Workforce.com

New Association Seeks Relief On OFCCP Data Rule

March 2, 2006
In early February, a new federal rule went into effect that requires federal contractors to record demographic information--including race and gender--about applicants applying for jobs through the Internet.

On the same day that the Department of Labor’s rule took effect, nearly 500 Internet job boards formed a new trade association. One of the primary goals of the organization is to strengthen the voice of the industry on policy matters. And while the rule from the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs didn’t inspire the creation of the association, it will be at the top of its list of priorities.

Job board executives say that when employers try to fill jobs through the Internet, they do initial scans potentially involving thousands of résumés before they start to whittle the applicants down to a more manageable number. If demographic information must be kept on each résumé that is sifted, it could overwhelm sites’ storage capacity.

"The data collection they’re asking (for) is almost impossible," says Don Firth, president and CEO of JobsInLogistics.com and AllRetailJobs.com. "The level is just humongous." He warns that some sites may start to put restrictions on searches so that they can keep pace with record keeping.

Now that the International Association of Employment Web Sites has been formed, the views of people like Firth can be framed and elevated in the policy debate. Peter Weddle, the association’s executive director, says the group will make its case about the definition of an Internet applicant to Labor Department officials. The job association’s site is at www.employmentwebsites.org. Membership fees range from from less than $1,000 to several thousand dollars, based on the board’s revenue.

"We are going to find ways to meet the letter and spirit of the law without the onerous data collection that would make the searches of online databases too problematic," Weddle says. "We now have 500 sites expressing their point of view to the government."

The group includes big general boards, such as CareerBuilder, Monster and Yahoo HotJobs; major daily newspapers with online job listings, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal; international sites; and niche sites.

One goal of the association is to set its members apart from questionable sites among the some 40,000 employment boards on the Web by requiring them to adhere to high standards of customer service and ethics. "We wanted to provide legitimate job boards a way to differentiate themselves from those who were dabbling in a back bedroom," Weddle says.

The association hopes that its logo on a job Web site will save employers from costly mistakes. "The fact that there’s a stamp of approval for job boards will save companies money," Firth says. "It shows legitimacy."

Beyond bestowing an imprimatur of quality and addressing issues like privacy protection, the association also will be a conduit for communication about best practices and changes in the industry.

"The great thing about IAE is that it will provide a forum for discussion of things that have yet to be played out," says Cecilia Dwyer, president of TrueCareers, a job site connected to Sallie Mae, the student loan organization.

The association also will bolster the case for job boards as they face increased competition from vertical search engines like Google. Boards are "one of the most robust areas of e-commerce that has ever been created," Weddle says.

Mark Schoeff Jr.