The Real Challenges of Becoming A Web-Based Recruiting Function

The most recent issue of Business 2.0 (January 23, 2000) features an interview with Ray Lane, the former COO of Oracle, who is credited with turning Oracle’s operation into a world-class e-commerce company. In this interview Ray discusses what he believes it takes for a large bricks and mortar company to develop an effective e-commerce business. As I read through the interview, I was struck by the similarities between the challenges associated with transitioning complex business transactions to the web and what I’ve observed to be the challenges large companies are having in transitioning a recruiting function to the web. I immediately pulled out my highlighter to track our parallel thoughts. Here are a few highlights:

  1. The Internet is “probably the greatest technology tool ever to come along and companies are not positioned to use it.” Sadly, in the early 1990’s HR and Recruiting departments were some of the last departments to get “wired.” Many large companies had just begun to realize the importance of Human Capital Management to a company’s bottom line. During the late 1990’s we saw shifts from centralization of recruiting practices and technologies, to decentralization and back to centralization again. Now companies are challenged with completely transforming a myriad of software, processes, budgets, philosophies, and piles of resumes to a fully integrated web-based recruiting and Candidate Management System (CMS). The first step to transitioning to the Internet is through standardization of processes and practices. Only companies with real hard-core top-down/bottom-up commitment will be truly successful with this transition. If you personally are committed to seeing your company transition to a “real-time enterprise” Human Capital system, then you need to make sure your company is positioned to use the Internet completely and effectively. First, gauge senior-level management’s commitment to real-time enterprise technology as well as your peer-level commitment. It may require an education process on both levels. Senior management may not fully be aware of how the integration of web-based technology could support the “real-world business goals” and the ultimate positive impact it will have on the company’s bottom line. Peers that are typically resistant to change may also need to be educated to the scope of possibilities for enhancing their success by utilizing a real-time fully integrated enterprise system.
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  3. “On paper I can design it. But to get a company there I’ve got everything in the way.” Sound familiar? Have you ever sat in a meeting to discuss the flow chart of the implementation of new software? The same is true for any web integration. On paper everything looks logical. Everything seems to connect perfectly until actual people get involved. Then too many considerations and exceptions come into play: “the way people work, the number of people affected, business processes, approval levels, fiefdoms, control issues, training, etc.” all need to be considered. The key question companies need to answer is: “Do you try to customize the system to match the processes by which people currently work or do you reengineer the processes to fit the system?” I purport that you do a little bit of both. Before an implementation takes place, whether it is for a major Fortune 50 company with hundreds of recruiters worldwide or a 5 person independent search firm with one office, every business practice and process needs to be evaluated. Determine what makes sense to keep in transitioning to “new economy” practices and what makes sense to reengineer. When doing this exercise, try (it’s difficult) to separate the personalities involved from what makes the best business sense. Ultimately the division of labor and roles within the recruiting department may change. It may even require a shift in the balance of certain types of talent.
  4. “The web allowed Oracle to drive deeper into the market….In the past, without the Internet, if you had a marketing lead come in, passing it through the contact management system to a salesperson meant that it had the potential of getting dropped several times….a customer might never hear back or hear back a month later…” Again, the similarities with recruiting are amazing. Like a business development operation, the recruiting function is all about building relationships and rapid response. If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard candidates complain about response time (or no response) from recruiters, I’d be a wealthy woman. Resumes are left un-reviewed in piles on recruiter’s and hiring manager’s desks. They aren’t logged as to status so they are easily forgotten, and, the mechanisms for sharing resumes with peers throughout the company are often lacking. This isn’t to say the recruiters are doing a poor job, because most recruiters do a great job. However, their days are often so stretched in many different directions that it is difficult to stay on top of everything at 110% all the time. Without real-time enterprise systems that are actually used by the entire recruiting organization, candidates will continue to fall through the cracks. Effective integration of candidate profiles and resume submissions from a company website, Internet job postings, employee referrals, and all other resources into a real-time enterprise CMS that mandates a response and is structured to identify “best fit” candidates will dramatically improve recruiting efficiency and create lasting positive impressions with potential candidates. Again, this requires a top down/bottom up commitment.
  5. “Big companies need to think and act like a start-up to make their Net initiatives work.” If a recruiting department thinks of itself as its own start-up (not a department of the parent company) whose business objective is to most effectively serve the needs of its customers (hiring managers and candidates) then state of the art, real-time enterprise technology becomes a priority throughout the organization. Senior management will become actively involved in the details because the success of the start-up is dependent on every step of the process integrating seamlessly. No other single issue is more important than creating a fully integrated system.

In reality, in an established company, while a system is being selected and implemented, business still needs to continue. The key to success is having the appropriate commitments throughout the organization and people on the implementation team that do not bear the risk of being conflicted by the uncertainty of new processes and the comfort zone of the old.<*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Karen Osofsky ( is a co-founder of, an e-recruiting consulting firm that provides outsourced recruiting solutions to rapidly growing companies and new ventures. The firm provides a broad range of recruiting consulting, sourcing, screening, and strategy development services to help companies manage the front-end recruiting process. Tiburon Group is a Certified AIRS Solutions Partner.