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Powerful Talent Engines

Today’s candidate platforms have evolved from workflow systems to decision-making machines.

By Debbie Bolla

For William Marzullo, vice president of talent acquisition for 2020 Companies, not having a true applicant tracking system (ATS) in place was no longer cutting it. The organization, which develops sales, marketing, and training programs for clients, hires up to 10,000 people a year. Its “hodgepodge of technology” lacked the control, consistency, and compliance needed for an efficient hiring process. Marzullo went to market seeking a comprehensive solution that would boost candidate flow, candidate quality, and recruiter performance. iCIMS’s talent acquisition suite fit the bill, and a mere two months after going live, 2020 is already seeing a big difference.

“The numbers are dramatic,” says Marzullo. “Our application per requisition has gone up and we’ve had an increase in traffic from social channels and mobile applications.” Plus the talent acquisition leader reports benefits outside of typical metrics:
• job openings are more easily found through search engines;
• 2020’s talent and employment brand are being populated through its new career portal and social media; and
• there’s a systematic approach for the distribution of job opportunities.

And that’s just the beginning, Marzullo says. With the engagement in its infancy, he expects greater benefits as he dives deeper into the analytics and metrics delivered from the platform. “With the war for talent, you can’t let anything go. We need to look at where people applied from, on what type of device, the time of day. Those details will help me target my recruiting,” he says.

This is becoming more and more common of the talent acquisition software market today: Platforms are no longer organizers and workflow systems, but catalysts and enablers of attracting and hiring key talent.

“More businesses are beginning to realize that hiring the right talent is the single most important component in achieving strategic business goals,” says Susan Vitale, CMO of iCIMS, a talent acquisition technology provider.

In fact, 60 percent of CEOs surveyed by PwC in 2014 say they’re concerned about not having enough talent. Today’s ATSs play a large role in ensuring that organizations are finding and attracting the right people for the right positions.

“Better selection of candidates is critical for organizations as they become aware that it costs more to hire a candidate who is a misfit leading to an expensive separation,” says Dawn MacKay, vice president of product management for talent management software provider Halogen Software. “With better candidate assessments and evaluation techniques, which capture extensive skills and personality insights, ATSs need to leverage this information for predicting a better fit between candidates and open positions.”

Pairing candidates to positions through predictive analytics is a path that HR is beginning to pursue. MacKay says this can be achieved through deeper integration of ATSs and assessment technologies to help better sync matching capabilities.

The past can also help predict the future. How? Dwaine Maltais, executive vice president of talent management solutions provider Technomedia, says it’s imperative to establish formal key performance indicators that are aligned with company objectives. “It’s not difficult to build predictions based on known performance, but without a solid goals model to form the targets, companies won’t derive the value that that type of analysis can bring,” he explains.

Standardization of data, including field labels and response types, is another way ATSs can offer organizations the right set of information to help answer critical questions. “Predictive analytics may also support guiding recruiters through when and where to best advertise jobs, which candidates are likely to accept jobs, and which employees may be likely to leave their current roles,” says Vitale.

This type of forward thinking is helping to pave the way for talent acquisition specialists to take on a larger, more consultative role. Predictive analytics will be a key piece to the talent puzzle moving forward, and will likely give recruiters an edge. “Just as HR moved from a service support to being a business partner, we are seeing the same thing in talent acquisition,” says 2020’s Marzullo. “Talent acquisition leaders are going to become strategic business partners.”

More From Mobile
When it comes to smartphones and the hiring process, the numbers paint a pretty clear picture: Optimize your ATS for mobile devices or your organization will lose candidates. According to Aberdeen Group research, 70 percent of respondents report they have used their mobile devices to search for jobs, and 51 percent are applying for jobs on mobile devices. But experience is key. Research from CareerBuilder shows that 40 percent of candidates abandon the application process if it’s not optimized for mobile devices.

“The candidate experience has to be awesome in a supply constrained market, and your mobile experience has to be there,” says Adam Robinson, CEO of selection management platform provider Hireology. “No one wants to fill out an online application that looks like a tax form. Candidates are evaluating the employer, and busy people don’t have the time to jump through hoops. Opportunity costs can be high if people pass.”

Platforms should be optimized for all types of devices, including the various smartphones and tablets on the market, and easily recognize them and adjust to their landscape without the need of a native app.

The swifter the application the better -many online sources already house essential candidate information. “Letting candidates easily apply using existing social media profiles or by uploading resumes from Dropbox or Google Drive provides a complete mobile experience and furthermore, shows candidates that you’re an innovative and savvy employer,” says Vitale.

And this has a big impact on the Millennial workforce. According to Nielsen, Millennials are the largest group of smartphone owners, with 85 percent of 18 to 24 year olds owning a smartphone, and 86 percent of 25 to 34 year olds going mobile. “Easy mobile applications, with relatively lesser amount of time required for completion, are required to engage this generation of talent,” says Halogen’s MacKay.

In fact, mobile application was a major factor for Marzullo during his vetting process, with a large part of 2020’s demographic both youthful and tech savvy. He aimed for an application process that was short and sweet: four basic sections. Any other candidate information was culled after the interviewing process. “This has really helped us with dropouts,” he says. “We found that if the application process had too many clicks, we’d lose them.”

Social Recruiting Strategy
Social recruiting was once an added benefit of ATSs, but now it’s a must-have. Integration between tech platforms and social media channels allows organizations myriad relationship-building benefits: developing talent pools; sourcing passive talent; and distributing jobs to a larger reach of candidates.

But perhaps one of the hidden values of social recruiting is the ability to access and leverage referrals. “Employee referrals are widely known to deliver the best quality hires,” says Ward Christman, founder and chief advisor of HR Tech Advisor. “Referred hires are easier to hire, convert from passive to active more quickly, onboard much faster, and stay with their employer much longer.” In fact, Aberdeen Group research names employee referrals as the most effective source of hires.

So how can technology help? “Social recruiting technology makes it simple for current employees to identify connections who have the skills and experience your company needs, and to submit those connections for consideration for open jobs,” says iCIMS’s Vitale.

Plus some tech platforms also offer the ability to intuitively scan social networks for candidate recommendations. “Doing this will create a library of referring parties,” explains Allen Johnson, VP of marketing for talent acquisition solutions provider Lumesse. Analytics can also show which referring parties have the best candidates based on the success of the candidate in a role after hire.

Future of Functionality
Talent acquisition technology has progressed greatly since the early days of resume sorting and workflow management. But as with any process that is tied to technology, there is an immense amount of room for growth.

“ATS technologies will see drastic changes in the way they have traditionally operated in order to continue playing a key role in connecting organizations with high potential talent,” says Halogen’s MacKay. “Mobile, social, and enhanced interactive media technologies like video and virtual meeting will define the next generation.”

Elaine Orler, CEO and founder of tech consulting firm Talent Function, is keeping her eye on wearable technologies and how they might impact recruiting. From providing candidates with simulation glasses to GPS-related activities in the onboarding process, exciting activities abound, she says.

A movement toward consumerism is pretty inevitable. The workforce were consumers way before they were candidates, says Lumesse’s Johnson, and they are becoming accustomed to those behaviors and experiences translating into their work life.

“In this new era where the world is quite literally at your fingertips, the notion of self-service and the value of time-saving usability are paramount,” says iCIMS’s Vitale. “Today’s recruiters need the ability to make HR transactions happen directly, personally, and efficiently with a multi-generational, global workforce.”

Leveraging the best that talent management software has to offer will act as a competitive advantage for organizations, especially as talent demand outweighs supply. “Companies who can best personalize the candidate experience, keep it fast, simple, and relevant, while building a large pool of talent for future on- demand recruiting, are the ones who will be the big winners in 2015,” concludes Christman.

BOX: Applicant Tracking System Must-Haves
Looking to upgrade your ATS? Or confirm you are on par with today’s offerings? Elaine Orler, CEO and founder of Talent Function, advises her top requirements for a platform that will deliver what competitive organizations need most: top talent.

1. Multiple workflows, requisition templates, recruiting communications, and process flow models. Since organizations don’t recruit every candidate in the same way, the solution needs to support different talent grabbing efforts, ranging from college recruiting to executive positions.

2. A user experience defined by users. With different users having different priorities, it’s essential that an ATS has intuitive dashboards and the ability to configure to what is important to a recruiter, coordinator, hiring manager, business leader, and candidate. For example, a recruiter might need to see a full flow of candidates in a pipeline view with alerts on those that are high priority for action, and a manager might need to see their open requisition aging report, with their interview schedule for the week.

3. Data smart. With the information that is stored in the ATS, the ability to render trends, predictions, and historic efforts in advance of new recruiting efforts is the new norm. For example, when creating a requisition, the system might present the summary data of the last three requisitions created with the same job code. The summary data might include the number of candidates that applied, the number that were interviewed, the length of time it took to fill that position on average, and the highest ranked source for the hires. These analytics inform the recruiter on the best recruiting strategy for the new requisition versus applying a default approach. Anticipation of experience is what will change how recruiting is delivered.

Tags: January February 2015

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