How RPO providers help organizations secure top talent with innovative tech tools
By Russ Banham
In just a year, the scope of mobile and cloud-based technologies in the talent acquisition and recruitment process outsourcing fields has enlarged to the point that one can confidently state a new era is underway.
In 2014, the talent tech industry focused the wider use of applicant tracking systems (ATSs) and software vetting the accuracy of candidate resumes, academic backgrounds, and possible criminal past. Video interviews of job applicants were picking up speed as a way to reduce costs and improve the candidate experience. Now it’s a whole new ball game, technologically speaking.
Mobile and cloud-based applications are changing the nature of acquiring, managing, and retaining skill sets— for the better. A galaxy of mobile apps has altered the paradigm, offering everything from more refined job postings to improved scheduling of interviews to deeper talent communities. In these extremely competitive times, when many different types of businesses seek to carve new territorial and market inroads, these tech tools are sharpening the ability of companies to recruit the best of the best.
New technological capabilities and improvements are not confined to an explosion in apps. Headway is also being made in the application of candidate relationship management (CRM) systems to produce superior experiences for job applicants. These experiences result in positive word of mouth about the employer’s brand and can be cultivated over time to nurture the company’s future employment needs.
Big data is also generating bigger benefits, by not just helping employers improve traditional metrics like time-to-fill and cost-per-hire, but also resulting in the development of new metrics to assess performance and benchmark the organization against its peers, talent acquisition-wise.
Challenges remain though, chief among them the need to integrate all the different software tools at the user level, a problem that is not likely to be solved soon, given the rapid pace of technological development. Another challenge for HR leaders is deciding whether to source these technologies from software vendors on a best-of- breed basis or lease them individually as part of a suite of capabilities from an RPO provider.
Despite these issues, it is clear that the war for talent is being fought with new and highly sophisticated weapons. “These innovations are driven by the desire to be proactive—to be better at predicting the organization’s future workforce needs based on its strategic growth initiatives, and then having the right pipeline of talent in place internally or externally to ensure these needs are met,” says John Wilson, CEO of global RPO firm WilsonHCG.
This burst in technology tools must have purpose, serving a company to best its competitors at the recruitment game. “What has been really impactful and is absolutely needed today is talent analytics and business intelligence,” says Andrew Gadomski, founder and CEO of New York-based Aspen Advisors. “HR leaders want clearer visibility across the enterprise and better means to turn data into information to make better talent decisions driving the business forward.”
A Different Approach
Talent acquisition begins with advertising: Delivering the right messaging to potential or targeted job applicants. To source them, virtually every company these days clicks on LinkedIn, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and similar sites. The problem with this approach is that once everyone is doing the same thing, the playing field levels.
This explains rising interest in software tools like Entelo, which sifts through tens of millions of potential candidate profiles that are indexed from a multitude of social media sites. “You want to have sourcing strategies that are differentiators,” says Kathy Kalstrup, executive vice president, point solutions and RPO, at provider Aon Hewitt, which uses Entelo and a similar product, TalentBin. “Both sites aggregate different things from different places to produce a profile of someone that is exactly what you may be looking for—or as close as you can get.”
Another searching tactic that Aon Hewitt uses to find talent on behalf of its clients is called semantic search. Rather than simply type up a bunch of search words and hope they give you what you’re looking for, the technology sorts through different words and their proper order to yield the optimum results. An example of this search technique is Google Hummingbird.
Reaching the right job seekers also entails broadcasting a message that resonates with candidates. When it does, he or she hopefully takes the next step and applies for the job. In this regard, Aon Hewitt is providing clients another software tool called Textio, a machine learning software product that helps users determine if a job listing can capture the right responses before it is published. If not, then Textio corrects it.
“It helps you understand how effective your words are in conveying the job description,” Kalstrup said. “Maybe it has too much jargon or is too feminine or masculine when it should be gender neutral. The tool makes changes on the spot.”
Even the most refined and enticing online messaging to a potential job candidate is worthless if the person finds it difficult to reply to the posting or cannot find the website address to respond.
“You wouldn’t believe how much money is spent in recruitment advertising to get candidates through the door, and then the door swiftly closes,” says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for talent acquisition software suite provider iCIMS.
She explains that job seekers often browse for jobs when they’re away from the office, on the train, or bus headed home by clicking through their smartphones. “Suddenly they find the perfect job and sadly realize there’s no way to reply in that moment,” Vitale continues. “By the time they get home, they’ve either forgotten about the employment opportunity or can’t find the address.”
The solution, of course, is to build a mobile platform permitting on-the-spot responses to online job descriptions. “It’s just a necessity now,” Vitale says.
Once a candidate expresses an interest in an open position at a company and applies for employment, he or she must be scheduled for an interview. Unfortunately, few HR and talent acquisition software platforms offer a reliable and easy way to book interviews with job candidates, finds Jonathan Stokoe, vice president of global RPO operations at RPO provider Pontoon. “It’s a problem, with time zone differences not addressed or the software failing to integrate with the mail hosting services,” he says.
Rather than wait for improvements in existing tools, Pontoon leverages a scheduling app originally intended for making physician appointments and customized it to conform to the recruitment function. “We like to partner with leading-edge app providers, even if their focus is outside the HR space,” says Annie Hammer, Pontoon’s client technology and analytics manager.
Relationships are Critical
Once the interview process concludes, there are both winners and losers. But, the second-place candidates may be vital to filling future roles that suit their skill sets. In this regard, CRM systems are becoming an essential tool.
“Ten years ago, there was really no such thing as CRM,” says Mir Ali, vice president of global technology solutions at Futurestep, a Korn Ferry company specializing in RPO. “You’d buy and install software on a server, and when there was available bandwidth you’d do some searches, collect some resumes, and make lists of people to call.”
That was then. Today, there are numerous cloud-based CRM systems that give users the ability to add detailed notes about an employment candidate, which then flows to a database that can be searched to effortlessly rediscover the person for a new job opening.
“The notes assist talent recruitment staff to call back the person for a future position that does suit his or her skills,” Ali says. “Anyone across the enterprise has access to these notes, from hiring managers to someone charged with growing a division into a new region.”
Mobile, cloud-based apps are proliferating and becoming best of breed, giving RPO providers and talent recruitment flexibility in the tools they use. Rather than build all this software internally, providers can evaluate apps that already accomplish what is needed and then integrate these tools with their existing technology. The end result is a best-of-breed ecosystem to offer customers.
“If the company has an ATS in place that it wants to maintain, but the ATS doesn’t really have this knockout interview scheduling functionality, we can offer the tools that will provide that, integrated with their existing technology,” Ali explains.
Like Futurestep, RPO provider Pontoon also offers a best-of-breed technology proposition, depending on each client’s needs and processes. “What we’re seeing on the RPO side is a much higher rate of acceptance from the client of a specific type of technology to create and optimize more efficient working processes—things like mobile messaging, automated online interview scheduling, and video interviews,” says Stokoe.
With regard to a recent best-of-breed app the firm is using, he cited WickedSmart, which matches high potential students with paid internships and entry-level positions.
In the tight talent market, the candidate experience needs to be as positive as possible. Although an applicant may not be perfect for a current open position, his or her experience and expertise may be just what the employer is looking for in future. The goal then is to nurture a relationship with the person. As Wilson put it, “You want to keep the conversation going.”
In this regard, many employers are building talent communities “as mechanisms for serial recruiting,” says Kalstrup from Aon Hewitt. This is not news, of course. What is progressive is that a cloud-based tool has emerged to measure the effectiveness of the talent community insofar as filling future job roles. “We’re using something called Qwalify to see which people in a community are clicking on which subjects,” Kalstrup adds. “This helps us tailor our messaging to these people when a job opening comes about.”
While organizations are impressed with the new tools available through their RPO providers and to their talent acquisition teams, they want to ensure the technologies are both mobile-enabled and integrated across their platforms. This is certainly the case at Horizon Media, a privately owned, independent media company. “We just integrated our social media recruitment efforts and made all the job postings available to candidates using their mobile devices,” says Eileen Benwitt, Horizon Media chief talent officer.
No longer are physical resumes sent to different hiring managers in disparate corporate siloes. Rather, everything flows to and from the cloud-based recruitment platform deployed by Workday, which is available to candidates on the fly, 24/7. “Nowadays if you don’t position your employment brand as tech-savvy and sophisticated, you won’t attract the people you need to attract,” Benwitt reports.
On the other hand, Concord Hospitality, wanted a completely integrated hire-to-retire talent management solution and found it through a customized ATS, Ultipro from Ultimate Software. “Turnover is a big problem in the hotel business,” finds Debra Punke, senior vice president of HR for the owner, operator, and developer of 85 hotels Concord. “We post as many as 2,000 jobs a year, a good portion of them in cleaning positions. By using different tools to attract quality candidates in more unique ways, we’ve been able to reduce our turnover to 50 percent, much better than the 90 percent industry average.”
Data analytics is a big part of today’s new recruitment space. “We built our analytics so that it culls a range of powerful information,” says Futurestep’s Ali. “For instance, say your company recruited 15 people from various competitors in the past year. Our CRM tools can tell you how these people fared in their performance reviews.” For example, on a scale from one to five:
- The five people from company A averaged a four;
- The five people from company B averaged a three; and
- The five from company C averaged a two
the recruiters know to focus on the first two companies in the second round of sourcing.
Down the line, organizations should expect even more use of data analytics in the talent recruitment space. “The next step for us is leveraging data in even more analytical ways,” says Benwitt from Horizon Media. “Predictive modeling, benchmarking against peers, identifying trends—all this is in the offing now, with room to spare.”
Russ Banham is a Pulitzer-nominated business journalist and author. His new book, “Higher: 100 Years of Boeing,” is in bookstores now.
Tech for Talent
New solutions are helping RPO providers assist their clients gain a competitive edge in today’s tough talent game.
For sourcing candidates via social media profiles: Entelo and TalentBin
For analyzing job descriptions: Textio
To match candidates to positions: WickedSmart
To measure effectiveness of content in talent communities: Qwalify