Recruiters and Their Headaches

What ails recruiters these days? Many say the technology they rely on is cumbersome and unhelpful.

Monday, October 7, 2013
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Talk to recruiters these days, and chances are good that, if you ask them what their biggest pain point is, they'll tell you it's the technology they're using.

Nearly half -- 46 percent -- of the respondents to a recent survey of recruiters say they're "deeply dissatisfied" with their current technology, while 27 percent say their current technology actually impedes their ability to do their job. Three quarters say they're unable to get data from their systems to provide a "complete lifecycle snapshot," which many say is key to obtaining quality-of-hire metrics. Fewer than one in three (32 percent) say it's easy to get data or metrics from their recruiting tools.

Although the survey only queried just over 100 in-house recruiters (it was sponsored by New York-based recruiting firm Jibe and conducted by an independent research firm), its findings reflect what many experts and practitioners are saying about today's recruiting technology.

Janet Manzullo is one of them. Manzullo, group vice president for talent acquisition at 54,000-employee Time Warner Cable in Charlotte, N.C., says many applicant-tracking systems, in particular, fall short.

"What's called applicant-tracking systems are really requisition-management tools," says Manzullo, who began her career in operations before moving over to HR. "They're about managing the requisition, not the candidate pool or giving those candidates a good experience. That's a big part of the problem."

Indeed, 80 percent of the respondents to Jibe's survey say candidate experience is "very important" to their hiring practices, yet 44 percent say they're "struggling" in that area.

"My focus has always been 'Put yourself in the shoes of the constituency you're serving,' " says Manzullo, whose company typically hires 16,000 to 19,000 people per year. "What we put candidates through via these ATS platforms is just horrific."

Recruiting vendors' customer-service performance -- specifically, its shortcomings -- is also a source of gripes from many recruiters, says Steve Lowisz, CEO of Livonia, Mich.-based recruitment-consulting firm Qualigence."They say it takes forever to get proper support from the vendors, particularly the larger ones," he says.

Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at Matawan, N.J.-based recruiting vendor iCIMS, says her firm is able to lure customers away from much-larger vendors due to frustrations with customer service.

"We hear so many stories from customers of these large vendors [about] how it's impossible to actually get a live person on the phone," she says.

A fundamental problem -- and one that isn't new -- is that many vendors continue to build complex, user-unfriendly products that force clients to alter their recruiting processes to fit the product, rather than the other way around, says Lowisz.

The issue persists despite the efforts of many vendors to try and get a better understanding of what their clients want, he says.

"They have user meetings and user groups all across the country, but it seems that when they finally get back to the drawing board, they're still developing tools built for what they see as the right way to do things, as opposed to the processes their clients prefer to use," says Lowisz.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many core HR systems can't be easily integrated with the advanced new recruiting tools in the marketplace, says Kim Seals, a senior partner and leader of New York-based Mercer's talent technology solutions group.

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"There are all these new features like video interviewing, pre-screening and social media, and many companies are trying to bolt these on to their legacy systems," she says. "In many cases, companies are trying to catch up with all this, even though their technology environments and their recruiting processes may not be ready to accept it."

Many recruiting platforms have become "needlessly complicated," with features that leave recruiters feeling overwhelmed, says Madeline Laurano, a technology analyst at Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

"Some vendors are trying to differentiate themselves by creating all these new categories, rather than offering tools that simplify the relationship-building and networking that is so fundamental to recruiting," she says.

Many companies have turned to recruitment-process outsourcing vendors as an alternative to dealing directly with recruiting technology, say Seals and Laurano.

However, recruiters can't put all of the blame on vendors, says Lowisz.

"If the vendor's not giving you what you need, you need to be direct with them and tell them what's not working, and not simply say 'Oh, they're too big, they're not going to listen to me,'" he says.

Recruiters also need to take a hard look at their own processes -- particularly when the sheer volume of candidates these days makes it all too easy to overlook valuable talent, says Lowisz.

At Time Warner Cable, Manzullo and her team worked with their vendors to automate pre-screening so the company's 90 recruiters could identify the most-qualified more quickly and pass them along to hiring managers, then validate the job performance of the new hires.

"Prior to this, we had no way to vet the candidate pool in an automated, efficient fashion," she says. "There were also some inconsistencies with how the recruiters screened candidates. The new system has enabled us to get more standardized and consistent."

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