Open hiring, or open recruitment as it is also commonly known, is the practice of hiring on a first-to apply basis.
In this guide for employers, we discuss what open hiring is and how it works in practice. We also examine the pros and cons of open hiring, the key legal risks for employers when adopting open recruitment practices in the workplace, and how these risks can be minimised so as to obtain the various benefits of hiring in this way.
What is open hiring?
Open hiring is a recruitment method where the first person to apply for an available position gets the job. This means first-in first-hired, with no questions asked, and no need for cvs, interviews, background checks or even references. Adopting an open hiring model means a person can be recruited for a job role, regardless of their educational background, qualifications, experience, appearance, personality traits or character.
The concept of open hiring is to provide those people who would ordinarily face unfair and often unnecessary barriers to finding work with the opportunity to finally undertake gainful employment. This could apply to anyone with a criminal record, recovering addicts, care leavers, homeless people, single parents, those with a disability, military veterans and the long-term unemployed. It can also include those with a lack of work experience, or relevant work experience, or simply those with a fear of face-to-face job interviews.
How does open hiring work?
Where an employer adopts an open hiring policy, this does not necessarily mean that they have to apply this approach across the board, where this is often limited to certain job roles. However, having decided to offer a certain position or number of job roles on a first-in first-hired basis, the employer must advertise each vacancy accordingly. This can be done via their own website or through other recruitment methods, such as online job search portals, the local job centre or in local newspapers. It may also be that the employer is connected with a particular programme to help certain disadvantaged groups of people to find jobs.
However, in many cases, the employer will also offer pre-employment training prior to a successful candidate starting work. In this way, the employer can ensure that each individual is up-to-speed and knows what is required of them on their first day of work.
Pros and cons of open hiring
There are various benefits to adopting an open hiring policy when recruiting new members of staff, but as with any other recruitment method, there are also drawbacks. Below we look at the different pros and cons of adopting this type of recruiting practice.
The pros of open hiring
Access to a bigger candidate pool
With fewer job specification requirements, the larger the candidate pool will be for the employer. It follows that if a job does not demand a certain level of qualifications or previous experience in a similar role or industry, this will open up the vacancy to thousands more applicants. Having a larger talent pool can be especially useful for entry-level positions that require little to no experience, but are otherwise hard to fill, where the successful candidate can be trained on the job.
By opening up vacancies to virtually everyone, this is likely to increase the diversity within an employer’s organisation. If the only job role requirement is the order in which people apply, this will attract applicants and, in turn, new staff, from all walks of life. Diversity and inclusion is an important part of being a reputable employer, where adopting workplace policies which help to foster a diverse and inclusive culture will not only benefit those individuals successfully recruited through an open hiring policy, but will also demonstrate to the wider workforce the value placed on equality.
Reduced unconscious bias
By avoiding any selection process, this can be a great way to open the doors of an organisation to an entirely new group of applicants that would otherwise not make it beyond the application selection stage, let alone interview, because of ‘unconscious bias’. This is a term used to describe associations or assumptions that are outside of our conscious awareness, where those responsible for recruitment can often have unintended preferences or prejudices towards certain people based on the associations with particular characteristics. These characteristics can include gender, sexuality, disability, age, ethnicity, and even things like body size or attractiveness. They can also include religious identity, political affiliation, or social and economic background.
A faster recruitment process
A logical consequence of having almost no job role requirements is no lengthy recruitment process. This means that when recruiting using an open hire basis to find new members of staff, this is likely to be far quicker than when using more traditional recruitment methods, including those involving lengthy written applications, assessment days and one or more rounds of in-person interviews.
Open hiring gives everybody a chance to undertake gainful employment. This approach does not make value judgements, or take into account a person’s past, and nor does it exclude potential applicants based on what they can or cannot do. By providing a real opportunity for those who may otherwise be unable to secure a job to prove their worth in the working world, this often leads to greater loyalty to the employer, with staff committed to working hard and less likely to leave. These are also people who will have overcome their own personal challenges, so can bring fresh ideas and solutions to problems, and often go the extra mile to secure results, where people from different backgrounds can become some of the best employees.
A positive impact on society
Having a job and earning a living not only helps to pay a person’s bills, but provides them with a sense of purpose. By giving someone a reason to get up in the morning, where they would otherwise be without a regular income and structure to their day, this has a wider impact on society as a whole. For those individuals who are often overlooked or disqualified in advance from securing employment because of past behaviour or things beyond their control, this is a much-needed chance to turn their lives around. By providing these people with the opportunity to start over, not just for them, but also for their families, this can create a positive cycle of change all round.
The cons of open hiring
Safety and security risks
By cutting out all due diligence in relation to applicants, including background checks or the requirement for references, this can be risky. This is especially the case if those applicants will end up working closely together with colleagues, as well as clients and customers. In some cases, by not ascertaining even some brief insight into a person’s character, background and circumstances, this can potentially risk the safety and security of other members of staff and members of the public.
Unsuitable for many jobs
The philosophy of helping people who would ordinarily face barriers to employment, and reducing hiring bias, is fine in principle. However, by allowing applications from anyone, without any job role requirements, this limits the types of roles for which this inclusive approach will be suitable. This means that only those positions for which no prior experience is necessary, and training can be provided on the job, can be used for open hiring. For some organisations, whose work requires a minimum level of skill and/or experience, this may simply not be possible.
Whilst open hiring eliminates the possibility of unconscious bias, it can actually create a different type of bias. By adopting a first-to-apply policy in relation to a particular job role, this potentially discriminates against those who were busy doing other important tasks when the vacancy opened up to applications, such as collecting their children from school or attending a medical appointment. It can also discriminate against those who do not have access to a computer, where only digital applications are accepted.
Legal risks of open recruitment practices
There are lots of organisations out there that practice open hiring across the UK, enjoying the benefits associated with this approach over other more conventional recruitment methods. However, in addition to the drawbacks already identified above, this first-in first-hired strategy also gives rise to a number of legal risks from an employer’s perspective.
All employers are under a statutory duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. They are also under a duty to ensure the safety of anyone affected by the activities undertaken by their business. This means that, if they introduce a new member of staff, someone that has not had to undergo any background checks or provide any references whatsoever, this may expose the existing workforce, and the public, to potentially serious safety risks. In turn, the employer would be failing to discharge their health and safety duty as required of them by law.
There could also potentially be risks in relation to the candidate’s own health and safety. If it has not been possible to previously assess a candidate’s capabilities, any undisclosed physical or mental health condition may be exacerbated by the nature of the work being asked of them. For example, undertaking any form of manual lifting may not be possible for someone with a physical disability, whilst working in a noisy workplace, without any quiet rest space, may be especially unhealthy for someone with a mental health disorder.
Finally, there is a very real risk that the successful candidate will not actually have the right to work in the UK by reason of their immigration status. The fact that someone is hired on a first-to-apply basis, without any skills or experience needed, does not mean that they are able to lawfully undertake the work on offer. Under the illegal working regime, all UK employers are required to undertake right to work checks on all new-starters in any event, but discovering that a new recruit is prohibited from working in the UK or doing the work in question, can then mean starting the open hiring process all over again.
Mitigating legal risk of open hiring
The open hiring model is one which many employers will prefer to steer clear of, which is perfectly understandable considering the practical and legal risks arising from adopting this approach to recruitment. However, given its potential benefits, there are various ways in which some of the risks can be reduced, providing employers with the opportunity to open their doors to a whole pool of potentially hard-working and loyal candidates.
Open hiring does not necessarily mean that no screening is undertaken at all, where an employer is still entitled to ask a limited number of questions or ensure that candidates can meet some very basic job role requirements. For example, the employer could ask: “Are you legally entitled to work in the UK?” and “Can you stand for up to eight hours?”. An open hiring approach can essentially be tailored to meet the needs of the business, whilst still maintaining an inclusive approach to employing people from different backgrounds.
Having hired a candidate through an open hiring approach, as with any new-starter, the employer could also put in place a probationary period, where that individual is carefully monitored to ensure that they are the right fit for the role and not a potential threat to others. Perhaps as an alternative to open hiring, an employer could offer training programmes to those furthest from the labour market and whose skills might otherwise be overlooked. This could include internships, work placements and even apprenticeships.
Undoubtedly, open hiring is unlikely to be a mainstream option for most employers, but for those offering entry-level jobs where training can be provided by the organisation, this candidate-friendly recruitment process will allow more employers in the UK to demonstrate a socially responsible approach to who they employ. In turn, more and more excluded jobseekers will finally get the chance to do something meaningful with their lives.
And even if open hiring is not appropriate, or not the right approach for a particular organisation, employers should still review their recruitment practices to make sure they are open and fair for all candidates, including those from different backgrounds and with different barriers to gaining work. This is not only beneficial for those searching for employment, but will help an employer to fill skills shortages and boost productivity, by reaching the widest possible pool of applicants and tapping into a reservoir of new talent.
DavidsonMorris’ specialist HR advisers and employment lawyers are experienced in advising employers on all aspects of recruitment, including guidance on how to ensure compliance with your legal obligations through the hiring and onboarding process. Through our fixed-fee service Triple A, employers can gain access to unlimited employment law advice. For more information about Triple A, or how we can help your organisation, speak to us.
Open hiring FAQs
What is open role hiring?
Open hiring is a recruiting method where the first person to apply for an available position will get the job, so on a first-in first-hired basis, with no questions asked, and no need for resumes, interviews, background checks or references.
What is open vs targeted recruitment?
Open and targeted recruitment are polar opposite ways of recruiting staff, with open recruitment open to everyone, on a first-in first-hired basis, whilst targeted recruitment, also known as selective recruitment, is aimed at candidates with a very specific skillset.
What is closed recruiting?
Closed recruiting refers to the practice of only advertising an available position ‘in-house'. This means that job applications will be open to an organisations’ existing employee base, but the vacancy will not be advertised externally, outside of the organisation itself.
What is an advantage of open internal recruiting?
Internal recruiting is where a job is advertised to existing staff, but not externally. This brings the benefit of a pool of candidates already known to hiring managers, and hopefully the right cultural fit for the company, regardless of role.
Last updated: 26 November 2022