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Is your company's job applicant-tracking system making compliant inquiries?

MaryEllen O’Neill ( is a consultant based in Washington, DC, with 20 years of compliance experience.

One of the first impressions a job applicant and potential new employee has of your company is your online job applicant-tracking system (ATS), so when was the last time you or someone on your team reviewed your company’s ATS for compliance with current employment and other laws? I have been surprised by the number of systems that directly or indirectly request information prohibited by either federal or state law—and often both. And these are not small operations that lack the knowledge or manpower (but who would nonetheless be liable); they are substantial companies with large legal and compliance departments. Pre-employment inquiries should be solely geared to an applicant’s job capability. When using an ATS to screen applicants, the overriding question should be: What do I need to know prior to the interview about a candidate’s ability to do the job? These are just some of the most common issues I have seen with ATSs in use.

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