We interrupt our program of Celine Dion’s greatest love songs to bring you a special bulletin. At twenty minutes before eight, central time, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory in Chicago reports observing several Human Resource Information Systems vendors descending very quickly and aggressively on the Applicant Tracking industry. Professor Pierson of the Observatory at Princeton confirms Farrell’s observation, and describes the phenomenon as “like a large, rabid wildebeest jumping on a sleeping kitten.” And now, back to the theme song from Titanic. Unlike Orson Welles’s famous “War of the Worlds” broadcast very loosely paraphrased above, there actually is an invasion going on. Human Resource Information System (HRIS) vendors ó SAP, Peoplesoft, Oracle, Lawson and others ó are working on infiltrating the applicant tracking space as we speak. But before everyone runs to their bomb shelter, breaks out the canned goods, or buries their Britney Spears CDs in a time capsule, there are a few things that make the current invasion much less likely to succeed. 1. The HRIS vendors have a long way to go before they become real recruitment solutions providers. It’s important to note that the HRIS vendors are currently light years behind the applicant tracking system vendors in several areas. Many of the major shortcomings can be seen in the candidate interface. I won’t name the vendor (you know who you are), but I recently spent a couple of hours talking with an HRIS client’s business analysis and implementation team. They asked me to discuss any issues one might encounter with the applicant tracking component of their system. And I found one. A major one. I literally could not figure out how to complete my online application. What I did complete ó much of it likely unusable for the recruiters that would receive it ó took approximately 45 excruciatingly painful minutes. During the process I discovered that it was physically impossible to enter my college correctly in the required field, unless I knew that my school was called “Univ of Iowa” in the system and searched for that exactly. If I were a real job seeker, I would have given up less than a third of the way through the process. The job search interface was quite interesting as well. Imagine a keyword search that only searches the job title text (but doesn’t tell you that). Then imagine job title text that only allows a set number of characters, so few that it necessitates abbreviations in most job titles. Now imagine trying to find a job that is of interest to you in this scenario. Unless you have the foresight to enter “Recrtmt Ops Mgr” in the keyword search field, your search will come up empty. On the recruiter side, a somewhat arbitrary ranking system exists that depends entirely on data collected in the manner above. My overall conclusion was that if this is the best they can do right now, they’ve got a long way to go before they are considered a serious competitor in this space. 2. Most HRIS vendors don’t understand how to deliver an ASP product yet. Traditionally, HRIS vendors have delivered their solutions on client/server platforms where you host the hardware and software and users (clients) download a software program that links them to the servers. Their lack of expertise in the ATS space has become painfully obvious when they have tried to deliver solutions on an ASP (application service provider) platform, in which the vendor hosts all of the hardware and software and users access it through a web browser. One prominent HRIS vendor had a wild ó and short ó ride in the ATS market. After their customers complained of system instability, lack of training, complex requisition creation, character limits on job descriptions, and even a lack of integration with their own HRIS product, they took the ASP version of their product completely off the market. From afar, they thought getting into the ATS space was a great idea, but when they got there they realized that, by implementing a poorly created product, they would only cause harm to their overall reputation as a solutions provider. 3. HRIS vendors are not yet delivering the support recruiting teams expect. Think for a moment of a very, very long food chain. You’ve got your IT department at the top, then some big whales, followed by mid-sized, small and then tiny fish, and then a bunch of very minute plankton. Right below that, you’ll find most recruiting teams. That’s how far down the food chain recruiting is in terms of receiving I.T. support. Most applicant tracking solutions are not at all supported by the IT department, and there is rarely an experienced business analyst who steps in to translate requirements to features in the initial planning stages. In true Darwinian fashion, recruiting teams have adapted and evolved to deal with this harsh environment. Recruiting software providers have also adapted by providing levels of support that client/server vendors typically leave to a company’s IT teams. One ATS consultant refers to it as the difference between “in-sourcing” and “outsourcing.” HRIS vendors are used to helping companies build support teams internally to work with a given software solution and customize it to their needs, while ATS vendors deliver a fully outsourced applicant tracking solution. It is therefore not possible to treat an ATS as a typical “in-sourced” software solution. Throwing out technical support and implementation teams with little to no knowledge of recruiting is a true recipe for disaster. The HRIS vendors are learning this the hard way. Recruiters are loud. They will complain. They will make their IT department painfully aware of the shortcomings of the system. And that will reflect very poorly on the other solutions that vendor has implemented, weakening their overall customer relationships. 4. The HRIS vendors have fewer resources dedicated to product development. You’ve probably heard a lot from Wall Street lately about their desire to see companies refocus on their core competencies. Wall Street reasons that companies have been stretched too thin, trying to do too many things at once and suffering proportionately in their core, more profitable business lines. The enterprise application and HRIS vendors are also stretched very thin. Their solutions range from payroll and benefits administration to customer relationship and even financial management. While the larger enterprise ATSs like Hire.com, Recruitmax, Recruitsoft, and Deploy Solutions ó the HRIS vendors’ primary competitors ó often have over a hundred developers focused on product development, the HRIS vendors typically struggle to get dedicated resources assigned to their recruiting products. This will make change a very powerful asset to the current crop of ATS vendors. If the pace of change is accelerated, the HRIS vendors will simply not be able to keep up. What Does the Future Hold? This is no time for panic in the ATS industry. For the reasons stated above and many more, the threat posed by the HRIS vendors in the short term is minimal. To date, their appeal has been limited primarily to IT departments that have allowed them to “bundle” their solutions together with many other, much more expensive solutions without doing much due diligence with their recruiting teams. In the long term, the threat of the HRIS vendors taking over the ATS industry is only real if they devote more resources to the task of recruiting automation or purchase a major player already in the space. For now, I’ve got some unsolicited advice to dispense for everyone involved. To recruiting teams: Stand up for the system that will meet your needs. Prepare detailed lists of requirements, and only choose an HRIS vendor’s product if it truly meets those requirements. If you doubt your own ability to come up with a list of requirements and features, enlist the help of someone who can. Don’t back down from an IT department that thinks they know better than you do what your needs are. You will use the system, not the IT department. To the ATS vendors: Don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t panic either; other industries like payroll processing continue to thrive despite the presence of these same vendors. Minimize the long-term threat to your business by evolving quickly and strategically. Put yourself in position to demonstrate and quantify your ROI. Act as a business partner and a solutions provider, not just a software vendor, by delivering more than software. To the HRIS vendors: Do it right or don’t do it at all. Don’t put your existing customer relationships at risk with a poorly designed product. Don’t rely solely on IT teams making ill-advised decisions for the recruiting team. Closely examine if the rewards of an ATS product justify the risks. And beware the wrath of the frustrated recruiter!
Before you read this article, please take a moment to help us learn more about your organization’s online hiring process. Rocket-Hire and ERE are currently conducting our second annual online screening and assessment usage survey. The data we collect from this survey will help to provide members of the ERE community with important data about trends in the usage on online screening and assessment tools. We plan on reporting our findings in an upcoming ERE article. Visit www.rocket-hire.com/survey to take our short, 10 minute survey and register for a chance to win a free copy of the Rocket-Hire Buyer’s Guide. As always, all results will be kept completely confidential. The use of online pre-screening tools has grown tremendously over the last few years. The basic idea behind pre-screening is to ask candidates direct questions about their skills, experiences, and interests. These questions are asked early in the hiring process to screen out unqualified applicants from the candidate pool. Applicants must pass pre-screening before they can be considered for interviews or other more in-depth staffing assessments. Most pre-screening tools use relatively simple questions to assess basic skills and qualifications. Common questions include, “What is your level of skill using Excel?” or “How many years of experience do you have as a manager?” Rocket-hire’s review of the online staffing assessment market uncovered over 20 vendors who offer pre-screening tools. Although they differ in sophistication and functionality, every pre-screening system we have seen allows clients to write and score their own questions. Some systems also provide clients with recommended pre-screening questions for different types of jobs or skills. Popular publications such as Business 2.0 and the Wall Street Journal have noted the growing use of pre-screening and called attention to potential problems with these tools. However, little objective systematic research has actually been done to evaluate whether using pre-screening tools truly leads to hiring better candidates. This prompted us to conduct our own investigation into the effectiveness of pre-screening. To do this we looked at information from several sources including:
- Statistical analysis of pre-screening data collected from several thousand candidates applying for a variety of professional and hourly jobs at a Fortune 500 company
It’s deep summer here. Temperatures are climbing and the beach is beckoning. Not much time or motivation to read (or write) long columns about staffing or recruiting. So, here is my list of summer reading. While I realize most of these books won’t make it with you to the beach, I hope you find a quiet moment in the day or evening when you can scan through them. I used only three criteria for picking these books. They had to be recently published, had to be somewhat unusual or interesting, and had to get some sort of reaction from me ó either good or bad. I hope they do the same for you. Whether you read a single one of them or not, I hope you have a restful summer and use it to prepare for what I predict will be an exciting fall. Back in 2002, Regis McKenna published a book called Total Access: Giving Customers What They Want in an Anytime, Anywhere World. McKenna is a well-known Silicon Valley marketing expert and guru. He was responsible for the “Intel Inside” marketing effort that really branded Intel and the invisible microprocessor. He has had a hand in the marketing efforts of Apple, Electronic Arts, and many more companies. In this book, McKenna argues that the traditional marketing function is disappearing and much of it is being taken over by technology. Customer interaction, branding, much of the customer communication outreach, data gathering and interpretation, and customer relationship building can be automated today. Ultimately, marketing is the systems integrator and is responsible for merging all the elements of the company to serve the customer. Why do I include this is an article for recruiters? Very simply because everything he says about marketing can be directly applied to recruiting. The candidate’s knowledge of your organization and interaction with it will increasingly be through the website and other technology. Your communication with the candidate is becoming more automated, and screening and assessment can be automated. The recruiter becomes the candidate’s final and perhaps first “personal touch point” with the company. And the recruiter’s real job is to integrate all the elements of the company to serve the candidate. Much to be learned and thought about from this very timely book. Another book in a different vein is called, The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, both of whom are writers for The Economist magazine. They have written a few unusual books over the past years, and this one continues in that tradition. It is a fairly easy read and gives a short history of how the corporation (public stock company) came in to being and how it became the dominant way of conducting commerce. It discusses how the corporation displaced the sole proprietorship, the partnership, and other forms of ownership ó despite being out of favor with economists and governments alike. As we enter the 21st century, many are wondering if the corporation will survive and, if not what might replace it. The final chapter presents their thoughts on where we are headed and gives a very up-to-date view of globalization and the opening of international markets. For those of you who work in corporations, the history and facts presented in this book will lead to many stimulating conversations. Some of you may have heard Libby Sartain speak at a conference, and some of you may have even met this vivacious lady. Today she heads up HR at Yahoo!, but she spent a big chunk of her career at Southwest Airlines, also as the chief of HR. Her recent book, called HR from the Heart, is a must-read. In it she tells stories and explains why she believes that within any organization both the head and the heart have to be considered. Libby loves people, loves making organizations successful through people, and she believes that HR can provide a company with a competitive advantage by helping it build a great culture, by insisting that everyone is treated with respect, and by ensuring that people get to do all they can and want to do. This is a light book, an inspiring read, and one that you actually might want to take to the beach and then pass on to someone else. Pick one of these and enjoy a day or two of mind stretching. You’ll feel smarter, recharge the batteries, and get a chance to talk about something new with your colleagues. Happy reading.
You’ve done it. You and your team have established a dashboard of metrics for your recruiting department or staffing firm. You are carefully tracking and reporting on your activities with metrics that are representative of your efforts. Now what? As metrics become more of an entrenched part of recruiting management, there is a need to move beyond just tracking what your metrics are and to actively try to manipulate and improve them. Six Sigma and other quality methodologies focus on not just the measurement of activities, but also understanding the variables that affect those metrics and then systematically attempting to control those variables. These problem-solving tools can be applied to recruiting and hiring by taking the guesswork out of optimizing your efforts. Improving Results Please note that Six Sigma is an ideal ó especially in a service environment such as recruiting and hiring. It is something to be strived for. The term Six Sigma literally means 3.4 or fewer errors per million opportunities ó that’s 99.9997% accurate. You probably just said to yourself, “That’s not achievable or even applicable to recruiting!” Don’t get caught up in that number or that aspect of Six Sigma; it is not representative of the complete methodology of Six Sigma. Think about Six Sigma as a problem-solving toolset and as a systematic method for improving your business results. At the end of the day, just making a hire is no longer good enough. No rejected offer letter, unhappy hiring manager, or candidate that fails to make it through their first 90 days can be ignored. Limited resources, coupled with competitive market conditions, demand that you understand and strive for constant improvement of the individual components behind your metrics. The Vital Few Traditional wisdom to focus on the big and important things first is advice well taken in improving your processes. The Law of the Vital Few (also known as Pareto’s Rule of 80/20) is a statistical model that says that a small number of variables will cause the majority of effects (e.g., 20% of the salespeople bring in 80% of the revenue). In understanding your metrics, there may be many things that can influence them. But out of 50 or more possible variables, probably 5 to 10 will have the most effect on your outcomes. Within this smaller group of variables, these can be ranked to figure out which ones to work on first and then they can be addressed in priority. While many recruiting professionals feel they are doing all they can, a more systematic approach may help them more effectively reach their goals. A disconnect for many about Six Sigma is the belief that there are too many variables in recruiting and hiring ó with many outside of your control. The focus is not on controlling everything; it is on understanding what you can control and where you should prioritize and concentrate your efforts to achieve the most optimal results. Business Process Management A fundamental concept of Six Sigma is Business Process Management (BPM), which is the focus on improving and controlling overall processes to achieve business objectives. But rather than just focusing on trimming individual elements of your processes, the system as a whole is considered, taking into account that traditional trimming and streamlining may create short-term efficiencies at the expense of the overall business goals. For example, to address a reduced budget, an increase in spending on selection tools such as psychometric instruments may help to weed out candidates and result in lowered interviewing and travel expenses. The net impact on the budget may be neutral (or better), and will also result in improved hiring quality, increased productivity, and retention. This is the kind of net gain to strive for with BPM. There are three key ways to measure the quality of your processes:
- Effectiveness: How well the process meets customer needs. Are the hiring managers getting the caliber of candidates to choose from that meet their needs? Is the recruiting experience acceptable to the candidate?
Last week, I started to discuss how to provide a more positive candidate experience by introducing ways to discourage marginally qualified and unqualified candidates from applying and to improve the flow of information in the recruiting process. This week, my attention turns to two additional methods that can be addressed to help provide a more positive “candidate experience” for the select few candidates whom you actually may want to hire. The two methods available to you include:
- Varying the application process for top candidates (who met all the qualifications) so that they will reapply the next time you have a similar opening.
A number of things happened this week that could be indicators of the future of hiring. Or perhaps not. While waiting for a client, I had an opportunity to visit a Starbucks in an inner-city industrial area. It was a moment of truth. I realized then that Howard Schultz’s Starbucks doesn’t really sell coffee ó they sell a coffee shop experience. Starbucks has systematized the creation of a similar positive experience everywhere in the U.S., even in bad neighborhoods. Jim Collins (author of Good to Great), in his cover story in this week’s Fortune (July 21, 2003), presents his choices for the top ten CEOs of all time. The common thread among them all is that each systemized something that destined their companies to become great. William McKnight at 3M systematized innovation. Sam Walton, the founder and CEO of Wal-Mart, systematized high-volume, low-cost retailing. Charles Coffin (#1 on the Collins list) of GE systematized management development. Now, back to the inner city ó and two hours later at my client’s office. The candidate we had just interviewed for a CEO role described how he systematized sales, product development, and operations at the three companies he turned around. He was great and he will be a finalist. Michael Gerber, in E-Myth, discusses how entrepreneurs build great companies ó by systematizing and scaling up a small, successful process. He uses McDonald’s as an example. The system that made McDonald’s grow rapidly, surprisingly, wasn’t just fast-food; it was franchising. After all of this, yesterday, a market researcher from a big HR service provider called to ask me about future hiring trends. I felt somewhat like Dustin Hoffman’s adviser in “The Graduate” (the one who said, “Plastics”), as I responded in a conspiratorial tone, “Systematization.” I told her that the next big movement was that hiring top talent had to be made into a repeatable business process. I then went on to try to prove the point. Right now, for most companies, hiring top talent is more art than science, with a little luck and a few great recruiters thrown in. For an employer of choice, the system for hiring top talent is far easier to design ó since they always have more top candidates to choose from. As I went on I became more convinced that making hiring the best employees a systematic process will be (or should be) the wave of the future. People skills like recruiting and interviewing need to be merged with IT technology. This is turn needs to merge with flexible sourcing programs that instantly adjust, based on the number of top people in the candidate pool coupled with instantaneous scheduling of interviews. This is a huge bottleneck that must be broken. A nice concept, even though the call ended prematurely after about 10 minutes. But given all that took place this week, it was hard not to consider more deeply the challenges involved in making hiring top talent a systematic process. Here’s an idea you might want to consider. I’d like to get you and your companies involved in this discussion. There must be a few recruiting executives who are now on this systemization path who we can look to as role models. If so, tell me who you are (email@example.com). Let’s talk. We’ll summarize what’s working and what’s not in this column and develop a forum for new ideas. We’ll even create a Hall of Fame for those leaders in our industry who are on the leading edge of this issue. This is nothing less than figuring out what it really takes to make hiring the best a systematic six sigma process. Here’s a rough outline of some of the challenges involved in making hiring the best a systematic process. They were put together with a few others at a second visit to Starbucks. Goal: Make hiring the best a repeatable business process. This means a company can rely of having a steady stream of high-quality talent for any position whenever needed ó under all economic conditions, from recession to rapid expansion. Obvious impact: The ability to hire top talent under all economic conditions minimizes the risk of every new venture ó thereby insuring maximum corporate growth. Key challenges: (roughly in order of magnitude)
- The CEO has to lead the charge, providing the vision, the commitment, and the resources.
Every so often I come across some really fascinating stuff. Take this one, for instance. The Bureau of the Census released data from the 1997 National Employers Survey. In this report, a sample of 5465 employers were asked how regularly they obtained pre-hiring information from the following sources (always=5, regularly=3, never=1). Here is the average of their responses:
At National Semiconductor, new recruits play board games to learn the history of the company. At AMD, new college hires go on outdoor adventures as part of the team building and assimilation process. Even in bad times, smart organizations are devoting more time to the orientation, or “on-boarding,” process and employing more creative and exciting techniques in an effort to get their newly hired employees productive sooner and to lay a foundation that will help retain them. In fact, employees who have gone through some sort of formal orientation or on-boarding process ó one that is more than the usual paper-processing administrivia ó report feeling better connected to corporate strategy and to the company culture. This translates years later into a loyalty that keeps the employee and makes it easier for them to turn down offers that tempt by simply offering more dollars. It also helps build bonds with employees that will last through times of layoffs or when people are working harder than ever because of staff cutbacks. There several reasons that orientation or assimilation programs are popular:
- They help new hires feel that they are part of a larger organization and that they are important. By introducing new employees to senior management and by building in them an appreciation of the organization’s past and future direction, these programs create a sense of security and comfort.
Most recruiters I communicate with have two things in common:
- They are feeling enormous pressure from all sides as they struggle to justify their existence or stay in business.
Most job application processes fail miserably when it comes to providing any form of interaction that could pass a standard customer service satisfaction test with a decent score. Unfortunately, this revelation isn’t a new one, nor one that hasn’t been addressed before, yet it continues to be one of the major barriers for firms seeking to upgrade the quality of their applicant base. Talented people have options much like your typical consumer. When a consumer repeatedly experience poor customer service from a retailer, they most likely try alternative providers prior to returning to the firm that provided poor service. Over time, this same effect has chased top quality applicants away from applying online via corporate job boards, and relegated such investments in applicant-related technologies to nothing more than collecting and filtering garbage. If a firm wants to avoid the rut that has consumed most firms, they must break free from the notion that applicant technologies by themselves can provide a positive customer experience, and actively work to provide a unified set of services and content that actively engages quality applicants and provides them with a value-add for participating in the process. To accomplish this, I recommend you study other well-tried customer service processes. There are numerous “parallel processes” in other business functions that do a much better job at snagging satisfied quality customers than the HR application processes does. Consider the work of the financial services industry, for example, which has reduced the process of applying for credit down to a simple, user-friendly process that can usually be completed in minutes. (Before you start screaming that a job is different than credit, consider that granting each involves accepting risk, that the decision to proceed is based upon review of a profile, and that both processes produce numerous instances where a customer must be “turned down.”) The key is to think of the quality applicant as a potential customer and maximize the value you provide to them, versus the value such processes provide to you. You can test the customer satisfaction of your application process in several ways. The most common approach is to survey applicants in one or more of the following ways:
- Survey a sample of every applicant that completes the application process.
Are you aware that you are one of 10,000 people who saw this headline? Are you aware that you are one of 1,000 people who decided to read this article? Are you aware that you are about to be only one of 100 people who will respond to the offer I’m making at the end of this article? As a result of responding to this offer, you are about to become a better recruiter. Enjoy! These questions reveal clues on how to find the best talent now available using semi-sourcing techniques. A few clues have already been presented. The first clue: the reasons why you’re reading this article and will respond to the offer below are the same reasons top candidates will read and respond to your advertising. Here’s the second clue. Following are one of the four reasons you decided to read this article. They also all relate to why candidates read and respond to ads:
- The title attracted your attention. Most job board advertising is unseen. This title was so big and in-your-face that you couldn’t ignore it. So what the heck, you thought, I might as well check it out.
Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to listen to a member of the Department of Labor address an HR/staffing conference. This wasn’t a huge conference, so we did not rate the actual Secretary of Labor. Rather we got the Assistant Under-Secretary for More-Or-Less Aligned Issues Occurring on Alternate Tuesdays (or something like that). Even though he chose not to speak about report writing on excel spreadsheets (a big hit in HR/staffing today referred to as metrics) or about how to update forms (another big hit amongst the masses), he did manage to come up with an interesting issue: we are running out of people. The baby-boomer generation was, and is, approaching the accepted retirement age. Ten years ago, as it does today, it represented about 40% of the professional workforce. So ten years ago the HR/Staffing industry became progressively aware of a pending labor shortage due not only to extended economic growth, but also to a decline in the actual number of workers. If baby-boomers were water, we would call it a drought. So you can understand how surprised I was last week flying home from business in Kansas City to read an article in one of those “How Bored Am I?” airline magazines discussing the pending loss of the baby-boomer workforce, and the potential for dire consequences to the U.S. economy to meet the demand for trained employees to maintain and grow business. The article was written as if this was news: “Martians arrive Tuesday; baby-boomers retiring Thursday. Film at eleven.” The big difference was that “D Day” ó the hypothetical date when 75% of that generation will be on SSI and not W2 ó was now a mere ten years away. Ten years wasted doing nothing, again. Deja vu is not only an album by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, it is a way of life in HR/staffing. But of even greater concern were the recommendations being made by experts in the field:
- More aggressive recruiting: the moral equivalent of buying a bigger bucket when the well runs dry.
Anyone who follows online screening and assessment knows that there just isn’t much information available about general trends related to its use. This can be a bit frustrating, because while everyone seems to be saying that screening is becoming a “hot” area, there is little actual data available to confirm it. This makes it hard for those of us who follow this industry closely to provide fact-based information about how companies are using online screening and assessment tools and what their results have been. The general lack of information about the use of online screening and assessment tools led me to create last summer’s 20 Questions about Online Screening survey. While the survey was far from being scientifically rigorous, it did provide some good, high-level information about usage trends for online screening and assessment. Last year’s survey focused on providing information about the current usage of online screening and assessment tools, obstacles to the adoption of online screening and assessment tools, and respondent’s opinions about future usage rates for these tools. Here is a quick summary of the results: Respondents:
- 65 people responded.
From time to time I hear recruiters discuss their fears of being “automated out” of a job. A common fear is that the Internet and enterprise software tools will mean the elimination of recruiters. I have written several articles where I have discussed the potential that technology has to take over many of the activities recruiters do and how the skill sets that recruiters need has changed. If we explore each of the key technologies, we can see what they have to offer. The Internet Obviously, this is the killer app and the foundation technology that most of the others use in one way or another. What it allowed us to do, first of all, was to post jobs so that they were exposed to potentially tens of thousands of people at a time. Today this is common practice for almost all organizations, as it allows us global exposure at a tiny fraction of what it would have cost to do it with a newspaper or magazine. It also has given us the power to communicate effortlessly with candidates, gather data about the candidate, provide feedback, and market ourselves to them without anyone having to say a word. It allows the candidate the ability to learning about our company, our jobs, and our culture without leaving the house, and it allows us to market our uniqueness to the candidates. The Internet has also allowed us to do inexpensive research. We can learn more about markets, competitors, candidates, and the supply chain than was even dreamed about even five years ago. The Internet is a tool and can be applied in numerous ways to make our lives easier. I make an analogy to the engine of a car. It makes the car go, but it is not the car or the driver. You need all three for the car to be of any use. The Recruiting Website The recruiting website has become (or should have become) the primary way you market to candidates. With a modest investment of time and a little creative juice, any organization can have an effective tool for pointing out organizational strengths and for sending clear messages to candidates about the culture of the organization. A good recruiting website can also assess candidates’ qualifications for specific positions, and even conduct skills assessments and help reduce the volume of candidates who can now apply for jobs because of job postings. These sites are vital to the success of any recruiting effort. Any organization that does not have a robust website will not be able to compete very well in the competitive labor market that we will soon be in again. They enhance, even enable, the recruiter’s ability to select the right person and build interest in the organization. Still, websites are not able to “recruit” anyone. The Applicant Tracking System The cornerstone of many efforts to automate recruiting revolves around the applicant tracking system, or ATS. These tools have been around for about a decade and have become familiar to all recruiters who have been part of large organizations. Even most smaller organizations have by this time figured out some way to use an Excel spreadsheet or its equivalent to track resumes and candidates. Applicant tracking systems allow candidates to submit resumes that are then stored in a database. Recruiters can access these resumes in a number of ways, mostly by doing keyword searches for specific terms within the resume. This way, a few relevant resume can be retrieved from thousands that may be in the database. Other common features include ways to track requisitions and which recruiter is assigned to them, automated responses to the candidates via email, routing of resumes to hiring managers and recruiters, interview scheduling, and reporting for compliance and for internal purposes. Only a handful of these have any capability of interacting with the candidates themselves. The ATSs are really just backend data keepers and dispersers. They are useful but they cannot do “recruiting.” Enterprise Software (Peoplesoft, SAP, Oracle and the like) These big, comprehensive tools are designed for storing data and generating reports. They do payrolls and track benefits. They assign employee numbers and tally up hires, layoffs, retirements, and deaths. Some of them have basic applicant tracking systems that come with them or can be bought as an add-on. They are not a threat to recruiters, but could make their lives easier by providing the means to track and report and correlate things like turnover to source of hire, or performance level compared to source of hire or to an employees application. If the data gathered by these tools can be interpreted and tied back to the recruiting process, many improvements in recruiting could take place. What Can and Can’t Be Automated? All the administrative aspects of recruiting can be done by the Internet or by the other software tools available. Mot screening and some level of candidate assessment can be done by good recruiting websites and other specialized software. Candidate communication, especially of a routine nature, can be easily automated as can such mundane activities as interview scheduling, relocation assistance, and offer letter generation. Background screening and other aspects of application processing can also be almost completely automated. So, where’s the recruiter in all this? Hopefully, you can still see the many things left for a recruiter to do. Sure, we may need fewer of us to deal with a greater number of candidates, but what’s left to do is challenging and worthwhile work. A modern recruiter should focus on the front-end, or candidate side, of recruiting. This means using technology to source the candidates that you can then spend time getting to know. Building relationships, fostering communication, and exchanging information should be a major part of what a recruiter does. By using technology, this becomes easier than ever before and allows a reach and scope that was never possible before. Today’s recruiter needs to create talent strategies for her organization, help do more effective workforce planning, and gather the data needed to understand both the demand and the supply side of the talent equation. They also need to build and nurture strong candidate relationships and sell the organization to the candidate with great skill. This chart summarizes what I have been saying. I welcome you feedback and thoughts about it. I am sure some of you will disagree with where I have placed things, and I would like to hear your suggestions for additions or other changes.
The recruiting process is one that will never be fully automated, although much of the backend can be (and will be). The front end is where both value and opportunity lie.
Don’t miss Roger Herman’s keynote address at ER Expo 2003 Chicago. Visit www.erexpo.com today to learn more! Over the past few years, recruiting has occupied an interesting position. The field has become more sophisticated without question, but many of the underlying philosophies and human behaviors remain unchanged. The basic strategy is still cast the net, see who responds, pick who we want, and ignore the rest. Electronic technologies simply enable us to behave the way we already have, but more efficiently. Life is about to change. Employers have become rather arrogant. Many are focused more on layoffs, restructurings, and pushing productivity than they are on building positive relationships with current and future employees. Think about it: Does your recruiting system help develop a relationship with applicants so they feel personally acknowledged? Or does your process only contribute to the depersonalization of the recruiting process? Does your process simply send an auto-responder message? “Your resume has been received. It will be stored in our huge computer system along with thousands of others. Do not respond to this message; it was sent by an automatic function that can not receive, let alone understand, incoming communications. If, at some point in the future, we have need for your services, we’ll call you.” No wonder applicants are turned off. An astonishingly low proportion of recruitment systems even responds at all to candidates. The assumption is that candidates are simply sending resumes to every URL they can find, with no focus or expectations. While some job hunters may apply that tactic, few really want to get into that game. They’re more specific about what they want and where they might find it. When they get no response ó or an impersonal automatic response ó they’re turned off and their interest in working for that employer wanes rapidly. Coming Back To Bite You When you treat people well, they remember. When you treat people badly, they remember even better ó and they tell others. There are some real sour feelings in the employment market. Employees and candidates have been taken for granted, regarded as commodities, over the past few years. They’ve been made to feel unwanted, unloved, and unappreciated. Understandably, people don’t like to feel this way and keep in mind the source of their negative feelings. As the economy picks up, employers will experience increasing demands for their products and services. To meet customer expectations, they’ll need to hire more people. (Sure, they’ll squeeze as much productivity as they can from their current workforce until they finally have to break down and hire from the outside.) When applicants discover that there are more jobs opening up, they will gradually become more discriminating. Selectivity will increase. They’ll look for jobs with employers who appreciate them as individuals, who communicate with them, who are genuinely interested in them and care about finding the right people for the right jobs. Hundreds of thousands of workers will be in the job market. Many of them will still be on the payroll of employers who don’t have a clue how many of their people are ready to jump ship. Several recent surveys have reported that 30% to 40% of today’s workers have already checked out ó that is, they are focused more on where their next job will be than they are on their current performance. We call this condition “warm chair attrition.” How many people in your company bring their body to work but leave their heart elsewhere? These prospective employees, currently employed or unemployed, are touchy. Because of the way they’ve been treated, their emotions are close to the surface; their tolerance for belligerence and arrogance is very thin. If they apply to your company and do not get some sort of sincere, caring response, they’re moving on to the next opportunity. Do not assume that because you received a resume that the person who sent it is still even remotely interested in working for you. Ignore their inquiry, and these more sensitive workers will ignore you. Send them an automatic, one-size-fits-all response, and they’ll move on to find an employer where “one-size-fits-me.” What does your system do to reach out to prospective employees ó those people who cared enough to select you as a possible employer? The Race Is On! Most employers, particularly line executives, do not understand what is about to hit them. As we conducted our research for our latest book, Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs, Too Few People, we were struck by the lack of awareness ó let alone concern ó for the labor market. As we reviewed various studies and considered the research in the employment field, we realized that American employers are heading right into a swamp with alligators and quicksand. To understand emerging conditions, let’s begin with an appreciation of today’s situation. We have a serious shortage of skilled labor in this country. Oh, yes. I can hear all the complacent executives disbelieving my warnings. Layoffs, high unemployment, flat economy. Sure. Ask recruiters and you get a different answer. Many human resource specialists on the employment side of the house tell stories about how they can’t find people qualified to fill their openings. When I give speeches to audiences composed of executives from a number of companies, I ask how many employers have critical openings that they just can’t find people to fill. Consistently, 60% to 80% of the participants raise their hands. Note: This reaction comes during a period of a flat economy and high unemployment. If you can’t find the people you need now, imagine what will happen when more jobs open and the competition for top talent intensifies. The plot thickens. Today’s shortage of skilled labor will continue to grow. We’ll see increasing problems as we move through the decade. Reports of research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that we may face a shortage of 10,033,000 skilled workers by 2010. Before you dismiss this projection as being too far into the future, count the number of days between now and 2010. Preparing for the Surge In the very near future ó right now for some of readers ó the recruiting picture will be much different than it has been for the past few years. We’re shifting into a sellers’ market again, just like we saw in the late 1990s. So, here’s the question. Is your recruiting system designed ó and functioning ó for a buyers’ market or a sellers’ market? Are you prepared to handle a higher demand from your customers ó those managers who will suddenly discover that they need people and their current workforce is not stable? Prepare now for a surge in demand and in applications from people who will judge you, in part, by how you respond and interact with them. Warning: Prepare now. If you decide to wait or ignore this message, and your competitors don’t, you will be making a career-altering decision.
As I discussed in Part 1 of this article series last week, candidate abuse during the interview and hiring process is becoming increasingly common, particularly because the economy is bad and jobs are scarce. As a result, companies have gotten arrogant about how they treat candidates. Candidates themselves have become more willing to take the abuse, because job scarcity puts them at the mercy of hiring managers and recruiters. Last week, I outlined the areas in which candidates are abused during the hiring process. In this part, I’ll share some management actions that will help reduce that kind of abuse. Remember this: Treat the candidate like a customer ó because if you don’t, they might never become one! Ways To Reduce Unnecessary Interview Abuse There are a variety of tools and techniques that can help reduce the number of unnecessary interviews and interview abuse. Some of them include:
- Educate managers about the consequences of additional interviews. Demonstrate that more interview time actually decreases the quality of the person hired.
With behavioral interviewing and all the heralded tests now available, why do you think managers still hire candidates who under-perform? Come up with your best four answers here: Reason 1. ___________________________________________________
Reason 2. ___________________________________________________
Reason 3. ___________________________________________________
Zen Master: Define the sound of simultaneous laughing and crying.
Zen Student: People trying to understand and measure human performance. Some Basic Truisms Everyone has a different definition of human performance ó and nothing is quite a frustrating as building your job around a set of floating definitions. This is often the case with jobs and job skills. Let me try to focus the issue by “floating” a few caveats:
- “I have way too many unqualified applicants.”
- “We are swamped with people applying for positions that require special skills or expertise they don’t have.”
As a speaker and attendee at the recent SHRM conference in Orlando, I detected three current major areas of interest in the field of staffing management. One area of focus among staffing professionals is background checking, a staffing process step that has taken on even greater significance in light of recent security and economic developments. The second is ongoing discussion around the broad issue of assessment, and the availability and efficacy of assessment and testing tools. The third major areas of interest ó the subject of my conference presentation and of this article ó is the burgeoning focus on metrics. It’s easy for all of us to agree that making our organizations more metrics-driven is a worthy goal. Yet amid all the discussion, there is, ironically, a lack of a systematic approach to metrics. So let’s take a step back to explore not the choice of which metrics to track, nor even how to track them and analyze them, but instead, what are the characteristics of a good metric? What Is a Good Metric? We use metrics as a basis to make decisions on and focus our actions. To be effective and reliable, the metrics we decide to use need to have five key characteristics. Each metric must be:
- Aligned with business: In a Corporate Leadership Council survey, 62 percent of respondents cited “to better align HR strategy with corporate strategy” as the number-one goal for HR. More than half the respondents in a Towers Perrin study considered “shifting HR’s role to help address critical business issues” as the most significant challenge for HR leadership. Clearly, HR alignment with business goals is a priority to measure and improve upon, but it is also difficult to achieve. First, corporate business targets (direction set by the CEO) and HR strategies need to be synchronized, and then translated into the tactics HR implements.