The Importance of Meaningful Applicant Dispositions
The Importance of Meaningful Applicant Dispositions

Don’t let this happen to you: a federal contractor goes into an affirmative action review with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). OFCCP has questions concerning the percentage of male and female applicants who are hired, and requests a copy of the company’s applicant log. The applicant log shows that most applicants either had a disposition of “hired” or “rejected.” OFCCP asks the company to properly disposition all applicants. It has been some time since the applicants were originally considered, and the company no longer has information on what happened to all candidates. After as many applicants as possible are properly dispositioned, applicant-hire analyses show large disparities in regard to the hire of female applicants, and OFCCP asks for a substantial back-pay award.

This type of scenario has played out as part of several recent back-pay settlements that OFCCP has announced on its website. OFCCP continues to look for opportunities to make back-pay awards to applicants, and poor record-keeping frequently plays a part in these back-pay awards. In the example above, had the company properly dispositioned all candidates, it is possible that there would have been no disparities and OFCCP would have had no reason to request a back-pay award.

In order to effectively analyze applicant data, companies need to use applicant dispositions that properly capture what happened to applicants. Some companies use broad or generic dispositions when characterizing what happened to applicants. For example, some companies use dispositions such as “not selected” or “reviewed” or “rejected.” These generic dispositions do not provide any information on why and when the applicant dropped out of the selection process.

The final disposition for each applicant should be as specific as possible. Meaningful dispositions have the following characteristics:
  • They provide details about the final outcome in the consideration of an applicant.
  • They clarify why an applicant dropped out of the selection process.
  • They clarify at what stage an applicant was no longer considered.
  • They identify why another applicant was better qualified by referring to attributes such as experience, education, or skills.
Here are some comparisons of problematic and meaningful dispositions:
  • Rather than using “Not Selected,” an applicant who is interviewed and not selected because he or she had less education than the chosen candidate should be shown as “Interviewed – other candidate chosen (education).”
  • Rather than using “Rejected,” an applicant whose credentials are reviewed and who does not meet the basic qualifications for a position because of a lack of required experience should be shown as “Did not meet basic qualifications (experience).”
  • Rather than using “No Longer Under Consideration,” an applicant who withdraws at the pre-offer stage because he or she fails to appear for an interview should be shown as “Withdrew-failed to appear for interview.”
Notice that in the last two examples, the applicant should not appear in applicant reports and other statistical analyses provided to OFCCP because the applicant did not meet the provision of OFCCP’s Internet Applicant rule. (OFCCP’s Internet Applicant rule governs the nature of the applicant data that must be retained, recorded, and analyzed by federal contractors and subcontractors.) By using more meaningful dispositions, you would know that you should remove these applicants from any reports. Conversely, by using dispositions such as “Not Selected” or “Rejected,” you would be unable to determine whether an applicant should be included in reports provided to OFCCP.

In the event of an OFCCP review, OFCCP will give serious attention to the hiring process your company uses. OFCCP will expect that your company has documentation to explain when and why applicants fell out of the hiring process. Without this documentation, OFCCP may assume that discrimination is occurring. Meaningful applicant dispositions will play a critical role in helping to explain your hiring process to OFCCP.

Did you know . . . that under the OFCCP’s Internet Applicant rule, applicants can be removed from applicant/hire analyses if they did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job, withdrew from consideration, or applied when no positions were open?

For more information on OFCCP’s Internet Applicant rule or to discuss best practices for dispositioning candidates, feel free to contact me at