Putting technology to work through e-cruiting

Used wisely, technology can be a boon for today’s recruitment professionals.

Technology has dramatically altered the face of corporate recruiting. On one hand, it has made the process of finding the right candidates faster, considerably more efficient, and far less costly. On the other, it has created a new set of expectations that mandate HR professionals and corporate recruiters to do more, to do it quicker, and to accomplish all with fewer resources.

Online recruiting can cost significantly less than traditional recruitment advertising. It also addresses the need for more immediate gratification — online recruiting can shave up to 15 days off the typical 43-day hiring cycle.

Innovations

Have technological innovations made the recruiting process better, simpler, or less confusing?

Yes and no.

Yes, but only if online recruiting is used as part of a well-rounded recruitment mix that includes the development and support of a strong employer brand and well-organized offline recruiting processes.

No, if online recruiting is relied upon to stand alone as a recruiting panacea.

Two key stages of the recruiting process that have been strongly impacted by technology are the development of a pool of candidates from which to choose, and the assessment of suitability of those candidates for the advertised positions. These two elements must function with equal effectiveness in order to realize success in today’s competitive recruiting arena.

The goal of a solid candidate pool development strategy is to attract the right volume of qualified candidates to the organization. Accomplishing this task is largely predicated on delivering information about the company and the opportunities that will resonate with the right target group and motivate them to respond to your message instead of the thousands of other competing messages.

Employer branding

While HR professionals have embraced the Internet as an innovative solution to their recruiting challenges, many neglect the need to differentiate and raise awareness about the organization itself.

Recruiters should not be lulled into a sense of false security by thinking, “If I post it, they will come.” Posting a job on a company Web site or on a job board with hundreds of thousands of resumes is only part one; getting people to read it and respond to it is fundamental to the conclusion of a successful campaign.

While online recruiting can reap incredible rewards, it only truly works well when fuelled by a strong employer-branding message. To this end, developing a themed recruitment marketing campaign that is tied to the employer brand and executing the campaign over a wide range of media along with a targeted online strategy will significantly raise the effectiveness of any recruiting effort. The use of traditional media is critical to building awareness of employer brands and driving focused traffic to company Web sites. Then the Internet is utilized to reinforce brand messages, post detailed job descriptions and deliver more elaborate recruitment-based information.

Integrating recruiting efforts with an overall recruitment marketing campaign will attract the most qualified, best-fit talent pool. A typical example of this would be a strong, image-based advertising campaign tied together with promotional material such as company hats and T-shirts emblazoned with a URL to drive people to the corporate Web site where online recruiting systems operate and employer brands are reinforced.

Targeting recruits

Recruitment advertisers have little control over who will respond to their call to action. Broadcasting the message can ultimately result in a wide range of candidate response that is preferably weighted in favour of those who match the necessary criteria, but invariably will also include a number of people who are simply “kicking the tires,” throwing their resumes out there in the hope that something will stick. The fact that the Internet reaches a wider audience only magnifies this challenge, not to mention that there is a lower barrier to entry for these “tire kickers” where resume submission is done with a simple point and click.

A greater number of unsuitable respondents can in turn create additional workload for an already overwhelmed recruiting infrastructure, a factor that has created the need for new innovations to ease what would be an otherwise unmanageable workload in phase two of the recruiting process — the candidate assessment stage.

In the pre-Internet years, if an organization could not find the right candidate internally, it placed an ad in a newspaper or periodical.

Ideally, it received a few dozen resumes, sorted them manually, set aside a shortlist for interviews, interviewed and then hired. Today the freedom, flexibility, accessibility and speed of the Web has enabled messages to be posted 24/7 on multiple job boards and has created the instant gratification of immediate electronic resumes.

Fortunately, with technology making recruiting more instantaneous and allowing organizations to target many qualified candidates for virtually any job, a new segment of recruitment technology has sprouted up. It responds to the need to quickly and accurately screen the volumes of responses that are characteristic of today’s recruiting environment, as well as making it possible to immediately contact the most qualified individuals.

New technology

It is at this point where some of the fundamental challenges associated with online recruiting can start to emerge, and where new technology innovations have seemingly provided some of the relief to the recruiter’s most pressing challenges — getting to the best quality candidates within the shortest possible cycle.

Through the advent of Applicant Tracking System (ATS), such as E-cruiter.com, Vision2Hire, WebHire, RecruitSoft, and others, hundreds of resumes can be filtered quickly and candidates contacted within the same set of mouse clicks. To keep up with the overwhelming flow of electronic resumes that often result from Internet postings, recruiters have used an ATS to bring the number of applicants down to a manageable level.

While ATS software has helped recruiters sort through volumes of resumes, there is still much work to be done on other levels. For example, when it comes to weighting some skill sets against others, ATS software can provide inaccurate and sometimes confusing results. No matter how good the technology is, some tasks of the professional recruiter simply cannot be replaced completely by a computer program.

Screening

Vendors continue working to develop systems with the perfect algorithm to weigh particular skills against others and to measure these against still other attributes. Such an algorithm would rank responses and to match them against the ideal candidate profile, giving time-crunched recruiters an onscreen view of a neat list of candidates prioritized by their suitability for a particular position. In an ideal world, a recruiter could open the first five applications on the list and send a “Thanks for applying, but…” note to the rest.

While vendors try their best to replicate human reasoning with ones and zeros, ATS ranking and matching seems to work best when the criteria are relatively uncomplicated, and can be tabulated with simple “Yes/No” or “Pass/No Pass” questions. As a result, some candidates who may have already been selected for an interview can slip through the online pre-screening process, while other well-qualified diamonds in the rough may go undiscovered.

The best answer for now seems to be to restrict the use of these systems to preliminary screening and filtering, and to rely on the most sophisticated hiring technology available today — the professional recruiter — to make the big decisions.

Data duplication

Another potential hazard of today’s technology-driven corporate culture and of Internet recruiting is the duplication of candidate data. In the absence of a well-organized resume collection centre, numerous databases of identical resumes may exist within the same organization. Technology must be utilized efficiently and effectively by keeping a master database of resumes or directing all candidates to a single HR-based e-mail, rather than various e-mails in different departments.

An in-house HRIS or Web-based ATS can help in this area by ensuring all corporate recruiters are tapping into the same pool of candidates, even those who respond through various media. For this system to function effectively, companies must have the internal support to digitize any information not received electronically, such as volumes of resumes received by fax or mail.

The high-tech aspects of the recruiting process have to be balanced with human savvy to succeed in today’s competitive, employee-driven marketplace. Certainly, recruiters should deploy all the technical online tools and resources at their disposal, but they should recognize that there are many off-line opportunities to make them more effective. In this way, recruiters and HR professionals will be able to attract and hire the best resources with speed, flexibility, creativity and the intuitiveness of recruitment marketers.

Howard Weintraub is president of Toronto-based RecruitAd, a Canadian human resources communications firm and a CNC Global company. He can be reached at [email protected]

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