Blow Up the RFP? Let’s Fix It Instead.

Your recruiting technology partners hate requests for proposals (RFPs). That’s hate with a capital H. Many recruiting leaders also don’t particularly care for them. Yet I’ve also heard from a few folks who are happy with RFPs because an upfront investment might lead to a better product selection. 

In larger organizations, RFPs are driven by procurement departments with at least some power over the corporate checkbook. In smaller companies where procurement departments aren’t driving the process, an RFP might be an attempt at trying to mature a process that might have led to some bad investments. 

Unfortunately, findings from Aptitude Research show that talent acquisition professionals are left out of influencing most talent acquisition technology decisions. That leaves decisions that can make or break how TA departments run in the hands of people who don’t fundamentally understand what recruiters need.

It’s a recipe for a disaster.

Get Away From the RFP? Good Luck!

This cold reality might suggest talent acquisition leaders should do anything to avoid going to RFP. 

But can you go around your procurement department? Can you throw a fit over an RFP you’re not involved in? Can you hack an RFP to get your way? Yes, of course. 

You also risk valuable political capital if things don’t turn out the way you want. We know whose side the CFO will go with, right? How many heads of talent acquisition who burn bridges with the person redlining the annual budget are ultimately successful? That number is pretty close to zero. 

So, if blowing up RFPs isn’t in the cards, what is? 

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Making an RFP Work For You

A good RFP process can be incredibly helpful for organizations, even with the protestations of vendor partners who’d rather you just choose them based on their charm. A good process prioritizes the things that will make a difference for your organization and bring into sharp clarity exactly what you need. Here’s how you can make it work for you:

  • Involve critical stakeholders. You can’t influence from the outside of a decision-making process very effectively. That means recruiters should be involved in recruiting-technology decisions. And while that’s straightforward, it’s also an opportunity to involve other stakeholders in the talent acquisition process to influence the decision — from hiring managers to IT to analysts and others who might use or need data from the technology.
  • Advocate for talent acquisition. You need to be in the RFP so you can advocate for the needs of your recruiting team. It’s also important to build agreement across the people inside the organization with whom you work to improve recruiting outcomes for the entire organization.
  • Push the boundaries where needed. Blow things up? Probably not. Get exceptions or changes to the boundaries, instead. For example, many modern RFPs want communication to go through procurement, but many talent acquisition leaders tell me they want direct access to vendors when making important decisions like narrowing down to finalists. Find a way not to fall victim to practices that don’t help you get the right decision made.
  • Develop selection criteria that meet your needs. Recruiting teams have to live with a technology decision for two to three years. While procurement leaders can help with the types of criteria to consider, it should ultimately be driven by what recruiters need to be most successful. 

Most importantly, an RFP should be reflective of your strategy as a recruiting organization, not of someone outside it — be it a vendor or a procurement lead. Determine your strategy, build your team, think about key criteria and priorities, and then go out and see what can serve your needs. 

When you make the RFP work for you, you’ll be less likely to have to settle for lousy recruiting technology. And that’s good for everyone — even procurement.


Want more insights on RFPs for recruiting tech? At ERE Digital, April 6-7, Lance and a panel of TA professionals will be sharing concrete insights during a discussion titled “The End of Inferior Recruiting Tech Begins With a Superior Request for Proposal.” Learn more and register at www.ererecruitingconference.com

Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
 
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.

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