“My wife is always trying to get rid of me. The other day she told me to put the garbage out. I said to her I already did. She told me to go and keep an eye on it.”
Such is the problem with affirmative action plans – adverse impact reports evaluating applicants vs. hires are only as good as the underlying data that goes into them (i.e., garbage in, garbage out). As a result, federal contractors should “keep an eye on it” and devote the necessary time and resources to consistently monitor and clean-up their applicant flow log (AFL) databases. If they don’t, the result is a ticking data time bomb that can explode in a contractor’s face (or wallet) during an audit by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Contractors can instead take basic preventative steps to look for and correct the following Top 5 AFL mistakes before an audit occurs:
- 1 Applicant, 1 Hire.
Subject to certain caveats related to an individual’s basic qualifications and candidates who remove themselves from consideration, federal contractors must generally track expressions of interest for a position opening where the contractor “considered” such individuals for employment. However, if an AFL shows only 1 applicant and 1 hire for a given job opening, this often means that the only applicant recorded on the log is the one who was hired. Thus, all other applicants screened, interviewed or otherwise considered for the opening are likely missing.
- 1 Applicant, 2 Hires.
Unlike Mistake No. 1 (which is at least possible if there were no other applicants for a given position), an AFL that shows 1 applicant and 2 hires (or 2 applicants, 3 hires, etc.) for specific openings or a given Job Group is obviously incorrect on its face. In other words, at least 1 or more additional applicants considered for the position or the openings within the Job Group are missing.
- 5 (But Really 15) Applicants, 1 Hire.
A variation of Mistake No. 1 occurs when an AFL includes only a small number of candidates for a position but the contractor actually received and considered numerous other expressions of interest. This problem can arise when a contractor lists on the AFL only those applicants who were interviewed for a given opening. However, this again is incorrect, as all “applicants” who were considered for an opening must generally be listed on the log, even if they did not advance to the interview stage (e.g., “applicants” who underwent paper or phone screening).
- Mixing Internal vs. External Applicants.
Although different approaches can be adopted, many contractors take the position that information contained on AFLs for “hires” logically should be limited to external expressions of interest for position openings that were ultimately filled by external candidates (i.e., candidates outside of the contractor). Under such approach, AFLs that correspond to external hires should not include expressions of interest from:
- Internal candidates for positions that were ultimately filled by external candidates; or
- Internal or external candidates for positions that were ultimately filled by internal candidates.
- Mixing Affirmative Action Plan Years.
Lastly, AFLs are often compiled using two different methods: (1) based on all expressions of interest received in a given plan year, regardless of the date a given position opening is filled; or (2) based on all expressions of interest for position openings filled during the same year, even if the expressions themselves were received outside of the plan year. Regardless of the method used, expressions of interest that are outside of a chosen AFL compilation window should not be included on the log. For example:
- An AFL for the period 1/1/07 – 12/31/07 compiled based on position openings filled during the plan year should not include candidates for positions filled before 1/1/07 or after 12/31/07.
- An AFL for the period 1/1/07 – 12/31/07 compiled based on all expressions of interest received during the plan year should not include expressions of interest received before 1/1/07 or after 12/31/07.
In the end, a contractor’s AFL should ultimately match one thing – reality. However, what does or does not get counted in a given plan year from a regulatory standpoint can get confusing, especially when overlaid with the OFCCP’s Internet Applicant rules that went into effect in 2006. Federal contractors should, therefore, consult with their counsel when developing “applicant” tracking procedures to ensure that the AFL which supports an affirmative action plan is as accurate as possible.