February 23, 2010. Another day at DH Services, one of the largest healthcare providers in the United States, and Jamie Deal was just arriving at his office. Well actually it wasn’t much of an office — just a small cubicle with wireless technology that connected him to his sourcing and candidate relationship toolkit. DH Services had stopped assigning offices to people back in 2004-2005, and employees now had the ability to work from anywhere they wanted. They could access everything from web conferencing tools to VoIP services with just their laptop or PDA. Jamie didn’t like to work at home, as many of his colleagues did, because he had three small children. The cubicle was fine.
Jamie was responsible for recruiting all of the medical professionals for DH, which operated more than 200 hospitals and clinics in the United States. He had responsibility for hiring all the doctors, specialists, nurses, and some of the more senior technicians. He was usually at various stages in the recruiting process, managing between 50 and 60 candidates simultaneously. What a difference from his early days as a recruiter. Back then, he could barely handle a dozen open positions at a time and frequently worked more than 60 hours a week trying to fill them. Sometimes he thought back to the mid-1990s, when he was just starting out as a recruiter, and was sure glad his boss had decided to invest in both new sourcing technologies as well as candidate relationship management tools. Even up until 2005, candidate relationship management was a dream. The only recruiting tools were a telephone, an online Rolodex, a primitive applicant tracking system database, and the Internet. He spent hours searching the Internet for candidates and finding them in his Rolodex or database. He couldn’t really tell much about the candidates without interviews. If some other recruiter had interviewed the same person, it was rare to find any notes or record of the interview. Most candidates were interviewed at least twice — many more than that — and lots of great candidates slipped through the cracks and never got an interview at all.
Back in 2005, the VP of staffing at DH had decided to take a look at new networking and online sourcing tools, such as ZoomInfo and Jobster, and also invested in developing candidate relationship management tools. Jamie hadn’t paid much attention, to be honest, as he was already consumed with the 10 to 20 candidates he had. In hindsight, he realized what a brilliant decision his boss had made. The first time he encountered the power of a strategic, technology-empowered recruiting process was in late 2005.
That’s when DH began to test all professional applicants for skill and cultural fit. Although Jamie had been skeptical of testing candidates, he was soon a convert. He had thought for sure that quality candidates would not take tests and that the tests would be long and boring. It turned out that candidates loved the tests and appreciated the immediate feedback they got. And the tests were really fairly short. Jamie was amazed at how well they could tell the skill level of candidates. Once in a while he would interview a candidate and then compare his thoughts to the test results. It was clear that he wasn’t the great judge of people he thought he was!
At almost the same time that they instituted testing, DH decided to recreate its recruiting website. DH made it an interactive, marketing-focused tool that would help steer the right candidates to the right job. By asking the candidates to answer some carefully thought-out questions, DH directed them to various web pages that gave them whatever information they needed to more fully understand what the position would demand. By offering to give candidates feedback on various short tests to determine skills levels and attitudes, DH ensured very few candidates dropped out of the screening and assessment process. By the middle of 2005, DH was testing all professional candidates and giving them real-time feedback on their likelihood of being given an interview. Jamie also found that by the time he got the candidate’s information, the candidate was already well informed about DH and excited about a job possibility. As his boss was a real believer in streamlining processes, many hiring managers got to see the candidate’s data at the same time Jamie did. By 2006, hiring managers often made direct email or telephone contact with a candidate, reducing the time Jamie needed to spend in administrative details. Offers were put together based on recommendations made by software that compared market survey data, current salary ranges for that position in the firm, and the candidate’s current and expected salary. Once in a while an adjustment had to be made for the exceptional candidate, but more time was saved by using technology to improve this process. Jamie’s job changed from cold calling, interviewing, spending time selling DH, and getting candidates in front of managers, to working on making sure the talent pool was full of qualified candidates.
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In fact, for the past three years, Jamie has been working with vendors to improve the technology he uses to stay in touch with candidates and others who are interested in positions at DH. He began by simply using email, but he learned that even that takes a lot of time. DH also uses chat rooms to answer candidates’ questions and to communicate with groups of candidates. Jamie maintains a blog where candidates can pose questions and respond to his information. These tools have really changed the quality of the interaction. DH now taps into a growing body of knowledge about candidates and has software that shows which competencies and traits specific hiring managers have sought. This software will recommend a particular candidate for a particular manager based on this history. The analytic software they purchased looks at the information in the talent pool and analyzes it in different ways. DH has found many emerging patterns. Some candidates are attracted to specific kinds of information, and the website can adapt to their likes. Certain candidates, with specific traits and skills, seem to be more likely to get offers than others. Some hiring managers with certain characteristics are more likely to hire one type of candidate over another.
Using this tool, Jamie is able to very closely match candidates with hiring managers, quickly, and that frees him up to work with other candidates. He can also tweak the website and marketing messages on a regular basis. Jamie is now spending more time looking at external and internal labor market patterns and doing “scenario plans” so that he can provide qualified candidates for almost any possible change in the market. After five years of slowly adding technology and re-engineering processes, Jamie can handle roughly three times as many candidates as he could before. The candidates are much happier with the quality of the service they get and the information they have about the company and the positions. The hiring managers are really pleased. They rarely have to wait more than a few hours for a good candidate to surface and often make the hire the same week they open the position. This has led to less “fishing” and more harvesting, saving lots of time and dollars. When Jamie was asked if he thought the technology had made the recruiting process more impersonal, he smiled. After all, what could be more impersonal than our current processes? We ask candidates to submit their life history with little information about the position, no information about the hiring manager, and with no guarantee of anything.
Over 90 percent of candidates get no real response to their application, most never speak to anyone at all, and those who do are often kept waiting for weeks for feedback. No, almost anything is better than what we have now. This technology enables quick feedback, personal communication and provides information as needed. Sometimes tomorrow is better!