The Ugly Truth About Diversity Recruiting Sources
March 22, 2013
The ugly truth about diversity 1 recruiting sources is that they are not successful in providing qualified candidates to most federal contractors. OFCCP statistics have revealed that in the past several years that the most prevalent deficiency cited in conciliation agreements (CA) is outreach, recruitment and recordkeeping. In FY2011, outreach and recruitment accounted for 59.9% of the violations, whereas recordkeeping and support data accounted for 42.5% of the violations.

Most contractors who had not shown efforts to recruit candidates through organizations that specifically target diverse candidates ended up signing a conciliation agreement with reporting requirements. In most cases, the language read similar to “XYZ Company failed to undertake appropriate outreach and positive recruitment activities that are reasonably designed to effectively recruit qualified veterans and individuals with disabilities...” Typically, reporting requirements include proof of new outreach efforts and “documentation of all individuals referred by any of the organizations, including but not limited to the name(s) of the individual(s) referred; date(s) of referral; final disposition of the referred individual’s application; and when applicable, the reason(s) why a referred individual was not hired.” Herein leads to the truth about the masses of newly created diversity recruiting organizations.

On our website, we have a list of diversity recruiting sources which we regularly update as we learn about new sources. Right now the list consists of 210 organizations, associations, publications, and job fair vendors geared to all types of diverse candidates. Some of the organizations on our list have come from OFCCP conciliation agreements, our client’s lists, and our own research. Most of them are fee-based organizations which provide challenges to most contractors facing tight budgets in this tough economy. Those companies that have bitten the bullet and paid the fees to source diverse candidates have not found much more success than using the non-fee based ones.

Whether a contractor was diligently conducting outreach prior to or after the signing of a conciliation agreement, the results seem to be the same. Good efforts do not equal good results. We are finding that in response to CA reporting requirements, our clients are able to show documentation to support contact made and jobs posted with diversity sources; however, we rarely are able to show any referrals and/or hires from the referral sources. Many of the OFCCP referral organizations don’t actually post but evaluate their candidate’s qualifications against the job posting submissions from the contractor. These organizations only refer candidates that they feel are qualified, which is a rare occurrence.

The OFCCP makes it clear that it is the contractor’s obligation to comply with the CA to contact and post with the diversity organizations; however, they have also communicated that the contractor should be assessing the effectiveness of the referral sources on a regular basis. So what does this mean for the contractor? In practice, this means evaluating the success of the agency referrals on a quarterly basis and regularly adding and changing the list of referral sources used until you find ones that are successful in referring qualified candidates. Does this sound like a full-time job? In most cases, contractors will tell you that it is a full-time job just trying to identify non-fee based diversity recruiting sources.

OFCCP has spent much time over the past year getting out into the community and developing linkage relationships with outreach organizations. These relationships have provided the OFCCP with a new list of organizations to add to conciliation agreements addressing recruitment violations. In OFCCP’s defense, some CAs clearly state that the contractor “must continue to solicit the assistance and support of the following organizations, and to similar additional organizations found by the contractor.” As communicated by several compliance officers, this is OFCCP’s way of saying, “if this list doesn’t work, then the contractors should find other organizations that do work.”

However, it is one thing for an organization to broadly say that they can help contractors with their recruiting efforts but it is another to be successful doing this for such a wide variety of contractor needs. There is obviously not a one-size-fits-all approach when sourcing candidates and filling jobs. Recruiting for entry-level manufacturing jobs is very different than recruiting for highly technical jobs or even those requiring a security clearance where the recruiting source used would be very different. Many of the sources identified by the OFCCP typically source the less skilled candidates for entry-level positions.

Food for thought: I’m sure that we are all in agreement that we must seek out creative ways to attract candidates but are other methods, such as targeted searches on LinkedIn or with business-related associations, successfully identifying diverse candidates? What happens when the contractors can prove that it has sourced and hired diverse candidates, but cannot provide evidence that they have utilized the organizations identified in the CA? Does a contractor have to specifically target organizations that market themselves as recruiting for diverse candidates to effectively source these groups of individuals?

We have a new client who just developed their first AAP and has recently received an OFCCP scheduling letter for their first audit. Even though they have not posted any of their openings with the state or conducted any diversity outreach during the prior year, veterans make up 67% of their workforce. It will be interesting to see if the OFCCP cites them for failing to meet the posting and outreach requirements in light of their strong veteran workforce representation. In the past three months, they have begun posting efforts with no success of receiving qualified candidates. In this case, their government clients and current employee base prove to be the best source of identifying veteran candidates but that may not be “good enough” to the OFCCP. We will have to wait and see!

According to the 2010 Census, the total US population increased by 9.7% since 2000; however, many multiple-race groups increased by 50% or more. The population reporting multiple races (9 million) grew by 32% since 2000. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, the labor force participation rate was 62.2% for Blacks, 64.7% for Asians, and 67.5% for Hispanics. Women, 16 years and older, represented 58.6% of the labor force. In 2011, 17.8% of persons with a disability were employed whereas the unemployment rate was 15%.

According to the Department of Labor Veteran Labor Force in Recovery report, in 2010, there were 11.8 million veterans working or looking for work, which represents 7.7% of the U.S. labor force. Women veterans accounted for 8.1% of all veterans in 2010.

Obviously there are enough diverse candidates available in the labor market but do they have the skills necessary to fill the contractor’s inventory of openings?

If the contractor can show that they are considering and placing diverse candidates, why should they have to also waste their time developing linkage relationships with organizations that will be of no assistance to them? This is not an efficient use of anyone’s time and will not help place diverse individuals.

So how can a government contractor meet its compliance requirements and spend its time and money wisely recruiting for high-quality candidates?

There is no obvious answer to this question but the way in which you communicate your efforts and successes can go a long way in showing the OFCCP that what you are doing is working. Needless to say, VEVRAA still requires you to post openings, below the executive level that remain open for more than three days, with the state employment service. There is no way around this requirement. For those other efforts that may be unorthodox by OFCCP’s views, I suggest keeping a log of what you are doing to defend your actions. Have you ever tried doing a search of the LinkedIn groups using the following broad search terms? I was amazed by the number of veteran groups in LinkedIn. Think about narrowing your search to something specific to your organization. For those of you in need of applicants with security clearance but don’t want to spend the money using a fee-based firm, consider posting your openings on one of the 36 groups specific to this area.

LinkedIn Group

When searching in Linkedin, follow the trail. I conducted a group search titled Veterans in the Pharmaceutical Industry which led me to one group titled Military Veterans in Pharmaceutical. This group “was created to be a resource tool for military veterans who have an interest in pursuing a career SPECIFICALLY IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY. Group members are encouraged to share job leads (within the pharmaceutical and biotechnology arena) by posting as a "discussion item" on our group page”. When you get to this page, it provides you with a list of other similar pages that people have explored that may provide additional recruiting resources, e.g. Military in Pharma, Military in Med Device, U.S. Military Veterans Network, etc.

Many may think that Craigslist is a search board for only entry level positions or jobs available in small companies only. This is not necessarily the case as there are boards specifically for jobs in the following professional fields: accounting/finance, architecture/engineering, biotech/science, business/management, legal/paralegal, software/quality assurance/database administrative, web/information design, etc.

This article is not specifically endorsing LinkedIn or Craigslist as there may be other similar job boards available. However, job boards similar to these tend to attract a broad group of individuals, many of which may fall into one of the protected classes in which you want to attract.

When performing these creative, non-traditional by OFCCP’s standards, approaches for identifying diverse candidates, remember to document, document, document. The safest mode of documenting is a screen-shot of a posting on a source group page. Even though there are no guarantees, if you can link a diversity hire to a specific diversity group, you should be able to easily demonstrate that your outreach efforts are successful even though you used a non-conventional resource.

1. [Diversity or diverse includes minority, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities]