Recruiting Is A Business Strategy

Jerome Ternynck, founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters — and previous founder of MrTed — has an interesting perspective on recruiting. “Recruiting is not a process,” he told me firmly, “and therefore it cannot be automated.” While there are processes involved, recruiting itself is a business strategy, which software tools can help execute.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS), in particular, streamline and automate many recruiting tasks. From online applications and candidate tracking to video interviews and social recruiting, an ATS is essential for recruiting in the 21st century. And with affordable cloud-based systems, it’s easier than ever for small and midsize businesses to upgrade their recruiting toolbox.

However, there are things even the most sophisticated applicant tracking systems can’t do. Here are three key components of a successful recruiting strategy that your applicant tracking system won’t do for you, and some ideas on what you can do instead.

1. Find talent
ATS vendors are introducing more effective tools for finding candidates for your open positions. Their tools are integrating better with social media, increasing referral capabilities and running more powerful searches.

Though an ATS can help you source, Ternynck argues you need to look beyond your ATS for candidates. “Applicant tracking systems were created to automate the process of tracking applicants. They’re not designed as a sourcing platform.”

In short, they’re not going to do your sourcing for you; they won’t get candidates in the door and in front of your hiring manager. The day an ATS can find talent — and accurately determine which candidate out of 10,000 is worth interviewing based on an algorithm —is the day you’re out of a job.

Recommendation: Don’t rely solely on a built-in sourcing application to find talent. Stay active in the channels you’re sourcing from, and focus on connecting with people rather than searching for candidates. Use your ATS to organize and track promising people you come across.

2. Automate candidate engagement
Your candidates aren’t interested in interacting with your ATS. They don’t want to spend hours searching through your job database and completing your online application. They’re getting tired of sending their resume and cover letter to an anonymous destination, then getting at best a one-line confirmation that their information was received. They want more touch points throughout the process, and don’t understand why you’re not providing them.

In terms of functionality, applicant tracking is to recruiting what order tracking is to sales. Tracking an order doesn’t close the sale — it keeps business processes organized, ensuring things don’t fall through the cracks. Similarly, an ATS help you keep on top of open positions, candidates and their status. But it is up to you to engage candidates and cultivate relationships that lead to hires.

Ternyck argues, “Automation is not the right way to engagement,” citing that too heavy a focus on process is going to drive candidates away.

A “high-touch” candidate experience isn’t easy to deliver. Recruiters in small companies often wear too many hats, and recruiters in large companies are juggling open jobs, hiring managers and candidates. However, according to Susan Thayer, senior technical recruiter at DemandMedia, you don’t have much of a choice. “You have got to be organized enough to make that candidate a priority — because they’re your reputation. It can be as simple as an email.”

Recommendation: A simple email goes a long way toward creating a sense of touch for candidates. But recruiters have found automatic responses much easier than writing personal emails for every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Find a balance between the two. Craft quality automated responses for “we received your resume,” “the next steps are,” and “you’re not a good fit.” That way, you’ll have more time to spend on personal notes and phone calls to your more promising applicants.

3. Fix broken processes
Some companies assume that implementing ATS will somehow repair their broken recruiting strategies. However, introducing automation to a strategy that is flawed can make things worse, not better.

While ATS can improve execution of your recruiting strategy by automating certain tasks, strengthening weak points in your strategy requires more than shiny new tools. “The very notion of applicant tracking and automation goes against employment branding,” says Ternyck.

Recommendation: Before buying an ATS, first work on any process issues. Focus on the things you can fix. If job descriptions are slapped together haphazardly, establish consistency in formatting and content. If hiring managers don’t supply you with detailed feedback immediately after candidate interviews–thereby bottlenecking recruiting cycles–schedule debriefs after every interview. If senior leadership is rarely in the office, work with them to reserve one or two days a month as “Interview Days.”

A Shift in Focus: Enhancement vs. Automation

Rare is the flawless recruiting process. As conversations around candidate experience and employment branding continue to gain momentum, it’s apparent that technology alone will not enhance your recruiting strategy.

What do you think? Are we relying too heavily on technology to do our recruiting for us? Have we over-automated? Leave a comment, and share your thoughts.

Kyle Lagunas

Kyle Lagunas
Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice — an online forum for reviewing and comparing talent management software. On the surface, it's his job to contribute to the ongoing conversation on all things HR. Beyond that, he makes sure his audience is keeping up with important trends and hot topics in the industry. Focused on offering a fresh take on points of interest in his market, he's not your typical HR guy.

Kyle Lagunas

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