job banks, and applicant tracking systems (ATS). But the rules also cover:
- Any sourcing technologies that use keyword searches on social networks, online communities, or other Internet forums.
- Social networking.
- External candidate databases like job boards, colleges, or other communities.
- Talent networks that serve as a kind of pre-screen for candidates seeking employment.
Since most mid to large size companies store data in ATS or customer relationship management (CRM) platform, this rule is particularly notable for IT teams working with an ATS for federal contracts. For optimal OFCCP compliance, you should understand the rules related to the type of data, how it is stored, along with how long you store it. For example, your ATS should capture:
- Complete information on the reasons for not hiring the applicant. Having vague or inaccurate data is unacceptable for OFCCP compliance.
- The date you added each resume to the database and the search criteria you used to find the candidate.
- The specific job description that matches your candidate search.
Every candidate should have a consistent application process, even if they were a referral. This means if you invite in someone you know to interview for the job, they must through the same application process as any other candidate. This is an area where we often see mistakes but it’s a red flag for OFCCP compliance.
Additionally, there should be security features that restrict access to the ATS to specific users. This will help ensure that data cannot be viewed by recruiters or managers.
Modern recruitment solutions must document clear and consistent candidate disposition codes such as:
- Doesn’t meet basic qualifications.
- Candidate not interested.
- Company not interested.
- Candidate declined the offer.
Do not use vague terms like “more qualified applicant selected.” These metrics must be used consistently by anyone entering data into the ATS for federal contracts to remain intact. Anyone documenting data as part of the interview process should be trained in the ATS platform.
Using an ATS for Affirmative Action Recruiting
Hiring teams can use their ATS for federal contracts and also as part of their Affirmative Action Plan (AAP). The data captured in an ATS can be part of modern recruitment solutions geared toward inclusivity, whether the activity is recruiting marketing on social media, sourcing, or the application process.
Some of the features to look for in a federally compliant ATS include:
- A system with one-click feedback ratings to create consistency.
- Confidential data collection of EEO, disability, gender, and veteran status.
- Capture of applicant and non-applicant (sourcing) data.
TAM is both OFCCP and AA compliant with fully customizable recruiting workflows. End users can create custom interview guides that make for an easier and more consistent applicant disposition screening process with a star rating system to compare candidates at a glance.
Modern recruitment solutions require a link between your ATS platform and your AAP. While federal compliance is important, handling job candidates fairly is also simply the right thing to do. TAM can help your team stay compliant while also positioning your company as a forward-thinking, inclusive employer of the future.