An Argument for Open Source in Recruitment

Over the past year I have been less than fully employed, which has been great in some ways, for example spending more time with the children and being able to undertake meaningful professional development along the way. Unfortunately, unless you are very fortunate, most people need to work pretty much full-time to make ends even remotely meet. I am one of those people, so eventually the fun must stop.

Whilst job hunting I faced an old foe, the application forms and their lack of standards. Surely, in 2021 it is time to part ways with the massive range of forms we encounter and find a much more efficient and effective manner of selection?

I get that applying for a job should be challenging, but when it comes to the employment and education history, please for the love of whichever deity you believe in, let’s standardise this part so that we don’t spend endless hours copying and pasting information into new and wonderful formats for absolutely no reason!

So how does FOSS fit into this exactly? Well for starters I would like to see a standardised use of an Open Document Format.

During my searches and eventual recruitments, I was obliged to face another of my pet hates, the Word Form, dot doc off! Using tables to format the page IS NOT the right way to create a form. We could be using html forms by now, or even PDFs, but whatever the format, we must get rid of tables – another challenge I don’t wish to face is having to fix somebody else’s shoddy workmanship in this form. Especially to then be knocked back, because quite clearly whoever made the doc form, hasn’t got a clue what they are doing.

Again rambling aside, why do we need an open document format as the standard, well it is pretty simple and very little to do with the above issues which cause me much stress and physical pain.

Barriers. Quite simply, using a proprietary format, we are creating barriers, that should not exist and really are probably enshrined in UK Equality and Diversity laws for some people. In my line of work, mostly education, barriers to learning are a thing – they don’t disappear when students become job seekers, they persist for some people all there lives.

Some forms simply do not display correctly when opened in say Libre or Open Office, they are horrific and to then try and complete them and return in some kind of usable format is virtually impossible. Not all forms, but sometimes forms that really matter – like official government forms (New Starter Checklist). There will be a great many people considerably inconvenienced by this, simply because they are unable to access these correctly. They are therefore disadvantaged, but due to an entirely avoidable barrier. And that is what a barrier is, it can be overcome, but at what extra effort and at what cost overall.

If we send an ODT in to an employer, we have no idea how it will display for them; so I always send a PDF of it, but if said employer insists on receiving their specific interpretation of the exact same form as the next employer, well that will take time. Again, there is no guarantee, even when outputting a pdf.

Dot Docs don’t even display consistently across versions of word and you lose a lot of the detail in formatting, if you use word online.The forms themselves are never created in the online version, so there’s always going to be an issue.

So, I have perhaps raised more questions than I have provide answers, but I do feel strongly that working with an open format for recruitment processes is an important step we should collectively be taking.