Monday, August 31, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development - Applicant Tracking Systems

So far we have discussed why you should develop a recruitment strategy, corporate and third party sourcing and recruiting. Now that you know how you will source candidates, how will you store their resumes? In this blog RecruiterGuy discusses Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

To define applicant tracking systems in their simplest terms, they are an automated system that allows you to store resumes and candidate information, retrieve resumes, candidate process tracking, and develop reports. To be fair, many ATS also enable you to post positions to your website and job boards, helping you save time in the posting process.

When I first started recruiting in the dark ages (Lancelot was still a youth), all resumes were either mailed or hand carried to us. Faxes came later – and were still paper – just worse quality paper that sometimes even smeared. Then came the wonder called the Internet. The good news was that resumes came faster (sometimes). The bad news was that more of them were not qualified for the positions we advertised. Plus legislation required that we keep them for at least a year and develop applicant flow charts for EOE purposes.

Finding paper resumes in file cabinets was laboriously slow, if you could even find the candidate that you were looking for. Therefore, we typically looked for awhile and then gave up. It seemed easier to find new candidates.

Today, more and more companies are using Applicant Tracking Systems that automate the search process. Remember Recruiting Is Sales. Therefore if someone tells you their ATS will recruit for you, they are playing into your fears. An ATS cannot recruit for you. Run as fast as you can from them. They are selling a bill of goods. Obviously they may understand software but they do not understand the recruiting process.

Applicant Tracking Systems automate recruiting processes: particularly the search of resumes that you have received; candidate tracking through the interviewing process; and developing reports based on your data. If your process is horrible, automated systems just make horrible happen more quickly. On the other hand, if your process is good, it helps you succeed more quickly.

Therefore, before automating your recruiting system, examine your current recruitment processes and eliminate waste from each of the processes. Remember, the recruitment process is a series of processes – opening the employee requisition for a new or replacement position, the job description process, the sourcing process, the interviewing process, the offer process, the reference checking/psychological assessment/background investigation/drug test process, and finally the on boarding process. While you are examining your recruitment processes, take the time to document your processes using Visio or some other software product. Be sure to ask “Why do we do it this way? Is there a better way to do this; or do we even need to do this step?” By documenting your processes it is easier to review your processes again later (continuous process improvement). Your documented processes become more sustainable and it is easier to bring new recruiters on board.

How do you choose the best applicant tracking system for your company? Sylvia Dahlby of SmartSearch ( recommends that “companies use a requirements based approach. Create three columns – must have, nice to have, and exciting but we really don’t need those bells and whistles.” Make a list of questions to ask each ATS company. Know how many people will be accessing the ATS at one time, how many people do you plan to hire in the next year – and coming years (important that the system can scale up and down with you), a budget, and the types of reports that you will need to create (i.e. OFCCP, weekly reports to executives?). Ask for a demonstration of the system. How long has the ATS business continuously been in business? These software companies can come and go. My suggestion is to choose from established companies. It can be painful enough to go through the selection and installation processes once, but to have to go through them again if your ATS company goes out of business can be really painful. Does the system reside on your computers or can you access the files through the Internet? Who backs up the files – you or the ATS company? Do they have a disaster recovery site? How difficult is it to get copies of your files if you decide to change ATS in the future as a result of growth or downsizing. How long will it take to install their system? Will they import resumes in your Outlook folders or do you have to import them? Is there a way to direct resumes right from your Outlook email to your ATS? Ask for 5 corporate references that you may call and ask them the questions above. It is also wise to ask them for watch outs.

What ATS companies should you call? My business utilizes SmartSearch. It is designed for small to medium sized companies and scales up nicely. They are very customer focused and very good solving your problems. Large corporations many times are locked into enterprise solutions like Taleo or Oracle. Both solutions are very effective. The important consideration is whether the applicant tracking system does what you need efficiently.

This next point is very important. Once you have your ATS up and working, work it. You would think that is a no brainer. I can’t tell you how many times the candidate that a company is looking for is languishing in that company’s applicant tracking system. As a recruiting consultant, I can tell immediately which clients use their applicant tracking system and which ones do not. How? The ones who are not working their applicant tracking systems are afraid if they give me access, I will find people they missed. They will hide behind confidentiality excuses without realizing that I personally have much more to lose if I do not maintain confidentiality than they do. One of those companies actually had me take a HIPPA course before granting me access to their system – and then never did.

In order to be successful, everyone has to work together as a team. The recruiting consultant or contract recruiter needs access to the client’s applicant tracking system to help them be more successful. Experienced recruiting consultants can show members of the staff the tricks they have learned over the years to coax resumes of qualified candidates out of the system. Titles of positions are different at most every company and the skills required to be successful can be different. Companies may use different words to describe the same jobs; or the title can be the same but the skills required to be successful can be different.

For instance, once I suggested to a CFO candidate that I was career counseling that they should ask what skills were required in a company’s CFO position. He was aghast that I would counsel him to ask such a question; and told me he would chase any CFO who asked that question out of his office. My response? “So I can assume that the CFO of a company that was going into bankruptcy would need the exact same skills as those of a CFO of a small start-up; and both of them would need the same skills as the CFO of General Electric.” He saw my point. Experienced recruiting consultants have seen many positions in many companies and know what potential key words to use. Generally if there is going to be a weak link in the recruiting process, it will be in the job description process or the candidate interviewing process. Most corporate recruiters use the words in the job description to match with candidate skills. Both the company and the candidate may be describing the same job – with different words. By the way, my intention is not to denigrate the skills of excellent, experienced corporate recruiters. I count some of them as close friends. It’s just that seasoning helps anyone be more successful, and there are many good more junior corporate recruiters out there.

Bottom line? If you do a good job with your recruitment process improvement, if you do a good job in your applicant tracking system due diligence, and you use your applicant tracking system, your recruitment of talented people will go well.

The next blog is one that RecruiterGuy wrote last year – “The Best Qualified Candidate Rarely Gets Hired”. It fits very well into the Recruitment Strategy Development series of blogs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recruitment Strategy Development – Successful Third Party Recruiting Relationships

RecruiterGuy has been on all three sides of the recruiting process. Three sides? Sure, I’ve been a third party recruiter, a corporate recruiting manager, and a candidate.

Today we are discussing the use of third party recruiters as a sourcing and recruiting partner. Wait! Stop rolling your eyes! Remember I’ve been on both sides of the desk. Currently as a contract recruitment consultant often I am on both sides in the same company.

Why would you want to include contingent, retained, and contract recruitment in your recruitment strategy? Generally it is pretty simple. Do you have one or more skilled recruiters on staff? Is your philosophy to make recruitment the entry level position into Human Resources? Do you understand that Recruiting is Sales? If your answers were no, yes, and no, you really need to utilize the services of a third party recruiter. Why? Third party recruiters spend their entire day recruiting and should be experts – and the good ones are. The experts are very creative in their sourcing, have successfully built candidate relationships in the past and understand how to build new relationships quickly.

So how do you effectively work with a contingent or retained recruiter? Remember a very important concept. Time is money. If you are going to use a recruiter because their fees are the lowest you can find, there is probably a reason for that.

Experienced, competent recruiters generally command higher fees. Why? They understand the value of their time and your time. Generally they don’t empty their databases in order to earn a fee. The excellent recruiters take the time to understand the position, its role in your company, the reporting relationships; and if they have worked with you for a long time they understand your culture. These people are professionals and will save your company time and money over the long haul.

Wait a minute! Save us money? How? Remember my last blog when I suggested asking the hiring manager what it will cost the company if the person isn’t hired by the budget date? That is the money I am referring to. If your company spends six months to a year looking for the right fit for a key position, it probably is costing the company a lot of money. Rhetorical question – if the position would not cost your company money by being open, are you sure you need the position?

How do you determine if contingent or retained is the best route? Generally speaking, the retained recruiters search for the higher level positions and generally at the higher fee levels. Typically your company would pay them one third of the anticipated fee at the signing of the contract with them. Then they will receive the next third when they deliver candidates and the final fee when the person starts. Contingent recruiters receive their entire fee when the person starts. I’d suggest using the person that has given you the best service if they feel they can be successful at that level. In my experience since 1981, sometimes the senior positions are easier to recruit for than the junior positions (retained recruiters are about to attack me for that statement!).

Some recruiters only work specific jobs within an industry and can be very effective in that industry. The potential conflict only occurs if your company is also in that industry. If they are recruiting in that industry, sooner or later in order to attract the best qualified candidate to you they will have to recruit from a client. Sooner or later, you will also be that client, unless you have a clause in your contract with penalties for recruiting out of your company. For instance, my contract states that for a period of five years after my contract ends, I may not recruit nor aid another recruiter to recruit from my client.

Here is a simple test to see if you can trust a contingent or retained recruiter to send qualified candidates. Spend a half hour on the phone describing the job, the manager and the company culture. Tell the recruiter that you would like to see a copy of their phone screen when they present the candidate to you. Additionally tell the recruiter that you want only a few, qualified resumes. Require that they also send the resume and phone screen to you at the same time they forward it to the manager. If the first resume they send you is off the mark, chat with them again to sharpen their focus. If the second person is also off the mark, you should nicely express your concern and suggest that this is not going well. After all, you do not want to waste your hiring manager’s time nor your time.

Once they pass the simple test, the professional recruiter will need access to your hiring managers in order to get quick feedback on both the candidate and the job as it evolves – and most jobs evolve as hiring managers meet candidates. It is the best way for them to be effective for you. Remember the communications exercise where you line people up and whisper in the first one’s ear? By the time it gets to the last person, the message is almost always changed. That is the reason the recruiter needs the feedback directly from the hiring manager (possibly with you on the call). Quick feedback helps move the process along and improves your chances of recruiting an individual. Time works against you in the recruiting process.

Once you have successfully worked with a professional recruiter and develop a mutual trust, you will like going that route when you need outside resources.

In our next Recruitment Strategy Development blog we will discuss applicant tracking systems.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

RecruiterGuy's RAGBRAI Blog

Some of you may be wondering what happened to RecruiterGuy’s series on Recruitment Strategy Development. It was put on hiatus while I demonstrated to myself and others that you can do what you put your mind to. Never underestimate the power of determination!

I completed RAGBRAI successfully – . It was truly an endurance ride for me and approximately 10,000 other bicycle riders of 442 hilly Iowa miles with four 12 hour days (for me) and three shorter days, mostly on the bike. The only hill I walked was the one in Corning, IA (birthplace of Johnny Carson) where there must have been 200 bicycle riders trying to go up the hill at the same time. Below is my tongue in cheek blog of the ride.

The Road Hogs is my bicycle club.

Prior to Day 1 in Council Bluffs -
Learned to disengage my clips before falling in the grass - after I fell -
if no one saw it, does it mean it didn't happen? On the way back from
dipping my rear wheel - and almost me - in the Missouri, Dr. Jen and I saw
Bambi cross our path on the way back to camp. How many trains pass through
Council Bluffs at night? And does every one of them have to repeatedly blow
their horns - or was that a tribute to us?

Day 1 -
Learned with the first 2 mile hill that I would need to be determined to
complete this RAGBRAI. So I kicked determination in. Proud that I never
walked a hill - just rode so slowly ants were beating me up the hills -
quite a sight! Oh yeah, as promised to my wife, I took my blood pressure
medicine prior to riding that day. Only problem was that the doctor had
recently cut my dosage in half and I took the old prescription (Dummy!).
Kathy was nice enough to accompany me to the EMT in Red Oak where they took my blood pressure and it was 98/55 - no wonder I wanted to pass out while setting up my tent -may explain my slow speed up hills. Larry and Robin and Michael introduced me to Mama Rafael's (sp?). Great breakfasts! Did away with the tortilla charade after the first day - just loaded up with egg and sausage.

Day 2 -
Learned that I should have bought a long sleeved jersey at the Expo in
Council Bluffs. It lightly rained my last 30 miles. It was fun to watch
the more experienced riders like Dorie, Jen, Kirk, etc. begin riding and
then see the flash of light when they hit warp speed! No wonder they were
always clean and relaxed after my 12 hours on the road - yeah that's right -
on the 70+ mile days I was out there for 12 hours - poor Larry accompanied
me most of the days until we were separated - usually my fault - no one else
could ride that slowly. No solar heating for the camp showers that day!
Coldest shower for me since camping along the Colorado River in the Grand
Canyon while white water rafting - BRRRR! Discovered that the blood
pressure medicine had nothing to do with my slow speed on hills...How about
that walk up the hill in Corning? Wow, the rush hour in DC was better than
10,000 bicycle riders hitting Corning over several or so hours. What a
sight! Jen suggested Pastafari for lunch.

Day 3 -
The fog was interesting. Couldn't believe we would have a 2nd 70 mile day
and then realized it was not the last time that would happen! Come back
determination! Pastafari was yummy! I was really looking forward to a good
shower after that ride!! I figured a community the size of Indianola was my
ticket. By the time I went for my shower, they were out of water - no joy!
How about that hill coming into Indianola? I could imagine the City Fathers
laughing when they designed the route just for us - "Wait 'til they see that
hill at the end of 77 miles!" Of course my chain came off at the bottom of
the hill. As I started up, I saw a sign that said a 9 yr. old girl rode up
the hill so there I was at 2.9 mph...

Day 4 -
I told Larry that I never believed that I would tell someone that I was
happy to ride only 44 miles in one day. We got into Chariton around 2 PM
that day. It was unusual to be in a camp that early and see how the warp
speed riders live - of course they had been there since 8 AM or so...How
about the shuttle bus control guy in downtown? Wonder if he had a nervous
breakdown by the end of the evening - not pretty!

Day 5 -
Began with a bang! Lightning striking nearby was enough to roust me from
the tent around 4:30 AM. Just imagined how lightning may enjoy the aluminum poles on my tent, my Bike proudly standing nearby, and a big tree not far away - others seemed to sleep through the storm. Well now the trip is downhill, figuratively speaking. While others were doing the century loop, I was enjoying Mr. Pork Chop and watching those that had completed the loop stream by - I had the better deal from my perspective!! Later I stopped at Beekman's for ice cream. What a way to ride! As I was approaching Ottumwa, I was watching a nasty storm cloud. We appeared to be on a collision course. On one hill just outside of Ottumwa, I had just waved to a family when the big drops started. I hollered to the family to ask if we could use their garage. They said sure and 20 cyclists followed me into their garage. Very nice! Gave them bragging rights too! The next morning after visiting the port a potty and cleaning my hands, I chose to eat a clif bar while heading back to the camp site. You should have seen the expressions of the people approaching me as I was eating that brown clif bar.

Day 6 -
Yay! My last 75 mile day! Brighton did a great job with their welcome.
Larry and I probably spent an hour or so there. I ran into a guy in the
port a potty line who was from Baltimore and born at the same hospital in DC
as me - amazing! Has anyone heard how the guy who ran into the road grader
outside of Brighton did? Couldn't believe he was going down the oncoming
lane of a hill with his head down. Well the Air Force cycling team went
past me 2 or 3 more times, riding 4 inches apart and looked like 20 mph up
the hills. I gave them a real run for their money when we were walking
through towns!!! Showed them!! Mt. Pleasant wasn't so but treated us to an
amazing natural light show - I napped in the rental truck until it ended.
Robin, Michael, Larry, and I ate at the stand at Thresher's. The lady
behind me got the last meal. Thank goodness a couple of people bailed out
of line!!!! Since I was getting up early and my sleeping bag was still my
duffle, I never unrolled it and slept on my un-inflated air mattress. I
dreamed of rolling hills and riding with the Air Force cyclists. Then the
alarm went off.

Day 7 -
Rolling, rolling, rolling! Finally I am beginning to figure out these
hills!! I am up to 3.3 mph now - just rocketing up the hills! Actually I
did greatly improve once the grade was less and began riding in the 15 - 18
mph range. Must have blown past Larry when he was waiting for me at the top
of a hill - never saw him again until he finished in Burlington. Coming up
a hill in Burlington with the theme from Rocky playing on the corner brought
tears to my eyes as I was completing my goal - then I saw the Snake Alley
challenge! I took a picture of it and then mounted my bike in its lowest
gear. Two riders fell over in front of me by the time I hit the 3rd curve.
As I was approaching the last two curves the person behind me went down
(probably couldn't go 2.9 mph like me!!). One side of my mind was asking me
if I was crazy!?!?! The other side said, "If you stop for even one instant
you will also fall over. Keep pedaling!!" I made it. What an appropriate
finish for my trip. Never underestimate the power of determination! I
dipped my front wheel into the Mississippi. What a grueling and fun trip!
Next time I will use a road bike instead of a hybrid - but my bike served me
well. Thanks Road Hogs!