How Important is Recruiting Software in Determining the Success of an Executive Search or Staffing Firm?

Not very! You might find that answer surprising, considering I am the president of a recruiting software company. We have been producing recruiting software for 25 years. I have also spent 25 years as a recruiter in the very competitive Los Angeles market.

I talk to a lot of recruiters every day who are trying to decide on recruiting software. There is a variety of recruiting software products out there and it seems as if a new one pops every other day. The ERE has a running Discussion group, Finding The Right Recruiting Software, where recruiters can ask questions and get advice from each others regarding recruiting software. I get emailed discussions daily from this group and almost every time someone mentions software that I have never heard of.

I get the feeling that many of these recruiters I talk to every day are on the wrong track. They are looking for the secret potion that will turn either themselves or their firm into a super star of the recruiting industry with the slickest resume database and applicant tracking features around.

I maintain that if you take a good recruiter or recruiting firm and make them use bad recruiting software, they are still going to be successful. Conversely if you take a bad recruiting firm and make them use good recruiting software they are still going to be a bad recruiter or recruiting firm.

When I was still recruiting during the day and writing software at night I worked elbow to elbow with fellow recruiters. I used to criticize the recruiter who was always fussing with the computer and their files. Do you know why? Im guessing you think it is because I am so arrogant that I did not want to listen to anyone elses ideas. You are wrong, although I do like my own ideas! The real reason, however, was that I knew this recruiter was never going to be successful and we would lose money. Time after time, year after year for 15 years, I found that the recruiters who focused on the recruiting tool and gimmicks rather than execution failed. Someone once told me that Vince Lombardi, a very successful football coach, had only about 6 plays. The success was all in the execution!

The recruiter who focuses on the execution of the client and applicant call and is always thinking of ways to improve the call is going to be successful. How you identify this type of recruiter is the subject for another article.

So, why have I spent half of my life writing recruiting software and trying to make it better? Because I love my work and the creativity of it and I know I can give a really good recruiter an edge. I know the recruiting firm will be successful with or without me but I can make a difference. I truly enjoy working with successful people and the rewards and appreciation mean so much more to me.

What makes good recruiting software? This depends on the recruiter or recruiting firm and their business model. There are a number of good recruiting software packages but fundamentally the software must be extremely easy to use, it has to focus on the execution of the client or applicant call and it has to gather information through, what I like to call, the natural process of recruiting. If the software gathers information naturally and easily it will feed into the critical element of recruiting, marketing!
Recruiting software must compliment or follow the natural process of recruiting. Notice I did not say the software must be intuitive! You might ask what exactly is natural? If your applicant tracking, staffing or resume database software requires you to perform tasks that you would not ordinarily do then you must question the recruiting software. Now, I have to admit that everything you do as a recruiter might not be considered natural.
Natural or not, the recruiting process can be simplified into a few basic steps.
1. Get a job order by calling clients and recording the calls for future marketing and follow up.
2. Research a database or databases for applicants or referral sources that would be a good fit for the job order.
3. Call identified applicants and record calls.
4. Determine the applicant(s) to present and present the applicant(s) to the client.
5. Track the interview process to the point of hire and the applicant starting to work for the client.
That's right, only 5 steps! This is what is so alluring to people thinking about recruiting as a career. But any experienced recruiter will tell you that each of these steps demands a fantastic amount of skill, resources and marketing to be successful.
The job of executive search software is to make sure that each of these 5 steps can be performed without any wasted motion. Note that my emphasis is on saving recruiters time and is not on features. I cannot begin to count the features I have reviewed and discarded. They looked like a good idea at the time but simply could not stand up to the daily grind of a recruiter.

I have always said that I could take six seniors majoring in IT from any university and come up with a recruiting system in about 6 months. It would then take me about ten years to make it really work for a recruiter.

I think everyone would agree that there are many ways to perform the 5 steps. But I like to think of them performed in an ultimately natural process. We only give in grudgingly to the limitations of computer code making the recruiter do something besides talking to a qualified applicant or client.

So what would be the ultimate? Have the recruiter sit next to a phone and be told or shown who to call and be informed of the full nature and objective of the call. Have all the information available that might be needed for the call without doing anything but talking. Then when this call is finished all the follow up information regarding this call is recorded without any effort by the recruiter. Then the recruiter talks to the next client or applicant. This is the ultimate goal of any applicant tracking, staffing, recruiting software or whatever else you want to call it. This is what I like to call the natural process of recruiting. To me anything else takes away from the effectiveness of the recruiter.

For example, if using a resume database or any recruitment tool causes the recruiter to stop at the end of the day to 'feed' the database just to keep the rest of the executive recruiters, management and himself/herself informed then the recruiting system is not natural. The recruiter had to perform a task not related to talking to an applicant or client. The recruiter had to run back behind the lines, count noses, inform and organize for the next assault because the army was in disarray. What if the recruiter miscounts?

Notice I have not said a thing about features, even though I have spent half of my life writing them and continue to write them with all the excitement I had 20 years ago. A feature is only valuable if it suits the way a recruiter or recruiting firm works. Also, be careful that you do not get so dazzled with a feature that it takes you off of your successful game. The feature must be an enhancement to what is working for you right now. This is very hard to see and really can only be determined by using the product. Be careful of demos as they can be very misleading. A long trial period is best.

If the recruiting product fits your natural style and it is a proven product with a good track record then you are almost home. Almost? Yes, if the product does not allow you to focus on using the database of information gathered for a powerful and deliberate marketing program then keep looking. Marketing is everything in recruiting!