February 18, 2011

Recruiting Software: Six Questions to Ask Vendors

recruiting tech tipsSelecting a new recruiting software system for your company doesn’t happen very often. Additionally, recruiting software can be expensive, difficult to implement, and (most egregiously) force a high learning curve on already time-strapped recruiters. When you do have the chance to change up your technology, it’s important to do it right.

It is easy to have your selection process mired in detail and minor features. To explore recruiting software selection a little deeper, here are six questions to ask recruiting software vendors:

  1. Intellectual property: Recruiting software technology is a major investment, both in resources and time. Many firms will want to customize their software to meet very specific recruiting needs. Both large companies and smaller firms with development budgets might want to actually develop technology themselves to integrate with the vendor’s technology or add required features. Some recruiting software vendors allow you to retain the intellectual property that you develop in-house – even if it is in coordination with their product. Other vendors will do custom development work for your company and then release that code to you. In any case, it is a good idea to ask about the exact specifications of the intellectual property agreement.
  2. Scalability: Scalability is often one of the most overlooked factors of recruitment technology. Demos are one thing; live testing in the field with hundreds of users is quite another. Even SAAS / web recruitment software is not immune from difficulties with a heavy volume of concurrent users. Especially if you work with large numbers of users, be sure to either be shown a full scale, live demonstration of the software or ask for documented scalability metrics from companies of comparable size.
  3. Data migration: Candidate databases and recruiter activity notes are of crucial value to any recruiting department. Migrating existing databases and correctly mapping fields can be extremely complex and accuracy of utmost importance. Have a very clear understanding of which side will be doing the heavy-lifting in this migration process – vendor or client. It is a good practice to talk to the technical people at one of their past clients. The people most directly involving in the technology implementation will be best judge of the support they received.
  4. Web Optimization: Applicant tracking systems and other recruitment technology have become heavily involved in the job distribution process. Much more than a recruiter CRM, most modern recruitment technology has publishing capability or interface with job boards. Many software systems interact with various job boards and search engines via API calls and distribute your jobs and even optimize your content for the web. Get a technical person involved with this aspect of the selection process. You should look for the centralization and optimization of your job content on your own website along with strong search engine optimization. Additionally, if the software covers the application process, close attention has to be paid to the candidate application process.
  5. Application Integration: Good recruiting software should now include the ability to interact with other web applications, such as social media sites, emailing services, sales systems, and marketing software. The ability to communicate via open protocols with third-party applications is essential to developing a robust candidate database. For instance, certain systems can “flesh out” existing candidate and client profiles with data from social networks, business research tools, and the general web. The ability for your recruiting software to “talk” to other systems tends to be discounted. The trend towards integration with other systems will only get more important, so it is of strategic importance to ensure that functionality today.
  6. Self Serve Capability: Some recruiting software allows candidates to interact directly with their profile. The ability for clients and candidates to update and add to their own profiles tends to compound the value of a recruitment database over time. Even if you do not have a heavily visited website, you might want to ask for the ability for outside users to interact at least in some capacity directly with your internal system. Over time, your data (the life blood of your business) will be cleaner and more robust.

The rule of thumb is that a recruiter can make do with software that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it does have to work. For the success of your recruiting department, what matters is figuring out what “working” means to your organization. Ensure first that the components of the software that your recruiters use most are lightning fast, always available, and easy to use. Build a specification around the real world uses of the system by your recruiters.

The trap, of course, is feature bloat – the “wish-list” for recruiters tends to grow as you solicit input from your team. However, keep rooted in the core functions of your business. Make sure the recruitment software stays “close to the money” – improving the efficiency of the activities that drive productivity. Additionally, use the questions above not as a feature set, but as a functionality directive. Determine how each software vendor approaches these broad functions, and then you can develop a picture of their strengths relative to your requirements.

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Marie is a writer for Recruiter.com covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.