Does e-recruitment shut the door on otherwise suitably qualified job applicants?

By jonathancloete, 13 March, 2013

Unlike with the traditional recruitment process, where a person receives an applicant's CV, and manually decide whether or not he makes an interview shortlist, the use of e-recruitment require that applicants complete at least three to four screening questions, which will determine whether the door will be opened to you. The kind of screening question typically are whether you have a B-degree or equivalent, how many years of experience you have, what languages you speak, whether you have a driving license. As these question establishes the minimum requirement for a shot at being considered for a shortlist, failing on either of them could see your application being regretted on the spot.


The question therefore is, how compatible is e-recruitment with the spirit of Section 20(3) of the Employment Equity Act of 1998? This provision of the EEA defines a person suitably qualified for a job as a person who may qualify, as a result of "any of, or any combination" of the following: (a) formal qualifications, (b) prior learning, (c) relevant experience, or (d) capacity to acquire, within a reasonable time, the ability to do the job. In light of this, rejecting a person's application which may otherwise be suitably qualified must be an act of discrimination on one or a combination of the listed criteria in the EEA. Feedback from the e-recruitment process is almost instantaneous, usually with a message to the effect that you have either not met the minimum formal qualifications or the relevant experience. While I may not understand all the activities that may happen in the background during the seconds the e-recruitment programme process the application, the rejection on the basis of these screening questions clearly ignores the online CV many applicants spent hours completing.


Section 20(4) of the EEA outlines a process to be followed when considering an application for employment, which states that "When determining whether a person is suitably qualified for a job, an employer must - (a) review all the factors listed in subsection (3); and (b) determine whether that person has the ability to the job in terms of any one of, or any combination of those factors". While many employers state that applicants must have a B-degree, very few, if any are specific about the nature of this degree. Most will require a relevant degree, which has proven often to be a rather vaguely relative to the job at hand. An e-recruitment system does not seek to interrogate the relevance of the B-degree, it simply seek to establish its existence.


The question that arises therefore is whether this practice could be deemed discriminatory? Section 5 of the EEA requires that when making a determination on the suitability of an applicant, in terms of Section (4), the person making this decision "may not unfairly discriminate against a person solely on the grounds of that person's lack of relevant experience". It would appear, therefore, that neither a formal qualification (degree) without experience, relevant experience without a degree, nor prior learning should be automatic grounds for rejection.


Are employer’s and recruitment agencies getting away with covert discrimination, because applicants are unlikely to challenge an adverse decision taken this early in the process?


Jonathan Cloete

Quantum Employment Relations Solutions

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