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Tips for HR to Manage an Overload of Resumes and Avoid Legal Issues

Unemployment rates have skyrocketed, many companies have downsized or implemented hiring freezes, and everyone seems to be looking for a job. The current economic climate has created an employer’s market for most organizations. Although it’s desirable to have many candidates for open positions, human resources pros may be drowning in the deluge of resumes pouring into their offices. Large organizations may receive thousands of resumes a day, while smaller employers may collect hundreds of resumes for just one open position.

While the economy and unemployment rates are the main causes of this massive influx of resumes, there are several other contributing factors. Job postings are easier to find, and with only a few keystrokes, job applicants can now send resumes quickly and inexpensively. Many job searchers also use the Internet to either upload or e-mail their resumes directly to organizations.

This resume overload is advantageous because many top-quality candidates have returned to the job market. However, there are also many unqualified candidates flooding the market with their resumes. How should HR deal with the practical and legal issues of receiving such an overwhelming onslaught of resumes?

HR Guide to Employment Law: A practical compliance reference manual covering 14 topics, including hiring

Practical solutions
There are several practical solutions to help HR deal with the avalanche of resumes overwhelming their organizations.

Software solutions. Your first priority must be the screening and assessment of candidates. Resume and application review software may be one viable solution for dealing with resume surplus. Most online job boards provide applicant screening as part of their service. Also, sophisticated software that analyzes resumes and employment applications for keywords and phrases is available. However, you want to make sure your software filters don’t cause legal complications by creating a non-diverse candidate pool.

Questionnaires. You may also want to pre-screen job applicants by using a questionnaire all applicants complete when they apply for a position. This is a cost-effective method for finding the best candidates for your open job. It’s best to use a questionnaire when the position requires specific skills, experience, education, or licensing/certification. You can implement a questionnaire through your company’s website, a job board with the capability to use questionnaires, or an outside company that develops and hosts questionnaires. You will need only a few questions (generally involving an applicant’s education and experience) to extract enough information to effectively prescreen applicants.

Other options. There are several other options you may want to consider when dealing with resume excess. First, you want to make sure you create clear, detailed job descriptions so job searchers will understand what the position entails. Second, you may need to consider hiring a recruiter for certain executive or hard-to-fill positions. Finally, you may also want to use your current employees through internal development programs, job restructuring, or employee referral programs.

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Legal issues
The resume glut also raises many legal issues regarding the hiring process, record keeping, and securing documents.

Consistency. The fundamental rule for the entire hiring process is consistency. Uniformity in your hiring methods is key to avoiding and defending discrimination lawsuits. You should choose and stick with a standard method for reviewing and analyzing resumes and responding to candidates. Also, if you reject a candidate, always include the reason for the rejection in your file. However, be sure not to include any irrelevant comments on interview notes or applications because you certainly don’t want to see them used as an exhibit in a discrimination claim.

Requiring applications. To further ensure consistency in your hiring process, you may also want to require that all applicants fill out an employment application, regardless of whether they give you a resume. Requiring an application from all applicants allows you to ensure you are asking for the same information from every applicant. It’s essential that you are consistent in receiving applications from all applicants because accepting less from certain candidates may be seen as discriminatory.

Keeping documents. You can easily accumulate stacks of documents during the hiring process, but the question remains: What do you need to keep and for how long? You will want to keep all resumes, job applications, and interview notes for at least one year. Any documents relating to advertising and recruiting for an open position also need to be retained for at least a year. You will need to save all employment testing documentation for a year as well, and if the documents are medical in nature, be sure to keep them in a separate file to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Securing documents. Now you know what hiring documents to keep, but how do you secure and store them? You have an obligation not only to retain documents for a certain period of time but also to make sure the documents are secure. To save space and cost, you may want to consider electronic storage by scanning documents. You will want to make sure any documents containing personal information are either locked in a safe place or electronically secure.

Basic Training for Supervisors, including hiring

Bottom line
There are effective solutions for dealing with the overwhelming amount of resumes coming into your office. You need to plan and implement screening and assessment techniques to help initially narrow down your applicant pool. Then follow the appropriate legal guidelines to protect your organization by making sure you are in compliance with all relevant laws. Finally, you must make sure you have standardized procedures for all aspects of your hiring process, and you must consistently follow them.