Affirmative Action Plan Best Practices: Applicant Disposition Codes

A lot has changed recently in the world of Affirmative Action, but the importance of Applicant Dispo...

Posted by Suzanne Keys, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, HR Consultant on September 8 2022
Suzanne Keys, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, HR Consultant

A lot has changed recently in the world of Affirmative Action, but the importance of Applicant Disposition codes remains constant.


Disposition Codes are still one factor that can potentially “make or break” Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) data. The logic and best practices behind dispositions have stayed the same over the years. Using the “step” and “status” approach is a great way to track applicants in a detailed fashion. In this update to a previous blog, we dive more into some of the issues and flags to look for regarding disposition issues and some ways on how to resolve them. We still recommend having detailed disposition codes that include two pieces of information for each candidate—the step and status. The “step” is the “stage” in which an applicant fell out of during the hiring process, such as:

  • “Phone Screen”
  • “First Interview”
  • “Passed to Hiring Manager for Review”

The “status” is the reason each candidate was not selected, for example:

  • “Poor Interview”
  • “Lacks Basic Qualifications”
  • “Lacks Favorable References”

Having detailed disposition codes will allow for a more accurate count of applicant pools and will give more precise statistics when it comes to analyzing the selection decisions in an AAP.

Codes Matter:

One of the most common disposition codes we see is “Better applicant selected”. Although recruiters often select the code, this disposition code is not particularly helpful for AAP compliance purposes. First, it’s not clear whether the candidate in question was screened. Second, this code does not give a clear reason as to why the candidate was disqualified—instead, it focuses on the fact that someone else was chosen. The following alternative codes focus on the reasons why the candidate was not selected and also records when in the process the decision was made:

  • “Interviewed—Less Industry Experience”
  • “Résumé Reviewed—Candidate Lacks Basic Qualifications”
  • “Not Considered”

Having vague disposition codes can increase an employer’s risk during audit situations and may result in a lot of backtracking through hundreds of applications to justify selection decisions. Vague codes can inflate the number of applicants who were screened versus candidates that were not reviewed. Overall, it is a best practice to provide as much detail as possible in codes for more accurate AAP results.

How codes are used, matters more:

When reviewing dispositions, it is not only important to have them in place in the ATS but also to make sure they are being used properly by recruiters, or whomever oversees the recruitment process. To avoid the “Better Applicant Selected” issue, there may be a need for training on the ATS or how to use the codes. Taking the time to explain AAP regulations to the recruiting team can benefit everyone. Often recruiters may not realize the way applicants and dispositions play into Affirmative Action and they may see no harm in blanket dispositions for all applicants after a hire has been made. They also may not realize it could be their team that has to go through the hundreds of applications in the tight deadline often placed on contractors when they come under audit.

Another common issue with some dispositions is the lack of a disposition entirely. This issue can be even worse than having codes that are overused. Having no reason, stage, or status would lead to all applicants to be included in the applicant analysis regardless of if that is accurate. With no background on why an applicant was not chosen, we cannot identify applicants that may not meet the internet applicant rule and would normally be excluded from the analysis.

Training Recruiters:

The first step in training recruiters is to determine where the deficiencies lie in your reporting. Start by pulling a few sample applicant logs that were closed by various recruiters for a variety of jobs. Review each requisition, do the dispositions tell the story regarding that hiring decision? Who was phone screened? How many candidates weren’t selected because they weren’t the best qualified, why weren’t they the best?

You’re training should explain the Internet applicant definition and its importance to the AAP reporting. Show them how the data they are creating on a daily basis has a real impact and could potentially be very costly to the organization.

Walk recruiters through the hiring process and how they can use a funnel approach to quickly identify the candidates that are not considered, withdrew from the process or don’t meet the basic qualifications. By taking this approach to dispositioning they are helping the organization to distinguish between the job seekers and the applicants that are included in the AAP analyzes.

Dispositioning candidates before moving to the next step in the hiring process is a good practice for ensuring all candidates are dispositioned and reduces the risk of the recruiter forgetting why a candidate was not selected.


Also, keep in mind how the ATS stores and exports data. Having a great dispositioning system is not helpful if the information exported lacks that critical piece of data. Review files thoroughly to ensure that data is not only being captured but also put in a format that is usable for AAP purposes.

Overall, we recommend adopting the “step & stage” approach and avoid overly broad codes and consider who uses these codes and make sure they understand the significance to Affirmative Action. Also look for blanks in the data and take steps to train recruiters for consistency and complete data.

Suzanne Keys, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, HR Consultant
Suzanne Keys, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, HR Consultant
Suzanne Keys, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a compliance expert with 16 years of experience who provides AA Training, AAP services, government regulation insight, and OFCCP audit support.

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