Candidate Experience Part III – Tools

In the first two articles of this series we discussed the role of people and process in the success of the candidate experience. Without getting alignment in your organization with these two components first, the tools you choose will have limited impact.  The tools you choose for your candidate experience may already be part of the enterprise-wide solutions offered by your company, or point solutions you choose as a recruiter that match your personal best practices.

This article is intended to provide a framework for how to think about the tools you use to enhance your candidate experience.  Very simply, we will parse looking at candidate experience tools into three parts:

  1. Measurement – How are we doing?
  2. Priorities to improve
  3. Tools to solve the priorities

Note: Talent Tech Labs produces an excellent quarterly map of the recruiting ecosystem if you are looking for an overview of the key players grouped by segment in the talent acquisition field.

measuring hiring success

Measurement – How are we doing?

Benchmarking the current state of your candidate experience should be your starting point. To do so, you need to act like a marketer.  Not only do you need to listen to your customers, candidates, but you also need to watch and measure their behaviors.

Listening to candidates is relatively simple and can be done qualitatively via follow-up interviews and anecdotal comments and quantitatively with surveys that include standardized measurement techniques like the Net Promoter Score.  There are hundreds of vendors who offer a variety of survey tools (e.g. Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Formstack etc.), the challenge is less about the survey, and more about a) getting it to candidates in a timely and automated way and b) aggregating and analyzing the data.  Integrating the survey into your contact management tool with candidates, whether it is as simple as email or the auto-generated messages sent from your ATS is critical to capturing the data you are trying to collect. In addition, spending time figuring out what the data says about your people and process should be driving your priorities to improve.

Thanks to digital technology it is much easier to measure candidate behavior when it comes to talent attraction and the application process.  By applying online marketing practices to these stages in your candidate experience, you can quantify exactly how effective your candidate experience is.  The recruiting process is very similar to the sales funnel for an online service (e.g. ecommerce site or SAAS solution).  Near the top of the funnel, when a candidate comes to your landing page (e.g. the job description), you should be measuring the click-thru-rate to start the application process.  From there you can measure abandonment rate at each step of the application and your final conversion rate (completed applications). This is no different than what a marketer would do using Google Adwords to sell a specific product on an ecommerce site.  There are a variety of tools to help measure and optimize click-thru rate and conversions.  A few well-known vendors in this space include Mixpanel, Optimizely, Qualaroo and KISSMetrics and can be used for both desktop and mobile experiences.  At the end of the day, if you are seeing very low application completion rates, it is very clear you have a problem, but at least you now have visibility about where to look to determine the root cause.

priorities to improve

Priorities to improve

Now that you have collected both qualitative and quantitative data on your candidate experience, you need to pick the opportunities to focus on first where you can get the biggest bang for your buck.  This should not just focus on the talent attraction and application process, but end-to-end, including the other  three phases described in the Candidate Experience report:  Screening & Dispositioning; Interviewing & Selection;  Offer, Onboarding & New Hire.

Tools are meant to solve a problem, so there must be specific problem you want to focus on. Your measurement techniques should identify them.  Research shows the most common sources of negative candidates experiences are the following:

  1. Job details don’t tell the candidate enough information
  2. Application process is too long or complicated
  3. “Did you get my application?”
  4. Poor interaction(s) between candidate and the hiring team
  5. Speed of decision making
  6. “Where do I stand?”

toolbox

Tools to solve the priorities

If you are only using your corporate HR/Talent acquisition tools have made available to you, you probably aren’t winning the battle for talent. Whether you are using an old-school, clunky enterprise ATS or one of the new-wave of recruiter-friendly solutions, it is very unlikely your ATS offers a complete set of features needed to solve your high priority candidate experience problems.  This creates the natural tension of using your integrated ATS solution vs. point solutions which would typically require double-entry of information and aggregating multiple sources of data for analysis. Unfortunately, this is the reality of recruiting tools in 2015, but a little extra effort on your point can differentiate both your candidate experience and yourself as a recruiter.

Now let’s review the tools to solve the most common candidate experience gripes:

  1. Job details don’t tell the candidate enough information

This can be solved by both making the information easy to find and consume by making your job details . In addition to providing additional information about the job or company which can include videos and other types of rich media.  There are a variety of ATS and point solution companies that can help with employer branding, job distribution and mobile recruiting (e.g.  CEB, Jibe, Smashfly).

  1. Application process is too long or complicated

We previously discussed optimizing the application process to only focus on value-added activities when applying.  The challenge is usually in the lack of flexibility of your online application form tool or a “corporate recruiting tax” that requires all applicants to supply information that really isn’t needed at this stage of the process.   Take the time to figure out which steps/fields truly add value to the application and update your tools accordingly.

  1. “Did you get my application?”

This is really about people and process and making sure your ATS (or whatever tool you use to manage your applicant database) has the ability to respond automatically to a submission, but also provides additional information about the full hiring process, the company and what to expect next.  This is pretty standard stuff and should be considered table-stakes for your application management tool.

  1. Poor interaction(s) between candidate and the hiring team

Depending on the types of challenges you find, it can be anything from interviewers showing up late, poorly prepared interviewers who don’t know enough about the job or candidate, or ask poor questions during the interview.  Beyond email and embedding calendar event with pdfs and blue links, there are various interviewing tools already available in your ATS and there are others that can help with scheduling and interview guides.  Another source of a bad candidate experience are hiring team member who basically exhibit behaviors the lead the candidate to believe that they just don’t care – this is a people problem that no tool can solve.

  1. Speed of decision making

The data you collect about your complete candidate experience should reveal the causes of delay in decision making.  A couple of the more common sources of slow decision making are firstly, slow compiling of interview feedback from the hiring team. Typically, less than 30% of interviewers submit digital feedback whether by email or completing a standardized form.  Mobile friendly feedback forms and automated nag reminders from your interview management tool are simple ways to accelerate decisions and reduce time-to-offer.  Secondly, delays can be caused by the natural timing challenges that occur when you have multiple good candidates in parallel processes with  but one candidate is a week or two ahead of a second.  The first candidate typically does not enjoy stewing while they wait on you to figure out if you like the other candidate more than them.  A specific tool likely won’t help solve this challenge, rather your people and process should kick in.  Engaging with the candidate that is on hold to give help with transparency and also to make sure you keep you in synch should they may move on to another opportunity while you play the waiting game.

  1. “Where do I stand?”

Having a good candidate relationship management tool to track exactly the status of each candidate is the only way to make sure they are getting a personalized experience. In an ideal world your ATS would be make this super-easy. However you may need to find a point solution of your own if your specific candidate management needs aren’t being met. Instead you may consider more generic CRM tools like Salesforce, Sugar CRM, Zoho or Avature. These tools tend to be easier to use and you can configure the various fields and notifications to match your own recruiting practices.

There are literally hundreds of tools available to help you with your candidate experience.  Some designed specifically for recruiting, others designed for sales or marketing that can be applied to your process.  What matters most is that they solve a high priority need and give you bang for your buck. Given the many self-service solutions now available, trying them out for 30 or 60 days will give you enough data to see if they are worth your investment of time and energy.

Great Hires - Candidate Experience Software
Great Hires – Candidate Experience Software

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About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Interviewing Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams.  Great Hires was named as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Brilliant Companies of 2016 where it was ranked #2 in Business Tools.  Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

5 reasons why it’s hard to solve the recruiting tools conundrum

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of recruiting tools to help improve the end-to-end recruiting process.  The solutions are out there, but why does it have to be so hard to be able to use them? Why do enterprises only leverage a fraction of the excellent offerings on the market to optimize the full hiring and candidate experience?

Here’s why:

  1. Recruiters and Recruiting Coordinators hate friction in their tools
  2. For better or worse, the ATS is the data engine that drives the recruiting process.
  3. ATS companies have traditionally been slow to innovate and resistant to 3rd party integrations
  4. Point solutions can innovate faster and solve more recruiting workflows than the large ATS companies
  5. Point solutions/3rd Parties need to prioritize who they partner/integrate with

recruiter-computer

  1. Recruiters and Recruiting Coordinators hate friction in their tools

Recruiters and coordinators have more than enough to keep them busy, the last thing they are looking for is one more thing to do or tool to use. Adding another step to their process without a significant improvement to their productivity or business results will be met with significant resistance.  Unless it is drop-dead easy to see the benefits, adoption will not happen.  Here are the pet peeves that drive recruiters and coordinators nuts and cause unnecessary friction in their daily work process:

  • Needing to sign into multiple systems to manage the hiring process. Tools need to be one click away with single sign on (SSO).  Don’t make them sign in to each tool and ensure ease of access to an application via a simple click on a button, tab, link, or icon.
  • Double entry of data that already exists elsewhere. Information that already exists in your ATS should not need to re-entered or copy/pasted. As will be discussed in #2, integrating data between tools can be non-trivial.
  • Poor usability. Given the overhead burden put into the process due to compliance, traditionally, usability has been compromised to make sure that all the ‘cover your butt’ features have been crammed into each step in the process. The latest generation of ATS companies have included the consumerization of recruiting tech into their design, but still, there is a long way to go to make most tools easy to use and mobile-friendly.
  1. For better or worse, the ATS is the data engine that drives the recruiting process.

For nearly every company the ATS is the central database for all job and candidate information.  While some larger companies have created their own master HR database, they are more the exception than the rule.  Nearly every significant task for sourcing or selection uses information from the ATS database as the content source. As mentioned above, recruiters and coordinator know what information already exists for a Job or Candidate and they have no interest in re-entering data that they know already resides in another system.  Doing so is frustrating and naturally causes frustration and increases adoption issues for new tools. Thus not being able to easily synch data between tools can be a deal-killer for recruiting teams.  Given the importance of the data stores in the ATS database, ATS companies exert tremendous power over what is possible for your team to adopt.  The constraints your ATS puts on your capabilities and the implications of access to job and candidate data are something to seriously understand for your hiring and candidate experience process.

slow

  1. ATS companies can’t build everything themselves and they traditionally have not been open to 3rd party integrations

Taleo and other first-generation ATS companies started as products to apply supply-chain management operational efficiencies to recruiting. Furthermore, government-required compliance reporting acted as a catalyst to accelerate large enterprise adoption.  While these systems had appeal to HR executives by focusing on organizational productivity and keeping themselves out of jail, they did not focus on the real ATS customers and users:  candidates and recruiting teams.

Given these design priorities, the end-user experience primarily focused on work-flow management and exhaustive data capture – none of which resulted in a great user-driven experience. In recent years, much of the focus has been on getting some of the table-stakes such as a decent search function to treat the database like a CRM tool.  Also, basic performance issues and creating mobile-friendly tools.

If job or candidate related information needs to be used or updated by a 3rd party tool, then it requires some integration to allow for data exchange.  The challenge with first-generation ATS systems (e.g. Taleo, Kenexa/Brassring) is that they are pretty much closed system with poor (non-RESTful) APIs to allow for easy integration. Even worse, these incumbents charge multiple tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being an integration partner, deterring any small or medium sized company from working with them.  Newer ATS companies (e.g. Workday, iCIMS and Greenhouse) are much more open, simpler to integrate with and trying to become ecosystems, but the challenge for developers is the effort needed to create custom integration points for each platform integration (similar to creating an app for both iOS and Android). Aptitude Research Partners just published a phenomenal review of the current prominent ATS systems and details the strengths and weaknesses of each platform.

  1. Point solution tool companies can innovate faster and solve more recruiting workflows than the large ATS companies

You would think with all the resources of Oracle and IBM, Taleo and Kenexa/BrassRing would be leaders in talent acquisition innovation.  Instead they are not only laggards, but they also seem handcuffed to their old-school enterprise software mentality and business models.  Social, mobile and cloud are not in their DNA which has caused them to be slow in reinventing themselves and their platforms. An easy example of this is the emergence of the recruitment marketing category with companies such as Jibe, Smashfly and Phenom. In recent years as both the economy and hiring have rebounded, a solution for nearly every recruiting task has been created.  Whether it is for job description optimization, big data applied to resume analysis or a new twist on social, mobile sourcing there’s an app for that.  By not having a one-stop-shop platform provided creates the need for a ‘best-of-breed’ recruiting technology strategy and then a plan to figure out how to make all these solutions to work together. For leading edge companies with sophisticated talent acquisition organizations like Google and Amazon, they have responded by building their own integrated platforms to match their unique recruiting methods. However, most companies do not have the resources or skills to build their own recruiting ecosystem themselves.

Priorities

  1. Tool companies need to prioritize with whom to integrate

 In an ideal world there would common standards that any recruiting tool company could use to integrate into any ATS ecosystem.  While the HR Open Standards consortium is making progress, there is still a long way to go to meet the needs of most recruiting technology companies.

With over 200 applicant tracking systems, none of which have a dominant market share, having a fragmented ATS market is forcing recruiting tool companies to individually choose which ATS company to choose as an integration partner. Without common standards and well supported APIs / partner programs, only a few ATS companies will likely have the scale needed to support a deep ecosystem. Companies like iCIMS, SmartRecruiters and Greenhouse are trying to get there, but there is still a long way to go to make a full suite of recruiting tools as easy as plug-and-play. Until adding any recruiting tool to your ATS is as simple adding an app like your iPhone or Salesforce, there is no effortless solution.

The good news is that recruiters have some powerful tools available to them to solve their acquisition challenges .  However, unless these new technology solutions can overcome the hurdles that the dynamics of the incumbent enterprise platforms create, it will take many years for talent acquisition professionals to be able to fully take advantage of them.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

10 things I learned researching the ATS platforms used by the Fortune 100

Last week I decided to research the applicant tracking systems (ATS) used by the Fortune 100. The analysis was prompted by a fellow recruiting startup founder who suggested that Great Hires invest in becoming a partner for a newer ATS company’s marketplace.  This made me want to estimate the size of the opportunity based on the volume of candidates that pass through the ecosystem of these providers.  Despite how fragmented the ATS market is, I was surprised that there are only two ATS system providers who serve more than two companies of the F100.

  1. Taleo/Oracle and Kenexa BrassRing dominate the Fortune 100

2. The number of jobs flowing through the top systems (Taleo/Oracle, Kenexa/BrassRing and homegrown) dominate everyone else.

3. The average number of job openings of the Fortune 100 is 2,172. These firms must have very large talent acquisition organizations to keep up with their hiring needs.

4. Many companies have started using a second platform such like a recruitment marketing system (e.g. Jibe or Smashfly) or even a second ATS-oriented company  (e.g. Smartrecruiters or Jobvite) to deal with CRM, Recruitment Marketing or Talent Community needs. However, these “second” platforms have less than 20% penetration in the F100.

5. Six firms built their own ATS: Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, Statefarm. What makes Statefarm unique is that they aren’t a technology company, but they seem to have unique needs with a franchise-like recruiting model.

6. Only one Fortune 100 company has adopted the Workday ATS in the two plus years since its release.

7. Amazon has 17,000 job openings and 230,000 employees. They are a much bigger organization than most people think and ranked #20 of the F500 by number of employees. For comparison, Wal-Mart is the largest employer with 2,300,000 employees.

8. Oracle has 8,000 open job reqs. I wonder how much input/feedback the Oracle recruiting function has provided the Taleo development team about their ATS?

9. Three of the top 6 companies with the most job openings are healthcare related and combine for nearly 43,000 openings

10. American Airlines gives candidates the option to apply using their Yahoo credentials. Not LinkedIn, Facebook, Google or Twitter.  Are they signaling applicants who they are really looking for?

American_Airlines_Apply_with_Yahoo

Note:  Berkshire Hathaway was not included in this analysis since it is really a holding company, and was replaced by #101 DuPont.