By: Melanie Berkowitz, Esq.
Do you remember the Jetsons -- the futuristic cartoon that featured flying cars, beds that made themselves and, with a touch of a button, long-distance “face to face” conversations? One episode even depicted a robot in charge of recruiting and hiring.
Technology has certainly become an integral part of today’s hiring process. In fact, it’s now feasible for a job applicant to not visit the worksite or even shake hands with his or her future boss until right before –-- or even after -- receiving a job offer. In fact, virtual recruiting has the potential to save time and money in an age when recruiters and companies are often inundated with hundreds -- or even thousands -- of resumes for review. Yet it also raises legal and practical considerations.
Employers who follow a few best practices with their virtual recruitment strategy will have the most success -- and fewest missteps -- when it comes to using technology with new recruiting strategies.
How to Conduct a Legal Interview -- Virtually
In some ways, virtual interviews raise the same legal issues as traditional recruitment strategies. Whether the interview process is conducted by a recruiter, a prospective supervisor, or an on-line “pre-screen” computer program, interview questions must not violate EEOC guidelines to maintain a legal hiring process. Also, interview questions cannot discriminate on the basis of a candidate’s protected characteristics, including race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
Because virtual interviewing provides employers with the opportunity to ask each candidate the same question in the exact same way, helping to reduce the chance of a misstep on the part of the interviewee. By the same token, however, an improperly worded interview question or unlawful subject matter that’s included in the virtual interview could create widespread problems.
As with traditional recruitment strategies, employers should work with employment lawyers and human resource professionals to insure that their interviewing techniques and questions are lawful and appropriate and their interviewers and decision-makers are trained in non-discrimination practices.
Reaching a Wider Selection of Candidates
For companies that are concerned about reaching a diverse applicant pool or demonstrating that they are an “equal opportunity employer,” virtual technology can actually help employers to recruit across a much wider area.
For example, Job Search Television Network allows companies to create a “virtual open house” for interested job applicants. “With a virtual open house, employers can easily market themselves to potential employees all over the country without having to spend the time and money attending in-person job fairs,” explains Lindsay Stanton, Senior Vice President of Sales and Strategy. “Candidates simply log in and are connected with a recruiter for a real-time, “face to face” discussion about the company at issue.”
Using tools such as the virtual open house allow employers to target job candidates from faraway places, helping to diversify the applicant pool. It can also help level the playing field between those applicants who have the opportunity to speak to a recruiter and those who would otherwise have to submit a resume without any personal contact. “When a recruiter has a plethora of resumes to review, having “met” a candidate at a virtual job fair helps make a connection that wouldn’t be there otherwise,” says Stanton.
Get Appropriate Waivers and Releases
Just as you would in other situations, you’ll want to find a reputable vendor “if you want to use video interviewing or online pre-screening to find top talent,” says Kevin Grossman, founder and principal of Marcom HRsay. “The company should provide consent forms and disclosures that inform candidates as to what exactly is being recorded, whether it is voice-only, voice and image, or simply the answers to questions they type into the computer.” Grossman adds that a proper disclosure will also explain how the recording will be used by the prospective employer.
Also, be aware that some virtual recruiting tools may implicate the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If an employer uses an outside company to pre-screen applicants, the vendor may be considered a “consumer reporting agency”, in which case both vendor and employer are required to meet a number of legal requirements which include having candidates sign a release.
Virtual Recruiting Tools for both Large and Small Companies
If your company is new to virtual recruiting, the multitude of available products and tools can be daunting. Employers who have built their reputation on personal relationships may worry that automation will be at odds with their culture-based recruiting strategy.
Experts agree that virtual recruiting will never completely replace the in-person interview, but that when used appropriately for targeted purposes and positions, it can add value to every hire.
“Virtual recruiting is particularly useful -- even for a smaller company -- at the screening stage,” explains Grossman. “Using an online screening product, where an applicant logs in and answers a series of “gatekeeping” questions, helps narrow the field to qualified applicants without using a lot of man-hours.”
Dianne Michels, CEO and founder of Serendipity HR, agrees. “Online screens are a useful tool for getting a large amount of consistent information from a number of candidates, so you can decide who to take to the next level.”
Michels cautions employers to be more selective, however, when using virtual interviewing products. “For some jobs and some organizations, you can only assess the intangible “fit” of a candidate with an in-person meeting,” she explains. “And remember, you may need to sell your company to the candidate too, and it’s hard to communicate culture and environment over a video screen.”
To combat that concern, Grossman suggests using virtual interviews to hire for positions that will utilize video technology on a regular basis. “’Face-to-face’ with a customer means something different in today’s business,” he explains. “Customer service, sales, marketing and business development roles already conduct a lot of business “virtually.” Grossman says that companies will want to hire employees who are comfortable with the medium for these types of positions.
The Importance of Onboarding in Virtual Recruitment
Once hired, employees who have been “virtually” recruited may have a more difficult time feeling connected to their employer, particularly if they have never visited the workplace. It is up to the employer to make certain that these employees are taken through an onboarding process to ease their transition.
“It’s important to make all new employees feel like they are an integrated part of the workplace, says Michels. “But when you are talking about someone who might not have visited the office before being hired, a well-planned onboarding process can mean the difference between a successful employee and redoing the job search next year.”
Even with these challenges, Grossman sees virtual recruiting as an efficient and effective way for employers to create a ‘short list’ of candidates to meet face-to-face before making a final decision, adding, “This combination of automation and individuality gives companies the most opportunities to find top talent that fits their workplace and culture.”
Legal Disclaimer: None of the information provided herein constitutes legal advice on behalf of Monster.