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Google worried lawsuit could disclose recruiting strategy

Google argues for court documents in an age discrimination case to be sealed, claiming they contain sensitive information about its recruiting strategy and hiring practices.

Google is settling an age discrimination lawsuit that had the indirect potential of detailing its recruiting strategy and hiring practices. Release of this information worried Google, which believed it could help other high-tech firms competing for the same talent.

Google's concerns were outlined in court papers filed in November by Brian Ong, director of people services effectiveness at Google. He leads Google's hiring teams, which includes managing the roadmap of its applicant-tracking system, Google Hire.

Depositions being made part of the court record include details about Google's recruiting strategy, and Google argued for the court to seal that information.

"There is competition in Silicon Valley, and throughout the world, for top software engineering talent and other technical talent," Ong said in court papers.

Google spends 'extraordinary amount' on hiring

Google "continues to devote an extraordinary amount of time, money and human resources toward developing internal processes and programs for identifying, interviewing and evaluating employment candidates for software engineering positions and other types of technical positions at Google," Ong stated.

Ong said other employers could use the documents to glean Google's recruiting strategy and "gain a competitive advantage."

The judge was willing to keep confidential most of the material that Google cited, and this case is rapidly concluding. The lawsuit was brought in 2015 by Google job applicants who alleged they were discriminated against because of their age. It claimed Google favored people under 40.

Lead plaintiff Cheryl Fillekes was invited for four separate in-person interviews by Google between 2007 and 2014 starting at the age of 47. She was rejected each time. She has a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Chicago, among other credentials.

Fillekes has a tentative settlement that has not been finalized yet, according to her attorney, Daniel Low of Kotchen and Low LLP in Washington, D.C. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Phenom People upgrades chatbot

A recruiting strategy may be closely guarded, but there are aspects of recruiting tech that operate in the open -- namely chatbots.

Phenom People Inc., which sells a talent relationship marketing platform, has added a personalization on demand capability to its recruiting chatbot technology. This improvement integrates a chat feature into job sites to gather more information from candidates.

The chatbot asks prospects about their experiences, job titles and where they would prefer to work. "We ask them what they are really, really good at," said Jonathan Dale, vice president of product marketing at Phenom People, based in Ambler, Pa. Prospects aren't obligated to engage with the chatbot to conduct a job search.

The firm argued this method of direct engagement is more accurate than gleaning candidate preferences from browsing history or employment background.

The new chatbot capability is a free upgrade to Phenom People customers. It also allows candidates to log onto a job site using their social media credentials.

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