CRM: What Recruiters Can Learn from Netflix and Facebook

ThinkstockPhotos-94320072Recruitment companies can’t afford to be slow when it comes to technology. For as long as staffing professionals have been around, they have been looking for ways to use technology to connect more easily with clients and candidates, and build more productive relationships. When some were saying the internet would never catch on, they were creating the first job boards; where some looked at LinkedIn and saw the Friends Reunited of the corporate world, recruiters saw a steady stream of prospective hires for their clients.

The trouble, of course, is that sometimes technology doesn’t keep pace with ambition. A staffing company looking to forge better relationships will often find itself stifled by traditional customer relationship management (CRM) systems, which are designed to be glorified databases and iterated upon accordingly.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a technically robust system – but the “personal touch” is an essential part of a recruiter’s success, and it shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of being able to map data a little more efficiently.

We’re living in a time when people expect more from technology. Based on your book of contacts, Facebook will recommend new friends; similarly, Netflix will recommend programs based on what you’ve watched already. Both organizations understand that successful relationships – unlike traditional CRMs – aren’t built from the database up: they’re about understanding the user’s needs, habits, and preferences, and then accommodating them.

While recruiters understand this principle in general, it isn’t necessarily an attitude they apply to technology – again, largely because, for a long time, this technology wasn’t available. Software, however, is always evolving, and staffing professionals have more options than they perhaps think. If they want to think and act like Netflix and Facebook, they should focus on the following three areas.

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Responsiveness. For recruiters, establishing successful relationships is as much a matter of speed as it is personality. The best candidates are usually courted by multiple agencies: if you can’t respond quickly and effectively, you’re liable to lose them to a competitor. The responsibilities of your average consultant are many, and focusing on one prospective hire is rarely – if ever – an option.

Multitasking is part of the job description, but it’s something most CRMs are ill-equipped to handle. Interfaces are clunky and awkward to use and switching between windows is a great, Herculean ordeal.

This leads to unavoidable distraction – and when the queries of clients or candidates are subject to constant delays, relationships inevitably deteriorate.

An ideal CRM will allow for sensible, efficient decision-making. It should have an uncluttered interface, a logical structure to tasks, and a simple, rapid means of switching from one priority to another.

Real insightsRecruitment isn’t an art or a science: it’s both. The parts of the job that require inspiration, creativity, and connection with other people are always easier to do when they’re backed by facts and figures – but those facts and figures won’t forge strong relationships on their own.

Fundamentally, good data should be thought of as an enabler rather than an end goal. It’s a basic principle that every recruiter (and, for that matter, CRM developer) would do well to internalize. As relationships develop, you’ll accumulate reams and reams of information that won’t always be helpful

To forge stronger relationships, a recruiter needs to be able to put this data to good use.  This means using CRM systems that say something about the information they gather. Is a candidate hot or cold on a particular role? Is the company still on good terms with a particular client? Good software should provide the information a user needs without forcing them to divine the data themselves.

Anticipation What separates Netflix and Facebook from their competition – the mark of greatness, rather than mere adequacy – is the fact that they are proactive rather than reactive. Being able to handle a problem is all well and good, but being able to prevent problems from arising is an art form.

A world-class CRM will take the data accumulated over the course of a long relationship and use it to recommend future actions for the user. If a client behaves more positively or negatively towards a particular kind of hire, the database should highlight this – and return candidates that fit the criteria. If a key stakeholder prefers to be contacted by phone rather than email (and only before teatime), the consultant should know about this in advance.
Too few CRMs come with this anticipatory capability – but then, as we’ve established, they struggle when it comes to providing real-time insights and basic functionality. Recruitment companies are unlikely to cope with this for long; most are more spiritually akin to Facebook and Netflix than you might expect. They want stronger, more long-term relationships – and they want to form these bonds more effectively than their competition. When they start thinking like their consumer-facing counterparts, they will.

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Peter Markland
Peterk Markland is APAC regional director, Bullhorn.

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