Just the FAQs Ma’am: More Questions for an RFP

In Part One of this two-part series, I offered some guidelines in preparing questions to include in Applicant Tracking System requests for proposals (RFPs). The questions in Part One were designed to elicit responses that would provide you (or your CFO) with all the financial knowledge necessary to make an educated choice of providers based on the prospective company’s collective financial health. This part of the series will provide some pointers in preparing questions that will focus on the structure, technology, and strategy that drive the long-term growth of companies in the recruiting solutions market. Anyone who has been down this path before knows that it’s incredibly difficult to compare “apples to apples,” since few of the companies in this market space offer such similar products or services that financial well-being would be the only differentiating factor. That said, you still want to know that whatever company you choose is going to be there for you, specifically, over the life of your contractual agreement with them, and hopefully many years thereafter. As we’ve seen in the recent months, sometimes raising lots of money, or even a track record of achievement, doesn’t translate into enduring success unless the vision of the leaders is ahead of the vision of the industry. Before you start the effort of writing any RFP you need to do some research on the marketplace. What are the trends? What do the experts say about what’s currently available and what’s coming down the road? Use questions like the ones below on your RFP to help you determine who is really on the leading edge and who is trying to catch up: 1. Describe recent trends in the Applicant Tracking System industry. See if this matches your research. Sometimes it will be eye-opening information; sometimes it will eliminate the also-rans in a heartbeat. 2. Please provide your thoughts on how your technology is providing a “better” recruiting strategy than current methods. Every RFP we get is loaded with questions about features and functions. “Can you do this? Can you do that?” Most never touch on the strategic long-term value on which the company is based, or how this particular solution will help deliver real company ROI. Real strategic direction takes knowledge, competence and execution. 3. Why is your company a better option for OUR COMPANY than your competition? Who is your strongest competition and why? How do you stay ahead of the competition? Have some fun. These are the open-ended questions that speak volumes about a provider’s strategic leadership. Let them identify whom else you should be talking to and why. 4. What does XML mean to you? How do you leverage it? Provide five technical reasons why your architecture is best? Features and function are easy to sell. Find out the depth of the technical knowledge of the vendor. If your research shows that XML is going to become the wave of the future, then you’ve eliminated a lot of contenders already. Forget about yes or no answers and use open-ended questions to get their thoughts on the benefits of their technology. In the end, you are buying the technology, not slick graphics. 5. Please provide your perspective on the following vendors. (Provide a list of all the providers under consideration.) What issues should we watch out for and how do you position your company and products/service relative to each vendor? What questions should we ask them? This is my favorite. Why should you do all the dirty work when, most likely, the vendors have more information on each other than you would ever want to know. Want to mitigate risk? Ask the vendors to provide you with specific questions to ask and their thoughts on what the responses will be. The answers will surprise you. The questions will be great for your follow-up discussions. Another important thing to find out who is running the show. A list of executives is fine, but do they have the depth of experience to adequately understand the needs of the industry? Do they have “bench strength” in the ranks, or is this a one-man show that might collapse if he or she leaves the company? 6. Describe your internal organization structure. Provide an organizational chart, including your senior management. Who are these people? What qualifies them to run this business that will support you? Look at their employment history. Is this team committed to the success of the company or are they in it for the proverbial “quick buck”? And for global enterprises and grass roots organizations alike, you’ll want to know how accessible a real human being is when you need one. Make sure that you understand where your help will come from. 7. How many offices do you have in the US? Internationally? Where are they located? What office(s) will be implementing and supporting us? If your needs are global, is this company really global? Meaning, do they really have multiple offices inside and outside of North America or does an office in Canada mean “international” to them? Visit all their offices and see if they’re for real. On the other hand, how easy is it for you to reach them? Are business hours in Pacific Standard Time the only time they’re available? 8. Please indicate your international capabilities and to what extent your current system supports multiple languages. English is widely accepted as a universal language for business, but the reality is that for real global recruiting practices to be effective, you have to speak like a native. If your company requires a global implementation, make sure you’re working with a provider that can support all the languages you need, not just one or two. 9. List any international office locations as well as any customers currently utilizing your products internationally. Ask your potential providers to give you their views on the requirements of supporting multiple client databases under Europe’s Safe Harbor Act and watch most of them cringe. Are they already supporting international clients? Experienced companies already have a foothold in global operations with globally implemented clients. Be wary of those that “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk.” Finally, talk to your prospective application suppliers about their current clients. How many industry leaders are really using the version that is being offered to you? What kind of attrition rate do they have and why? How many of their current clients fit the profile of your company? Don’t be sold on the idea that “one size fits all.” You may need all the bells and whistles or you may not. Common sense says that companies with a growing client base will fare better. Find out if their definition of “growing” matches yours. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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John Logan (john.logan@peopleclick.com) is the Director of Business Operations for Peopleclick, a leading provider of Internet-based recruiting solutions and EEO Analytical applications for major corporations. Logan manages the sales operations, RFP and RFI responses and product knowledge communication for Peopleclick's global sales force. His career has focused on integrating technology into the customer response cycle and establishing effective client relationship strategies. Previously, Logan was Director of New Product Development for SBC's Ameritech Publishing business unit and has also been a successful entrepreneur in several start-up ventures. John also provides RFP consultation free-of-charge to companies considering web-based recruiting solutions.