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What’s Your Online Reputation?

Joan Jett may not have cared about her Bad Reputation, but job candidates who are active online need to be conscious managers of their personal brand.  Likewise, as recruiters are increasingly leveraging search and social media tools to source and screen candidates, they need to be careful to comply with existing EEOC guidelines related to candidate information.  Dr. Rainer Seitz of the Kronos Hiring Solutions Group offers the following thoughts on the topic of online reputation management for candidates and recruiters:

Have you ever “Googled” yourself? I was surprised to learn that there is indeed another Dr. Rainer Seitz in the world, although he is apparently an MD. I was not surprised to see my professional and teaching affiliations, as well as my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, all come up in the first ten “hits.” Digging a little further, there’s some information about an online car club I belong to, and some references to layoff articles for which I was interviewed. After that things trail off for the most part. That’s just fine with me, although I feel compelled to note that my life really is more interesting than Google would suggest, but I digress.

I wonder how many job candidates out there would be surprised to see how much of a footprint they have on the internet. There would probably be even greater surprise to learn that many recruiters and HR professionals are turning into sleuths and tracking down those very footprints to learn more about candidates applying for jobs with their organizations. A recent survey commissioned by Microsoft found that 86% of US hiring managers have informed candidates that information uncovered during an online search resulted in their disqualification from the selection process. What is perhaps more surprising is that organizations actually have policies in place that require online investigation of candidates. Seventy-five percent of US recruiters in the survey mentioned above acknowledged that their organizations have such a policy. So not only are hiring managers and recruiters admitting to the use of these tactics, their organizations are often requiring them to do so. While this may be news to many job candidates, awareness of the importance of a person’s online “brand” is increasing. For example, Syracuse University has taken proactive steps to help their graduating seniors to manage their online reputations by purchasing six-month subscriptions with an internet service designed to do so.

As tempting as it may be for recruiters and hiring managers to execute a few mouse clicks to uncover information about job candidates, any information we learn about candidates may be the very information that employment laws prohibit us from asking about during the hiring process. We may learn about candidates’ marital status or whether they have children. Information that we come across may reveal their financial status, or the existence of certain medical conditions. We may learn about their religious practices as a result of groups to which they belong. Photos that we come across online may reveal information about their ethnicity. While our intent may not be to factor this specific information into our hiring decisions, simply accessing it raises the question of whether we have taken it into consideration. The EEOC tends to operate under the assumption that if a hiring manager obtains certain information about a candidate, the intent is to utilize it in making the hiring decision. The rule of thumb offered by the EEOC is that “information obtained and requested through the pre-employment process should be limited to those essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job.”

Although investigating the online reputation of job candidates may reveal important information relevant to the hiring decision, the risks inherent in doing so may not be worth it. The most effective and legally-defensible selection systems have job-relatedness as their foundation. This usually starts with a job analysis to determine relevant knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics. Job analysis information is then used to identify appropriate selection criteria, such as minimum qualifications questions or pre-employment assessments. Once we venture outside the realm of job-relatedness, we very well may be treading in a legal mine field.

The sentiment among employment law attorneys seems to be that it is just a matter of time before we begin to see lawsuits from candidates who feel that they were discriminated against in the hiring process as a result of being investigated online. This is arguably one area in which employers should proceed very cautiously. Your best bet is to stick with information for which job-relatedness can clearly be shown. That may ultimately mean eliminating or at least significantly restricting the use of Google, Facebook, and other internet sources of candidate information in your hiring process.

May Retail Labor Index

The May release of the Kronos Retail Labor Index reveals that in April 2010, both applications and hirings increased approximately 20% over March 2010.  Applications increased slightly more, bringing the Index down to 4.10% in April, from 4.17% in March.  This seasonally adjusted Index level means that for every 100 applications received, 4.10 hirings occurred.

One of the indicators we are tracking is new hire retention, an attrition rate which is calculated from Kronos’ client data.  While application volumes reflect how many people seek a job, retention measures how many new hires are actually remaining on the job.

Currently, retention is at all-time highs and is continuing to increase even as hiring rates have picked up over 2009.  This indicates that employees are not willing, or are not able, to leave their jobs.  However, the rate of increase of new hire retention has slowed.  Should we see retention rates increase more slowly and then decline that will be solid evidence of a retail labor market turn-around.

Unfortunately, more than 40% of the unemployed are considered long-term unemployed (over 6 months).  As part of this, we are seeing a growing disparity in the rates of the unemployed who are receiving unemployment benefits, vs. those who are not, leading to additional concern that unemployment benefits are running out for large numbers of the long-term unemployed.

Submitted by Kelly Northrup, Kronos Hiring Solutions Group

Dr. Krauss Goes to Atlanta: Reflections From the 25th Annual SIOP Conference

Our science team recently attended the annual conference for the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) and had the opportunity to  present about a dozen sessions on a diverse set of topics such as employee selection, on-boarding, scheduling, statistics, and compliance issues.  This year was also the 25th annual conference and with almost 4,000 attendees, there was a great mix of academicians, researchers, and practitioners present.  Following are Dr. Autumn Krauss’ reflections on the key themes and content:

It seems that you can get a pulse of the discipline by reviewing the quantity and quality of sessions by topic along with attendance at the sessions themselves (attendees either spilling into the hall or a cavernous empty room).  There are over 300 sessions and the topics covered within the conference are as diverse as the discipline of I/O psychology.  The proposal process is competitive and the standards for acceptance are high, so you can definitely get a sense from the conference program of what I/O psychologists are thinking about and hopefully this aligns with what issues are of current interest and importance in organizations.  So, here are some themes I saw running through the conference this year:

  • People Analytics – I attended a pre-conference practitioner workshop entitled Using HR Data to Make Smarter Organizational Decisions. There were also several sessions on topics like Workforce Analytics and People Analytics. Overall, there is a large push within human resources to first integrate data coming from multiple sources and at multiple levels of analysis and to second use the data to make informed organizational decisions.  Very few workshop participants indicated their organizations were “best in class” with respect to the integration and use of data.  A couple of success stories from Google, which was represented as a co-presenter of the workshop, left me more inspired than overwhelmed by showing how small steps towards data integration and science-based decision-making can still translate into big wins with improved organizational processes and greater respect for the human resources function.
  • The Impact of the Economy – Several sessions focused on how job-seekers, employees, human resource professionals, and organizations navigate the economic turmoil that we’ve seen the past few years.  Session titles included Building Organizational Resilience during Financial Crisis, Talent Management in the Turbulent Economy, and Managing Human Capital during the Economic Downturn.
  • Social Networking – Researchers and practitioners alike seemed to understand at this conference that the power of social networking should be harnessed to facilitate talent management functions and quite a few sessions focused on this issue.  That being said, I saw a lot more panels on this topic (people offering ideas about what can and should be done) rather than research presentations where people are already doing it.  The research that seemed to be the furthest along was descriptive in nature – for instance, surveys describing the frequency that recruiters access applicants’ social networking profiles when evaluating them as candidates.  Hopefully next year as a discipline we’ll be a little further along in understanding how social networking can be leveraged in more tangible ways for areas like employee selection and performance management.
  • Sustainability – Several sessions focused on the role of sustainability and associated topics such as corporate social responsibility within organizations.  These sessions looked at this topic at a macro level (what benefits do organizations achieve such as improved employment brand if they are viewed as socially responsible) to the micro level (what environmentally responsible behaviors do individual employees engage in and what motivates them to do so).
  • Legal Issues – Organizations are seeing increased activity from government agencies such as the EEOC and OFCCP.  Several sessions discussed this trend with participants offering ideas about what organizations should do to be prepared for this increased scrutiny.  Also within the legal realm, a handful of sessions focused specifically on the implications of the Supreme Court decision in the Ricci case for employee selection practices.
  • Hourly Workers – Every year our team keeps an eye out for sessions focused on hourly workers.  They are always few and far between and often out-numbered by sessions on executive assessment and development.  We presented two research studies focused on hourly workers this year and reiterated the importance during our sessions on studying this unique population that has not gotten the attention it deserves as a focus of research.  All in all, I was disappointed in the scarcity of sessions focused on hourly workers this year again.

You can learn more about the conference at and see some commentary and photos from the conference at SIOP’s blog here For those of you who attended the conference, I look forward to hearing any insights you might have gained as well.