How to Improve Your Recruiting Processes: 80% Optimization, 20% Technology

Recruiters tend to fall into one of two camps. The first rejects most technology as unnecessary. These recruiters feel that traditional recruiting methods still work fine and that, except for perhaps a few emails, telephone and face-to-face contact with both clients and candidates is best. This article is not about these folks, as they are becoming scarcer every year and are a dying breed. They are sort of like those who refused to give up the horse for the automobile and saw only the problems, rarely the benefits. There is no question that technology is the key to recruiting success and will become more so over the next few decades. There are many benefits to using technology, including the ability to lower costs and vastly improve productivity. Technology also extends geography and provides information about candidates at greater depth than can be done in any other way. But the second camp of recruiters ó those who have willingly adopted emerging technology ó has done so in ways that are frequently less than optimal. The recruiting technologies now in place have not delivered the value they promised. In many cases, million dollar investments spent developing websites, acquiring applicant tracking systems, purchasing equipment, and paying for consultants to implement the tools and make them work later on has cost far more than was returned. This has been a common theme in technology adoptions over the past 30 years in all areas. Manufacturing, transportation, information delivery, and the military have all stumbled in their implementation of technology. 80% Optimization With the benefit of people’s experiences in other industries, we have learned that the most important thing you can do is to invest more time and energy on improving processes than on implementing technology. The basic rule of automation is that you cannot automate manual systems by duplicating what people do. For example, people may have to do things sequentially that a computer can do in parallel. People may need time to complete actions that computers can do instantly, and so forth. Computers and technology in general are very good at automating administrative tasks that do not require complex communications or expert skills. They are less effective at face-to-face interactions, selling, and activities that require emotion to be successful. Technology can also enable humans to do things better. For recruiters, technology has certainly assisted the sourcing process by allowing us to search the Internet and use job boards. Redefine Your Needs But before we can put the technology in place to do any of those things, we need to examine what recruiters do and decide what is administrative, routine, and predictable. We need to take the recruiting process apart and look at it with fresh eyes. In re-engineering terms, this is “zero-basing” the process, or re-inventing it from scratch. You might simply ask: How would I put this function together if I had the ability to start from scratch and do anything I wanted? You could ask yourself what you could eliminate, modify, or do differently ó even without technology ó to make the process as efficient as it could be. This is the core of process improvement and refinement. It should precede any other decision or effort. Only after you have designed the new process flow can you begin to apply what you know about technology to each part. Compromise: Choosing the Technology That’s 80% Right Choosing the right piece of software or the right computer system is often not as difficult as we think. If we know exactly what we need, then it is generally a straightforward process to find out whether or not various products have the needed functions. But what you will find is that no single product will be able to do everything you want. The art of choosing technology is to go for those solutions that have the most reliable and cheapest blend of key features. Always choose the simplest tool to do what you need to get done. This minimizes costs, simplifies installation, and shortens the learning curve. And, because technology evolves rapidly, it gives you budget and flexibility to adopt emerging products. My rule is to choose whatever product meets roughly 80% of your needs. Do not require or expect that a product do everything you think it should ó you may be wrong, and you may find that it limits you as you learn how to use the technology effectively. Tweak, Modify, and Change None of us is good enough to architect a system on paper that will be flawless. In fact most of our processes ó even, or perhaps especially, new ones ó are filled with bugs and overlooked errors. The best strategy is to accept upfront that any new technology will require a back and forth process of tweaking the process to accommodate the technology and the technology to meet the requirements of the process. This constant process of minor improvement and change will evolve your processes. Measure Everything The only way you can see improvement is to have a baseline of performance in as many areas as you can and measure what happens to each of those as you adopt the technology. When you take this step you will be able to show both the technology supplier as well as your own management team where the technology is showing a productivity boost and where costs are being shaved. By carefully monitoring and tweaking various aspects of the process, you will know which steps are the real levers of productivity and which are not. Adopting technology is a process in itself, and to see any result requires careful thought and constant monitoring.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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