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While applicant tracking systems (ATSes) have vastly improved the efficiency of recruiting departments, they also have a distinct downside.
According to speakers at the Human Capital Institute's 2013 Talent Acquisition Technology Forum, held last week in San Francisco, these ubiquitous systems often create a "black hole" for both job applicants and recruiters. After submitting an application, job seekers rarely hear from the company unless they are selected for an interview, and ATSes don't have sufficient functionality for recruiters to use them to stay in touch with high-quality applicants not hired for a specific position.
Candidate relationship management systems can help bridge this gap, according to speakers from companies that have adopted the technology. In addition to explaining the benefits, the session leaders also spoke candidly about pitfalls to avoid and offered tips for effective use.
Candidate relationship management systems keep 'silver medalists' in pipeline
Candidate relationship management systems facilitate talent communities where recruiters can keep track of candidate leads on an ongoing basis. This way, once a specific job requisition is filled, solid candidates who didn't make the cut or weren't exactly right for the role can nonetheless remain in the pipeline.
"From an engagement and candidate experience perspective, the bigger, well-established ATSes were built for compliance. They are meant for opening a requisition ... and filling it. They don't usually have robust communication tools [or] an easy way to segment your candidates," said Derina Adamczak, global recruitment marketing and technology manager at CH2M Hill Inc., an environmental and engineering consulting company headquartered in Denver, Colo. "With a [candidate relationship management system], it's much more flexible, there are better tools for communication long term and a lot of ways to segment your candidates."
For Shahbaz Alibaig, recruitment technology leader at General Electric Co., launching a candidate relationship management initiative represented a larger change -- the shift from a reactive to a proactive talent acquisition strategy. A major benefit of implementing the technology has been the ability to identify and cultivate passive candidate leads, he said.
Alibaig added that GE's candidate relationship management system is particularly valuable for keeping lines of communication open with "silver medalists": candidates who made it to the interview stage but weren't the hiring manager's ultimate choice. Drawing on this pool has helped shorten the time-to-hire cycle because silver medalists, having been previously vetted, can bypass the screening process.
Cost also comes into play. "There are cost savings for organizations that heavily rely on agencies and headhunters. When we looked at our agency spend collectively across GE globally ... it made everyone cringe," Alibaig said. Candidate relationship management software enables GE's internal recruiters to cultivate a database of top talent with similar tools used by external agencies, which has allowed the company to reduce this expenditure.
Job advertising cost was a consideration for CH2M Hill. "The recruiters were looking at candidates in their [requisitions] and made their single hire. We knew we were losing people, but we had no idea where," Adamczak said. "What it really meant is we were attracting the same candidates over and over, but with new advertising dollars."
Sales CRMs not an easy fit for recruiters
With the proliferation of talent acquisition technology vendors, Alibaig said recruiters often feel daunted by the possibilities. But the focus shouldn't fall solely on vendor selection.
"One of the things I've learned is that most of the technology out there is really good -- it's just how you implement it that makes a big difference," he said.
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For instance, Alibaig stressed the importance of integrating candidate relationship management systems with ATSes. He also recommended making technology the last step in a candidate recruitment management initiative; evaluating and standardizing the people, process and structure components should come first for the system to be successful.
Adamczak said her organization evaluated six systems before choosing SmashFly Technologies' offering -- four candidate relationship management products designed for recruiters and two customer relationship management (CRM) products designed for sales teams. However, the sales platforms were dropped from consideration early on.
"Out-of-the-box [sales CRMs] don't work for recruiters -- [they] require a lot of customization, and a big part of that is the integration with the ATS," Adamcazk said. "If you don't have integration with the ATS, you will be manually rekeying everything."
Like Alibaig, Adamcazk said process should come before technology. "Before you sit down with any vendor and do a demo, map out your sourcing and recruiting process and walk them through it," she said. "You don't want the vendor to tell you how to do your process."
Features that Adamcazk advised companies to watch for when vetting candidate relationship management systems include solid user manuals and support, robust reporting and follow-up functionality -- the ability to see when a person was last contacted.
Quality, not quantity of leads, key to effective candidate relationship management
Both Alibaig and Adamcazk said candidate relationship management systems shouldn't just be an additional tool dumped onto already overloaded recruiters.
"If you have recruiters who have a large number of requisitions they're working on, forget it. They will not be able to spend time cultivating the leads, [and] you have to respect that," Alibaig said. "An important part of your [candidate relationship management] roadmap is to be able to find resources that will maintain the talent community." At CH2M Hill, three new roles have been created since the system was implemented: sourcers, talent mapping professionals and a candidate development team.
Getting recruiters to realize that quality of leads trumps quantity with candidate relationship management systems is another important step. When GE first rolled out the system, Alibaig said some recruiters didn't grasp this right away.
"They added their friends, their family, all their LinkedIn connections and everyone else into CRM. But that's not really the objective because less is more, [and] quality is better," Alibaig said. "So we want to make sure the recruiters understand they need to go through the process of funneling and only keep those candidates fresh that are actually vetted."
Since candidate relationship management systems do require a significant mindset change, Alibaig said it can be helpful to do a proof of concept with a vendor before making a firm commitment. Once the system has been formally adopted, he recommended identifying change agents and starting small, with specific candidate segments.
And for executive teams that need to be convinced of the value of these systems, Alibaig advised that recruiting managers work with their colleagues in finance to calculate the hard return on investment.
"In some organizations, it's an overhead [issue] -- why now, with 8% unemployment, do we need something like this? It's really about the business leadership understanding the opportunity cost of not finding that right growth playbook enabler at the right time," he said. "If it's taking 30, 60 [or] 90 days, there's a cost associated with that."