Technology Trends: Become a Better Customer

Every month, I do an article on the state of technology. This month is no exception. While progress is occurring in using technology for improving hiring and recruiting processes, I’m disappointed that it’s not occurring more rapidly. From our investigations, this is more of a problem with the users of technology ó the customers ó than the vendors. For significant progress to be made on the IT front, recruiters and recruiting managers need to become better customers. They quickly need to be better users of technology. By demanding more robust systems, vendors will respond. They have the will and the capacity, but not enough direction. Unfortunately, too many customers demand features that are often unnecessary, counter-productive or poorly thought out. Collectively, this is why technology has not progressed as rapidly in the hiring/recruiting area as it might have. We’re going to change all of that. You’ll have an opportunity to accelerate this trend and become part of a new technology movement. Information on how to participate will be provided at the end of this article. Not all will qualify, but if you’d like to influence the technology product roadmap, it’s something you should consider. For now, let’s just set a new direction. In my opinion, the overall objective of technology is to maximize candidate quality while reducing time to fill and cost to hire. From this perspective, the investment in technology has not had a great ROI. To achieve this maximum quality/shorter time/lower cost objective, here are some of the big areas where technology needs to improve:

  1. Handling the needs of less active and passive candidates. For example, recruiters need to focus on job descriptions that are compelling, easy to find, and easy to apply for. The ability to build and manage pipelines of top people with CRM (customer relation management) capability is also important.
  2. Improving recruiter productivity. Recruiters spend too much time doing unnecessary work. Finding prioritized information instantly is part of the solution to this, and accurately sorting the best from the rest without having to do too much is another. Properly designed and easy to use technology can address these issues and give recruiters two to three hours more per day in increased productivity.
  3. Providing recruiters real time access to important recruiting and assessment tools. What do you say to a candidate who says she’s no longer interested or wants another week’s vacation? Good candidates who got away or were inadvertently excluded are the biggest time-wasters of all.
  4. Managing multi-channel sourcing programs to maximize quality while minimizing cost. Recruiters need a real-time, optimized view of what’s happening by channel, by search, by quality, by time, and by cost ó and automatic processing of next steps. Sequenced sourcing like this can maximize candidate quality while holding cost to the minimum possible.
  5. Providing recruiting management the tools they need to ensure that performance objectives are being met. Managers need to know how the team is doing every step of the way, highlighting potential problems and bottlenecks, plus the ability to reallocate resources as needed.
  6. Providing hiring managers the tools they need to improve their hiring effectiveness. The real needs of hiring managers have been overlooked. While scheduling interviews is important, intuitive interfaces that spoon feed all that’s necessary to select from three great candidates is the real goal.

In this ongoing technology trends series of articles, we’ll focus on these major topics. In a recent ERE article, I examined the needs of less active candidates. These are strong people who look infrequently. Because they’re more discriminating and time is of the essence, technology needs to be able to handle their unique needs. We just completed a report on how the major ATS vendors are handling this important sourcing issue. There were two clear leaders, a few making good progress, but over half of the thirteen systems we examined fell far short of basic needs. The key ingredients to progress on the IT front are clear: customer-centric vendors with robust, flexible technology and strong customers who push their viewpoint. Fortunately, all of the vendors who participated in our evaluation recognize the need to improve the functionality of their systems. Unfortunately, users aren’t responding as rapidly. Recruiter productivity is another area that needs more attention. Corporate recruiters never have as much time as third-party recruiters to complete their work, so technology must do a better job of evening the odds. While an employer brand can help bring in more candidates, processing and selecting the best is still time consuming. Couple this with the need to deal with more hiring managers, less time to network, less time to spend with each candidate, and with more reqs to handle, just dealing with the basic stuff is sometimes overwhelming. Here are some big areas where technology can be improved:

Article Continues Below
  • Desktop navigation
  • User interface and the ability to quickly update records and move candidates
  • Using the search engine to quickly bring only the best candidates to the top of the list
  • Automated correspondence with candidates
  • Eliminating unnecessary steps
  • Minimizing the number of candidates sent out to employers
  • Automatically scheduling interviews
  • Coordinating activities with hiring managers

As part of our technology review on recruiter productivity, we’ll examine all of these areas. Two stand out as critical issues: desktop navigation and the robustness of the search engine. As you read the following, consider how well your system handles these two critical issues. Desktop Navigation The ability to quickly find what you need to work on every day. This shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, for some systems it still is. It’s caused by the initial system designers building their process around the standard cycle of requisition approval, candidate sourcing, selection and offer process. While it sounds logical, recruiters don’t work this way. They work on priorities. It doesn’t matter what stage of the process a candidate is in; if an interview needs to be set, an offer extended, or a phone screen conducted, a recruiter needs to know what to handle each day. Sorting through reqs to get this information is time consuming. Most technology vendors didn’t consider this recruiter vs. requisition process difference in their initial designs. To catch up, they had to scramble to pull out the critical pieces from each req and put it all on the desktop. Some do a better job than others in handling this data management issue. It becomes a problem when the underlying database structure doesn’t allow for easy access and presentation of the data. Part of our upcoming review will be to evaluate how well the vendors currently handle this critical area, and what they’re doing to get better. Searching for Resumes Finding candidates quickly and accurately is essential. This is probably the deal-breaker for all systems. The goal here is to get the best candidates to the top of the list so you don’t have to ever look at more than 10 to 20 resumes in total per search. You should be able to ignore the other candidates in the pool if the search worked properly. If there aren’t any good candidates in the initial batch, then stop looking and switch to another sourcing channel. For a search engine to rank high on performance, it must be able to handle limited data from less active and passive candidates and accurately rank order and separate the strong from the weak. Coupled with this, it must be easy for all recruiters to use, not just super users. Unfortunately, too many don’t work well enough. Don’t accept false solutions either. A search engine that can quickly sort through active candidates who completed some extensive questionnaire is counter-productive. In this case, you’ll need to track opt-out rates at each step and add more inducements for candidates to stay involved at each step. These are the type of unnecessary workarounds we see when systems weren’t designed properly to begin with. It all leads to more work and weaker candidates. Recruiter productivity can’t be considered in a vacuum. Even as noted above, improving recruiter efficiency while eliminating the best candidates is illogical. Yet things like this happen too frequently. Technology design must be considered from the perspective of all users. In the recruiting/hiring area, this user group includes less active candidates, recruiters, hiring managers, other interviewers and recruiting/HR management. Balancing their often competing needs is the key to strong system design. For technology to evolve more rapidly, it needs strong technology users who can see beyond their own personal needs. This high level systemic look is essential if we want technology to play a more important role in helping companies hire the best talent more quickly at the lowest possible cost. Note: If you’d like to join our technology users group, send an email to for information on how to participate. You’ll receive a copy of our latest white paper, “ATS Vendor Review: Handling the Needs of Less Active Candidates,” and a chance to influence the technology roadmap. Upcoming reviews include recruiter productivity, new emerging technologies and multi-channel sourcing. The vendors are listening, and they want your input. This is your chance to be heard.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).