Recruiting Technology ...

Is it a distraction or a solution?

The technology landscape within the talent acquisition space has changed dramatically over the years.  Today we live in a world where a new piece of technology, whether it be related to sourcing or candidate engagement seems to be emerging every day.  In general I believe this is a positive thing.  Any strategy, technology or technique which might help a company better identify and compete for talent is worthwhile.  After all, a business is more than just a legal entity, it is people.  People who will have a significant impact on a company’s ability to grow and thrive.  Talent is the true differentiator.  For firms with deep pockets and well-oiled recruitment processes, exploring these technologies as they hit the market may make sense.  For many however, I would issue a word of caution … just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

You may remember Disney Pixar’s movie UP! which was released in 2009.  Retired balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen ties thousands of balloons to his house and floats away in search of the lost world of his childhood dreams. Unbeknownst to him, an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer, Russell, is on Carl's front porch! After landing, they meet Dug, a dog with a special collar that allows him to speak.  While Dug is taking the time to introduce himself to his new found friends we learn something about him … he is easily distracted … particularly by squirrels.   Sound familiar?  As talent acquisition leaders we too can become distracted.  We discover a new shinny object which claims to help solve our sourcing problems.  Or we get caught up in some industry dialogue about new cutting edge strategies or tactics which will help us better compete in the war for talent.  I would encourage you to take a timeout and ask yourself if you are doing the basics well before you begin to chase after some new-fangled approach.

Basics #1 – Good Systems

Do you have an applicant tracking system?  Gone are the days of needing to invest tens of thousands of dollars per year in a reliable ATS.  There are a whole host of systems which can be leveraged with minimal investment.  Just go to and search for ‘applicant tracking system.’  These providers are more than capable of allowing you to have a rich online application experience for your candidates while assisting you with compliance on the back end.  Several systems today are easy to implement on your own with the assistance of your marketing and/or IT group.  There are also some recruitment solutions firms who may bring an ATS to the table bundled with other solutions.  Some of you might be asking why in the world I would even mention an ATS, but I cannot begin to tell you how many companies I run across on an annual basis who are still asking candidates to email in a resume.  I am not speaking about small companies.  In fact, I have been exposed to two multi-billion dollar companies (that’s right … billion with a B) in the last month alone who are still recruiting off of email addresses and excel spreadsheets. 

If you already have an ATS, are your jobs being posted to it?  When they are posted, are they being published using language and job titles used by the outside world?  Stop using internal acronyms and job titles on your candidate facing website!

Is your online apply process tedious?  Human Resources professionals who develop the candidate online apply process with a focus on data capture rather than candidate experience should be made fun of!  Okay, not really, but seriously?  Have you any idea how many people conduct job searches while they are at work?  Do you really want them to have to complete a 40 minute form just so you can have what you need to accelerate your onboarding process versus just allowing them to apply?  According to a study completed by Potentialpark, 48% percent of potential applicants will drop out when met with a complicated apply process.  In fact, the number one frustration communicated by those included in the study was the amount of time it takes to complete the application form online. So, do you really need another sourcing strategy, or do you just need to modify your online apply process so you can take full advantage of the things you are already doing?

Are you mobile ready?  If not, just know you are losing candidates and it will only get worse with time.  Stick with me on this one.  If your company’s corporate website is not mobile optimized (meaning it displays on a smartphone well without you having to zoom in or scroll from side to side), you need to put this article down, figure out who is in charge of the website, and start a conversation around this topic.  In fact, just ask your marketing or IT team to pull web analytics from the site and examine how much traffic is coming from mobile vs. desktop.  This will help to frame the conversation a bit.  While attempting to convince your company to go mobile for their corporate website, you need to hold your ATS providers’ feet to the fire to ensure you can accept applicants via a mobile optimized career portal.  And not just mobile job searching, I am speaking about the full end-to-end apply process being able to be executed from a mobile device.  According to Potentialpark, only 13% of US company career portals are mobile ready.  This initiative will be critical to your ability to compete for talent in the very near future.  According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 64% of Americans own a smartphone (61% of Whites; 70% of Blacks; 71% of Hispanics).  Additionally, the data revels those with low household incomes, low levels of education, younger adults and non-whites are more likely to use a smartphone as their only form of accessing the internet.  Do you want to ensure you have a tight diversity recruitment process?  Do you want to be able to hire young, retail and/or emerging talent?  You had better be mobile.

Basics #2 – Know Your Jobs

Are you spending time with your hiring managers understanding the ins and outs of each job?  Not just the job description, but what the new hire will actually do in the job and how it impacts the business.  What is the unique value proposition you can sell to the marketplace?  A warning to you all, saying you are a great place to work doesn’t cut it.  Why are you a great place to work?  Do you know where your target candidate population spends time (where do they eat, sleep and play)?  Investing thousands of dollars on LinkedIn probably doesn’t make sense if you are trying to recruit nurses or maintenance mechanics.  If you do not have a formal requisition intake or launch process, develop one.  Once complete, spend ample time with your managers helping them to understand what a critical role they play in your ability to fill their jobs.

Basics #3 – Effective and Timely Selection Processes

How long does it take you to review applicants?  Can you get through everyone within 48-72 hours of apply?  If not, you are losing opportunity.  Good candidates, all of them, including the hourly workforce, have options.  Your ability to respond in a timely fashion will increase your ability to compete for the talent. 

How about managers?  How long is it taking them to review and respond to candidates you submit?  Have you established a level of rapport with your manager which would allow you to book interviews directly on their calendar without them having to ‘double-check’ your work?  If not, this should be your goal.  You should be helping your managers by removing the noise from the system.  You can only do this if you really know the job in the first place.  Managers also need to be educated.  They need to understand in most cases you are not walking around with a pocket full of great talent for their hiring needs.  It takes work and energy to generate a viable applicant pool.  Good talent has options and people are not just waiting around in line waiting to work for your organization.  Set and manage realistic expectations, keep your word, and knock it out of the park! 

When you are ready to interview, are your agenda’s well thought out and do they work for all parties involved, including the candidate?  Have you identified who the real decision maker is and ensured they are driving the process?  By the way, it may also be wise to ask your manager the last time they hired and/or had any type of interview training.  They may not be equipped.  If this is the case, serve them well by getting them some training.  If you cannot afford to pay for it, then develop and deliver it yourself.  Your goal is to create a partnership with your managers and to provide a stellar experience for your candidates.

I would encourage you to get your hands on a white-paper written by Bill Boorman entitled “The Hiring Manager Conundrum” to learn how some top performing recruitment organizations have shifted their mind-set as it pertains to the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers.  In short, these companies have successfully developed systems which hold both parties accountable for the successful recruitment of top talent. 

In closing, I want to re-state something I communicated earlier.  I believe there are some fantastic technologies, methodologies and techniques which have emerged over the last several years.  From the birth of talent pools to social recruiting to the emergence of tools such as CRM’s and precision based sourcing platforms, I see value.  My caution is this.  If we cannot do basic blocking and tackling well, adapting these things may only serve to pull us further away from success then helping to achieve it.  What some call a sourcing problem may not be a sourcing problem at all, it might be a process problem. 

I would encourage you to look at your end to end recruitment process objectively and honestly.  Test it from a candidate’s perspective across a number of devices types.  Survey your candidate and hiring manager population.  Identify a few areas for improvement, define what success looks like, develop a plan to change it and get it done. And, before implementing any new technologies or strategies pause and ask yourself a few questions:

  •  What problem will this solve? 
  • What do I hope to achieve as a result?
  • By saying yes to this, what am I saying no to?
  • Is this a distraction or a solution?