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Amazon, Intel, NBCUniversal spill buying secrets at HR Tech 2018

HR leaders at the 2018 HR Technology Conference & Expo advise listening to vendor pitches without falling prey to shiny-object syndrome. Here are the nuances of what that means.

LAS VEGAS -- Amazon's talent acquisition organization has more than 3,500 people, including 2,000 recruiters, and...

is very interested in testing out new technology. That is probably welcome news to vendors here at HR Tech 2018. But Amazon and other big HR technology users warned against being dazzled by vendors' products and recommended following a disciplined and tough evaluation process.

"I think it's important to stay abreast with what's happening in the market," said Kelly Cartwright, the head of recruiting transformation at Amazon. "I'm really, really passionate about doing experiments and pilots and seeing whether or not something can work," she said, speaking on a talent acquisition technology panel at HR Tech 2018.

It's important to "block out time and take those [vendor] calls and listen to what those vendors have to say because one of them actually might have a solution for you that can be a game changer," Cartwright said.

A warning about new HR tech

But Cartwright also had a clear warning for attendees at the HR Tech 2018. It won't help to make the investment in a new technology until "you really clarify" what it is you want to use it for, she said.

What has to happen first in investigating HR trends and new technologies is to "start with a clear problem that you're trying to solve for," Cartwright said. She illustrated her point with example questions: Is the problem improving diversity in the pipeline? Or is it ensuring that there are enough potential candidates visiting your recruiting website?

Endorsing this approach was Gail Blum, manager of talent acquisition operations at NBCUniversal, who appeared with Cartwright on the panel.

Blum said NBCUniversal may not always have the budget for a particular new HR technology, but vendors increasingly are offering free pilots. Companies can choose to take a particular problem "and see if that new tool or vendor has the ability to solve that," she said.

Attendees walk through the expo area at the 2018 HR Technology Conference
New HR tech is in abundance at the 2018 HR Technology Conference & Expo

New tech that doesn't integrate is next to useless

Critical to any new HR technology is its ability to integrate with existing talent systems, such as an applicant tracking system, Blum said. She wants to know: Will the system have a separate log-in? "That's always something that we ask upfront with all of these vendors."

"If you are requiring everyone to have to go to two different systems the usage probably isn't going to be great," Blum said, who said that was their experience from some previous rollouts. If the systems don't integrate, a new technology addition "isn't really going to solve your problem in the end," she said.      

There was no disagreement on this panel at HR Tech 2018 about the need to be rigorous with vendors to avoid being taken in by a shiny new technology.

We ask really invasive questions of the vendors.
Allyn Baileytalent acquisition capability adoption transformation leader, Intel

If Intel is going to partner with a talent vendor "it's a long-term play," said Allyn Bailey, talent acquisition capability adoption transformation leader at the chipmaker.

"We ask really invasive questions of the vendors," Bailey said. "The vendors really hate it when we do it," she said.

But Bailey said they will probe a vendor's stability, their financing and whether they are positioning themselves to gather some big-name customers and then sell the business. "That freaks me out because my investment with that vendor is around that partnership to build a very customized solution to meet my needs," she said. 

TechTarget, the publisher of SearchHRSoftware, is a media partner for HR Tech 2018.

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