It is usually more difficult to execute a new idea than it is to understand it. Customer relationship marketing, or CRM as it is usually called, is an easy concept to “get.” But since it is so new to the recruiting world, finding the right CRM tools and making the most of them can be tough. Very simply, CRM (the meaning of which I slightly change and call “Candidate Relationship Marketing”) comprises the underlying principles for sales effectiveness, customer service, and marketing. Its core concepts have been around since the earliest markets appeared ó probably in Egypt, the Middle East, or China thousands of years ago. Shopkeepers and salespeople who know their customers by name, and who have a sense of their likes and dislikes, sell more and have more satisfied customers than those who don’t. And that’s why the sales function was the first to adopt specific tools to help them keep track of a wide range of customers and offer more personal service. Early tools relied on paper and pencil (or wax tablets or papyrus) and then evolved into rolodexes; computer-based contact managers such as ACT!, Goldmine, or even Outlook; and today into the Internet-based electronic tools that help create and maintain relationships across time and geography. Keeping track of details about your candidates or customers is always important. It is also directly proportional to your success. Referral programs work mainly because of the relationship that exists between a potential hire and a current employee. The more you know about a candidate, the more you can offer them in personalized service, and the more specifically you can market to them ó the more successful you are likely to be. These are the capabilities CRM can offer you. The key vendors in this space for customer relationship management are Siebel Systems, Oracle, SAP, Peoplesoft and E.piphany, although there are also many other smaller players and firms that make CRM a part of what they offer. So how do these tools and concepts apply to recruiting? Very simply, recruiting is a sales function. We find prospects (candidates) through marketing and advertising (recruiting websites, ads, job fairs, etc.), then qualify them (screening and assessing), and finally sell (recruit) them a product (job). Because the process is so analogous to that of selling a product or service, the basic CRM concepts, with some minor modifications, apply nicely. In fact, the applicant tracking world is finally catching on to this and adding CRM features to their products. Hire.com, which was founded on CRM principles and has always made a strong case for the need to build ongoing relationships with potential hires, as well as other vendors such as Recruitsoft, offer a partial suite of CRM tools. There are three core elements that make up a CRM system. Element #1: Marketing tools. A well-equipped recruiting function using CRM software would have a variety of available tools. These would include tools for building marketing lists from emails submitted by potential candidates, for automating marketing campaigns, for sending out newsletters targeted to specific types of candidates, and for generating other messages aimed at specific candidates. Other items that might be part of the marketing side of a recruiting CRM tool would include automatic emails tailored to how a candidate answered questions in a profiler or based on the past experience or job title that the candidate was interested in. For example, if a candidate were interested in an HR position, the email might contain specific information about the HR function at the organization or outline additional positions that were available. Other items might be tools to manage the content that is used in the messages, such as tools to create content, sort it, and find boilerplate text to include in emails. It might also contain the ability to analyze how many people responded to an email, which content drove the most response, and so on. Element #2: Customer service. This is a core component of the commercial CRM tools that help run call centers and improve the customer’s experience with a company. However, in recruiting, customer service in general is very, very poorly done. This is partly because we do not have many automated tools and rarely use the ones we have effectively. A good CRM tool would provide a recruiter with instant information on a candidate when they called in for a status update. The tool might even coach the recruiter on what to say by providing suggested text that has been approved as legal. The software should be able to respond automatically to a candidate who requested information by email. The customer service tools would also offer the candidate many self-service options, by letting her find out more about the company or a position or by providing her with an update on her status with no direct recruiter involvement. This is a fruitful area for growth and sophistication, as the CRM tools become more and more a part of applicant tracking systems. Element #3: Recruiter empowerment and sales assistance. At the highest levels these tools should provide the recruiter with tools to “sell” candidates more effectively. This would include providing scripts for recruiters to follow in the initial and follow-up sales calls and help recruiters find answers from the corporate databases to questions posed by candidates. For example, in a phone conversation a candidate might ask a factual question about a particular product which the recruiter does not know about. A quick online inquiry would pop up the information so the recruiter could intelligently and quickly answer the candidate. CRM tools would know if a candidate had called before, how many times she had called, and how she had answered specific questions. This information would be available to any recruiter and would make all recruiters equally knowledgeable about any candidate. The sales world is adopting these tools quickly because they leverage the Internet to provide them with information, expertise, and education ó as it is needed, when it is needed, and without regard to time or place. As wireless becomes more widespread, these tools will become ubiquitous. They will eventually become as important to your success as any other tool you have. If your current ATS does not have CRM capabilities, you should be asking for them. Every ATS should be starting to offer some of these tools soon. The more they offer, the better a rating they should get. Be sure to include an evaluation of CRM capabilities as part of your review process in the RFP for an ATS vendor.
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