The upturn in employment is driving demand for technology tools to help in the recruiting process. Companies that ignore the trend can find themselves at a competitive disadvantage when it comes time to bring in top talent.
For many jobs, "there are plenty of candidates but not necessarily qualified candidates," says Erin Peterson, recruitment process outsourcing leader with Aon Hewitt. "The challenge is to sort through them as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"By using technology, organizations don't just get candidates, they get more qualified ones," Peterson says.
Through the use of recruiting software, organizations help speed the process along. Depending on the type of software chosen, it can create a potential pool of talent to keep on hand, winnow down stacks of applicants to find those most qualified, or do pre-screening so recruiters can focus their attention on the most promising candidates.
This can be crucial. A recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report predicts hiring will surge 14.3 percent between 2010 and 2020, creating 20.5 million new jobs.
The upturn in hiring, along with increased use of software recruiting tools, is also propelling hiring in the software vendor sector.
SilkRoad technology, based in Chicago, added nearly 100 new hires last year—primarily in sales, development, service and support—in anticipation of the thawing economy. The new additions boosted its total number of employees to about 400, says Tracy McCarthy, senior vice president of human resources.
Hiring was done last year "to be ready to deliver as customers need it," McCarthy says. And SilkRoad keeps a close eye on the demand for its products so it can ramp up hiring when necessary.
The company, which offers recruiting, onboarding and other HR software, also is focusing on giving new hires a career development path, so instead of "just acquiring talent, we're building talent," McCarthy says. Keeping employees engaged and satisfied helps reduce turnover.
Jobscience, which also focuses on recruiting and talent management products, saw a 75 percent increase in revenue in 2011, added vice presidents of marketing and sales and increased its office space. The San Francisco-based company has about 50 employees now, and expects its head count to double this year.
Jobscience focuses on using customer relationship management techniques to help companies recruit, develop and retain talent. The company's brisk growth has been fueled by the struggle for companies in industries such as health care, finance and technology to find qualified candidates, says Ted Elliott, Jobscience's CEO.
Jobscience and other recruiting software providers aim to speed up the hiring process by moving recruiters away from Excel spreadsheets to track candidates to using online tools so information is available in just a few clicks. Rather than starting the process all over again when another job opens up, information on candidates for previous positions remains at hand, and can be tapped into again. Someone who didn't fit the bill for one position could be a great fit for another one, says Erin Jacobs, Jobscience's vice president of marketing. "That way you're not reinventing the wheel."
The company also taps into social networks, so a candidate might apply for a job using his LinkedIn profile, and the software will show him who else in the organization that person is connected to via LinkedIn, Jacobs says.
Or a company might send potential recruits periodic updates about the organization, such as awards it has won or details on the company's growth. "All of that makes you more attractive to work for," Jacobs says.
Recruiting software has surged in the past two to three years, says David Mudd, a principal with the consultancy Mercer. "It really has empowered recruiters to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively."
One who has seen the difference is Mir Ali, vice president of information technology at Adecco RPO (recruitment process outsourcing), which helps handle recruitment for other organizations.
The company relies on Voice Advantage software by HarQen. A promising candidate answers a series of prerecorded questions in a telephonic interview. A recruiter reviews the responses, and if a candidate makes the cut, that person will receive a call from a recruiter.
The software allows the company to ask up to 12 questions, and Ali has found a typical response is about a minute long.
That helps Adecco RPO quickly narrow down its field of candidates for clients. It's a big contrast to face-to-face interviews, which typically last 20 to 30 minutes. "Often within two minutes of an interview you know someone isn't the right fit," Ali says.
Video software plays a similar role, particularly when filling professional positions, says Peterson of Aon Hewitt. Each candidate answers identical questions, records their replies and sends the video. A recruiter reviews the videos and presents the top candidates to the hiring manager.
Having an applicant answer questions by phone or video "satisfies the need for the candidate to tell their story," Peterson says. If candidates believe they've been heard, "it gives them a good experience so they say positive things about your brand."
These types of tools may work best with millennials or Gen Xers, who are comfortable with technology. And it allows applicants to answer questions at any time, rather than having to sneak away at lunch time for a live phone interview, she says.
Other popular tools are applicant tracking systems, which can be used to prescreen candidates before they talk to a recruiter, Mercer's Mudd says. Such systems can include assessments that are usually conducted online and offer preset responses, such as multiple-choice questions, or a choice of responses from a list in a drop-down menu. Recruiters can also lay out scenarios—using everything from written descriptions to video clips—and ask candidates to choose how they would respond to that particular scenario.
Other recruiting tech tools help organizations use their social media presence, or their employees' connections, to help develop a pool of potential talent they can tap into as opportunities arise, Mudd says.
Using software in the recruiting process speaks volumes about your organization, and may help attract tech-savvy employees, Ali says. "Technology usage reflects your culture."
Susan Ladika is freelance writer based in Tampa, Florida. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.