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Ultimate Guide to Online Recruiting

Recruiting the best talent is critical for a venture of any size, and recruiting online is critical for finding that talent in today’s marketplace. However, recruiting online isn’t easy. Are you or your firm doing your online recruiting in an efficient and legal manner?

Where to Recruit

Numerous websites devoted to online recruiting have sprung up in recent years. Two of the biggest and most well-known are Monster and CareerBuilder. These websites cover just about every industry in every job market.

Another type of online job board is devoted to a specific profession or field. Examples include LawCrossing for the legal industry and eFinancialCareers for financial professionals.

Aggregators are sites that pull job listings from across the internet and list them on their own sites. They also accept listings directly to the site itself. Indeed and Simply Hired are a couple of the more popular job aggregators.

If your business needs contractors or freelancers, platforms like Upwork are available for this. While these sites offer escrow payment protection and mediation, some also charge a small fee for their services as well. Also, be sure to read our article on the distinction between contractors and freelancers so as to avoid any potential pitfalls when hiring outside professionals.

One website that is often overlooked when seeking talent is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great place to find and be found by quality talent. It has job boards, industry-specific groups, and publishing options for account holders. LinkedIn should be part of your corporate or personal networking strategy whether or not you’re seeking to hire.

Attracting Candidates

Although using third-party websites to find talent is useful, it can be hard to stand apart from the noise. Not only that, but many websites charge to list job openings, and a tepid, two-paragraph listing tells quality candidates next to nothing about your organization, its culture, and why they should contact you.

One of the best methods for online recruiting is to use a resource you should already have—the company website. Attracting talent to your website gives you the chance to showcase your venture, describe your vision for the company, and control the entire user experience. Be sure not to bury your job listings too deeply in your site, though. Make it easy for qualified candidates to find and contact you, and they will.

Just like any good writer, it is important to focus your writing to your intended audience. When putting together your career page, be sure to target it to the type of candidate you seek to attract. If you’re looking for high achievers, talk about setting and meeting goals. If you are trying to increase your company’s diversity, develop content aimed at the groups you’re targeting.

Treat potential talent like clients or customers and use your careers page to explain how your company is different or special. Explain the benefits of working for you, not just the features of the company. Describe your company’s goals and reasons for being. Inform candidates about your corporate culture, your community involvement, benefits, testimonials, career progression—in other words, all the reasons why the candidate would want to join your team.

How to Write a Compelling Listing

Now that you have a candidate’s attention, what do you say? Showcasing the position and company is critical for successful online recruiting. First and foremost, use correct spelling and grammar. Nothing will turn a candidate off to your business faster than a misspelling in the listing.

Next, be sure to write in a voice that fits your business. Professional companies, companies in the financial sector, and high-end merchants and retailers should use formal language. Companies that have a little more relaxed corporate culture should use a more “down-to-earth” vernacular approach to their listings.

Be sure to sell your company in your job listing as well, briefly describing benefits, working conditions, the corporate culture, and so on. The candidate should have already seen this on the careers page, but in case the listing was forwarded to them by another or shown on an aggregator, you will still have had a chance to sell them on your company.

Thoroughly describe the position for which you are recruiting, warts and all. Be specific about the kind of candidate you’re seeking and the kind of educational and work background that is required. But don’t sugarcoat the position—list the duties that are less than glamorous as well. Although you may be tempted to hide or minimize the unappealing aspects of the job, it’s better to be forthcoming about them than to spend the time and effort hiring an employee only to have him quit because of them.

Give clear, concise, and complete directions. Let potential candidates know if you want a cover letter, references, or any other material. Tell them where to send their documents and in which format you prefer to have them. This is important for not only getting applications in the form you wish to have them, but it also separates out candidates who, for whatever reason, have trouble following directions.

Conducting the Interview

You’ve read all the résumés and selected a few candidates to bring in for an interview. What the candidate says and does in the interview is important, but what the interviewee says and does is important as well. Conducting a good interview can land you a great candidate, while conducting a bad one can land you in court.

First and foremost, federal law prohibits discrimination based upon race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or age. Some states have more protected categories, like marital status and sexual orientation. As a result, asking a question or making a remark that may touch on any of those topics opens the door for civil litigation in the event the candidate isn’t hired.

  • Don’t make promises regarding hiring or job security. An off-the-cuff remark about how the candidate is “sure to get the job” or that “nobody ever gets fired” may be interpreted as a promise that binds the company and may lead to serious problems later.
  • Don’t ask questions or make comments about a candidate’s disability, medical conditions, psychiatric treatment, prescription drugs, or the number of sick days a candidate took in a previous position. However, you may ask if the candidate needs reasonable accommodations if hired if the disability is obvious or the candidate raises the issue, or if each candidate is asked the exact same question as well. You may also ask the candidate to show how he would perform a necessary function. Finally, you may require a candidate to undergo a medical examination after an offer has been made.
  • Don’t ask questions or comment about a candidate’s history of workers’ compensation claims or if he was ever injured on a previous job. Don’t even ask if the candidate has filed a claim.
  • Don’t ask questions or comment about a candidate’s race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or age. As stated above, discrimination based upon these grounds violates federal law, so asking such a question to a candidate you later decline may force you to defend that question in court. Asking whether English is a candidate’s first language is a “don’t” as well, but the interviewer may ask questions regarding English fluency if it’s required for the job. You may ask a candidate if he can prove his legal right to work in the United States, but be sure to qualify the question that he will be asked to prove it only upon being hired. You may also ask a candidate if he can prove he is over eighteen, but again, make it contingent upon hiring.
  • Don’t ask questions or comment upon a candidate’s number of children, state of pregnancy, arrangements for child care, or family plans.
  • Don’t ask questions or comment upon a candidate’s history of arrests. Asking about arrests has been held to be discriminatory to minorities, but asking about convictions is permissible.
  • Don’t ask questions or comment upon a candidate’s possible illegal drug use. The only question a candidate may be asked is, “Do you currently use illegal drugs?”
  • Don’t ask questions or comment upon a candidate’s personal financial situation or home ownership status.
  • Don’t ask questions or comment upon a candidate’s personal appearance, whether good or bad.
  • Don’t ask questions or comment upon a candidate’s membership in organizations that are not relevant to the position. Asking about clubs or unions isn’t proper, but asking about professional organizations is fine.
  • Don’t ask questions about a candidate’s religion or lack of it. However, you may ask if working on the weekends presents a problem if it is necessary for that job.
  • Do take notes during the interview. However be sure the notes are detailed, objective, factual, and related to the position for which the interview is being held. These notes may be subject to discovery and used in court in the event of a lawsuit, so don’t write down anything you would not want read in open court.
  • Do ask the same questions of all candidates. It’s much harder for a candidate to claim he was singled out because of a characteristic or disability if all candidates were asked the same questions.
  • Do limit questions and discussions to job-related issues as much as possible. Not only does it help to avoid bringing up topics about a protected class or disability, it respects the candidate’s time as well.

You can control the questions that are asked in the interview, but you can’t control what the candidate says. If the candidate brings up a subject mentioned above, the best practice is not to continue the subject nor write it down in your notes.

The Offer Letter

Once you’ve identified the right candidate, the next step is to present him with a job offer letter. While not legally required, using an offer letter when hiring a candidate is usually a good idea. An offer letter typically includes the company’s name, the candidate’s name, the job title, the start date, the compensation, benefits (especially ones that were negotiated outside the company’s usual offerings), and a date by which the candidate must accept the job. A more thorough discussion of the terms that go into an offer letter may be found here.

An offer letter is a contract to hold open an offer of employment, not a contract for employment. A good offer letter will include language regarding the fact that the candidate is being employed “at will,” meaning that the individual’s employment may be unilaterally terminated with or without cause.

While the offer letter is not a contract for employment, it does have a legal function in binding the employer in a contract to hold open the offer until the time stated in the letter. That protects the candidate in the event he has to resign from another job or relocate.

By reducing the terms of the agreement to paper, the offer letter is simply a more formal way to outline what each party will receive in the employment relationship. Doing so may help avoid misunderstandings later on regarding the terms of employment.

Employment Contracts

In some situations, an employer may want the employee to sign an employment contract. Upon signing, an employee is no longer employed at will, and both parties are bound by whatever promises are made in the document.

Employment contracts are not the norm, but you should consider using them in instances such as:

  • securing an employee who is particularly talented,
  • securing an employee who is in an executive position,
  • securing an employee who has had a great deal of training at the expense of your company,
  • binding an employee who has access to your company’s trade secrets and instituting penalties for divulging them or competing with your company at a later date, and
  • establishing a standard of work expected from an employee and providing for termination if that standard is not met.

While there are significant advantages to using an employment contract, an employer must remember the disadvantages as well, such as being unable to lay off an employee if there is no work for him. Any changes in employment that either party wants to make means that the contract must be renegotiated and agreed upon by both parties. Also, in the event that the offer letter and the employment contract differ, the employment contract controls, so make sure that they both state the same terms.

Note that an employment contract establishes an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which is itself a separate cause of action. This means that, even if an employer is successful in fending off a breach of contract claim, the employee may prevail on an implied covenant claim and be entitled to damages from the employer on that basis alone.

The Employee Handbook

Although not legally required, any company with more than a few employees should have an employee handbook. The benefits of using an employee handbook are significant—it ensures that each employee has been given your company’s rules and policies, and it explains what the company expects of its employees. Outlining the company’s rules and policies help to avoid allegations of favoritism and discrimination. It also removes the onus of deciding certain issues related to employment off the shoulders of management, such as dress code, time off, overtime, insurance coverage, and so on.

Employee handbooks outline important company processes. Most large companies have progressive discipline rules, and those are usually spelled out in the handbook. The complaint process regarding conduct by other employees is spelled out as well. Other policies typically addressed in the employee handbook include the following:

  • Company ethos
  • Dispute arbitration
  • Pay schedule, deductions, and advances
  • Overtime rules
  • Rules for traveling while conducting company business
  • Breaks
  • Attendance policies
  • Performance review processes
  • Relevant employment laws and notices
  • Benefits

While a well-drafted employee handbook is a valuable tool, a poorly drafted one may do more harm than good, such as granting employees more rights than they have under the law. Poorly worded employee handbooks may also lead to misunderstandings and disputes between employees and management, or among employees. Additionally, it is important for employers to abide by policies laid down in the employee handbook, as failure to do so may undermine an employer in court.

Non-Compete Agreements and NDAs

The final piece in hiring is making sure that the new employee won’t harm the business at a later date. In order to prevent this, businesses should insure that employees sign non-compete, non-disclosure, and confidentiality agreements. These documents help protect the business from losing trade secrets to their competitors.

Another benefit is that they set out in black and white what the employee’s responsibilities are as they relate to those trade secrets, such as insuring the return of sensitive information, and diligently guarding that information against theft and espionage. Non-compete agreements prevent an employee from using such information in a competing business. A more thorough discussion of non-compete agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and confidentiality agreements can be found on our website.