Before investing in Recruiting technology, be sure that your Recruiting processes is in place. You can't sprint before you learn how to crawl.
Over the past thirteen years, I have reviewed over 1000 software implementations to executive search firms, and I have seen a strong correlation between the maturity of a company's Recruiting process and the types of recruitment technology that they are able to implement. I now classify companies into one of four tiers of readiness to absorb recruiting technology.
Bottom Tier: Off The Cuff
Chaos triumphs over information in a firm at this bottom tier. Individual recruiters tend to view themselves as masters of their own information domains who are not bound by the dictates of a structured methodology for working with clients and candidates. There may be a suggested recruitment process, but it is used unsystematically at best, based on the impulses of the individual recruiter.
Being a bottom tier organization does not mean you are a failure, it simply means that results are unpredictable. In this type of company, assignments come in, offers are made, and deals are closed. However, sometimes placement rates are 20 percent, sometimes they are 1 percent. Sometimes searches close in a month, sometimes in one year. Sometimes client/candidate satisfaction ratings are near 100 percent, sometimes they are in the pits. The problem is nobody can explain why these things happen.
The success of a Bottom Tier firm is not dependent on automated Recruiting processes — because there aren't any! Instead, it is based solely on the skill levels of individual marketing, recruiting, and account management personnel.
If there are no Recruiting processes in place, it is impossible to implement a sophisticated Recruiting system, as there is nothing to automate. Such companies need to do a lot of work on process definition before they try to expand their Recruiting technology plans. A firm at this tier would be best served by providing its people with a step by step plan starting with basic contact management tools that focus on increasing individual efficiency (contact managers, word processors, spreadsheets, and e-mail) versus organizational effectiveness. Immediate efficiency gains can be achieved through selective use of a powerful automated system. Once individuals recognize the tremendous benefits that are possible, further initiatives can begin -- baby steps.
Middle Tier: Old Dog
A Middle tier executive search firm is one in which things are pretty much under control. The recruiters hit their numbers regularly, future business practices are forecasted with a fair degree of confidence, and client satisfaction is within an acceptable range. The key attribute of a middle tier company is that it achieves its success not through sophisticated recruiting technology and process, but rather through solid management.
Middle Tier firms are driven by "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" — the belief that, "If we keep using the best procedures of the past, we will keep hitting our numbers in the future." These types of executive search firms tend to be profitable, but only as long as there are no major changes in the way business is done in the industry (which has been proven not to be the case).
This type of company can successfully implement a more advanced Recruiting technology than a Bottom Tier firm. Since there is a recognized way of doing business, such tools as applicant tracking, contact management, and job-posting software can be implemented to help improve business processes.
Upper - Middle Tier: All Ears
An Upper-Middle Tier executive search firm is one where the Recruiting processes have become a way of life for the company. Every employee in sales, recruiting and research has the manual for how things need to be done — not only the accepted way of doing things, but also the only way to do them.
Because these processes are so embedded into daily operations, they can be periodically evaluated and enhanced. This type of firm is rarely caught off guard by changes in the industry. It can detect very early on when practice areas begin to shift, when competitive strategies are becoming more effective, or when client satisfaction is just starting to decline.
This type of executive search firm is a most advantageous nominee for a more sophisticated Recruiting technology. Processes are so well disseminated throughout the business that these firms can successfully absorb technological innovations such as search automation systems, knowledge management systems, and recruiting metric analysis. Ironically, even though their systems are already reliable, these firms may get the speediest payback from adopting industrial strength tools and proven “best practices” techniques.
Top Tier: Ascension
The Top Tier is where every executive search firm wants to be. A firm at this level has solid Recruiting processes that are optimized by the most sophisticated recruiting technology. These companies also are strong believers in gathering and continually analyzing metrics about their performance. They have a solid understanding of how they recruit, how they manage candidates and practice areas, and how they need to service clients to create long-term loyalty.
Top Tier firms are constantly questioning the status quo. They ask themselves such things as: Why do 25 percent of the candidates who submit their resume online do not leave pertinent information? Why do 15 percent of our Superstar candidates never follow up? Why do 23 percent of the searches we conduct close past date? For these types of firms, Recruitment technologies are not an option — they are a necessity. Implementing Recruitment Technology is the only way these companies can get the information they need to analyze and improve their performance.
A Top Tier company is in a position to implement not just great Recruitment Technology, but great knowledge management systems as well. The companies' knowledge of how they, their practice areas, and their clients do business gives them the insights they need to determine how to best leverage technology to optimize their operations going forward.
What's Your Level?
If you want to get a feeling for how successful the implementation of your Recruiting technology will be, first do a realistic "gut-check" on what type of organization you have. If you find yours is a Bottom Tier firm, and you are currently planning to implement a very sophisticated recruiting system, chances are you will fall flat on your face. You are talking about running a four-minute mile when you can barely walk around the block.
Pick the level of recruiting technology your organization can successfully absorb today. If you don't like the Tier of maturity of your Recruiting processes, then work to improve it. Once the changes have occurred, then upgrade your Recruiting systems to match your new level of process performance. Most importantly, make sure that you have proper guidance from a team that has done hundreds of similar projects and will help you avoid the expensive and morale-busting pitfalls that are lurking out there.