Candidate Relationship Management

Do you seldom have good candidates available as positions open up in your organization? Do you find yourself scrambling to find good people to present to your hiring managers? Are you putting positions out for search too often?

If you answered yes to these questions, you need to look seriously at developing a candidate relationship management process.

CRM is really a fancy way to name something all good recruiters should do anyway. As I have written many times before, the most effective recruiters are always the ones who have found ways to get to know the most people. They have determined whom they need to know and they focus on finding those kinds of people and on developing relationships with them.

After all, the only goal of candidate relationship management is to develop a pre-screened pool of candidates for positions you have or might have in the future.

The premise behind CRM is simple: the more you know about a candidate and the more a candidate knows about you, the more likely you are to hire the right person. If you can do this before you have a need, you will provide hiring managers better candidates faster.

But whenever we speak of CRM, recruiters think about websites, applicant tracking tools, databases, email, and other technically driven and often expensive tools to find, screen, and nurture candidates.

While these are powerful tools that serve large organizations particularly well, they are not essential for many smaller firms and those recruiting in a local area. There are many CRM tools and techniques that are simple, inexpensive, and that can be used for small firms and hourly employees as well as for salaried ones. And there are ways to leverage others to act as your CRM partners in pre-qualifying and screening candidates.

Building relationships is always a process of getting to know a candidate better. It involves education and communicating with candidates so that you each have a more thorough knowledge and appreciation of each other. Anyway, you can make that happen in a way that improves your ability to recruit is CRM.

Here are six tips on how to build up a base of qualified hourly or salaried candidates without sophisticated technology or high cost:

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1. Build channels. Get out of the office to focus your recruiting efforts on channels that you know will deliver good people to you most of the time. Many retail establishments rely on high school or college students or on church groups or the Boy Scouts or some other source. Good channels are characterized by three things: they have enough members to be a reliable source, the members are close to each other and network together, and it has members who are frequently in need of employment. Local areas abound in these types of groups and you would be well served to take some time out of your schedule to speak to these people at a dinner or lunch meeting. Encourage them to refer people to you and make an effort to get to know a few of the leaders so you can call them for referrals, as well. A few well-developed channels can act as a private CRM network, supplying pre-qualified candidates in abundance. Other good channels of candidates include professional associations, conferences, charity, and other community events, as well as your own referral programs. Your imagination is the only limit as to where to find potentially good people. But it does mean you have to get out of the office and start networking. Join groups, call everyone you know, and make sure they are aware of what kinds of people you tend to hire. Channels have to be “worked” all the time and are not much good if they are only tapped when you have an open position. The whole idea of a talent community is to have it there when you need it. CRM is a proactive process.

2. Do promotions. Sponsor a booth at a conference and use it to talk about the opportunities your organization has in general. Collect business cards, not resumes. This is not a booth to actually recruit for open positions, but to build up a pool of potential candidates you can follow up with. One technique many recruiters have used is to give out special cards or letters that guarantees you will give anyone who has one a phone screen or a preliminary interview. This will drive referrals to your door and might be used in conjunction with a speaking engagement at one of the groups mentioned above.

3. Buy an inexpensive contact manager. There are a number of excellent contact management software packages available for single computers or for small networks. One of the most popular is called ACT and many recruiting agencies rely on this to keep track of candidates and potential candidates, and provide recruiters with information about each person. While it takes a bit of time to set these up and enter the names of people you may already know, it will pay back all that time by making it so much easier for you to look up the information you need about people who may call you or drop in.

4. Use your own employees. Of course, employee referral remains, as it has always been, one of the best ways to find people who are both a good fit for your culture and who have the skills you need, but who also have a built-in network of friends within your organization. This speeds up their assimilation into the workplace and also tends to foster quicker productivity.

5. Use your alumni. Another well-known method is to keep track of all the people who have left your company for greener grass. You can do this with a contact management program like ACT that I mentioned above, or with a simple spreadsheet. Check in with them every once in a while and see whether the grass is still as green as it used to be. You may find that many are very flattered to be contacted and may be very keen to return. While your corporate culture may frown on bringing back these “disloyal” former employees, the reality of the work world is such that it makes sense to overcome those negative feelings. These former employees are most likely skilled in the jobs you have, know the internal politics, and have a network of former colleagues and friends. This makes them productive and quickly assimilated.

6. Keep track of old candidates. Many of the people you have interviewed for jobs in the past may become good candidates for future jobs. You should keep track of everyone who has interviewed who you think might be a possible candidate for a job in the future. You can use the ACT software mentioned or a spreadsheet or other database. You don’t even need to keep the resume, just keep their name and phone number, email and address information and a few comments about their skills. They can provide an updated resume if and when you have more interest. This is a powerful but scarcely used way of finding candidates that you already know a little about. The key is to keep notes about their abilities and skills so you can identify good candidates quickly with a search.

Using these six techniques should improve your knowledge of good candidates, enrich your sourcing capabilities, and make your workload more manageable.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at