June 22, 2018

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The Myth of Automated Recruiting

...You are the Recruiting Director of a Fortune 1000 company. For as long as you can remember you have been getting by with spreadsheets and file folders and it has been a major chore just to keep up with the minimum, let alone going above and beyond. The company has been maintaining a philosophy of keeping the staff functions lean, so you have been constantly challenged with doing more with less. Finally the PeopleSoft implementation is winding down and the company has decided to invest in application software to support the Recruiting function. The software vendor has just left the conference room and all of the recruiters do the "oh, oh, oh, what a feeling" Toyota jump. High fives all around. You are about to purchase and implement a state-of-the-art automated recruiting system that will increase productivity and make everyone's life a lot easier…

Nine months later the Sr. Vice President of Human Resources asks to get a report on the success of the implementation because She/He needs to present the return on investment justification to the board. He/She is most interested in how much productivity has been gained and the number of hires that have been produced as a result of the system…

You have someone run a report from the new system to see recruiter activity and you find that it just doesn't add up. There are more hires than there are interviews and the number of new hires is only about 50% of what you're PeopleSoft system reports. How can that be!?!...

This is a fairly typical story of a recruitment systems implementation within the last decade. There are a myriad of reasons that can lead up to such an outcome, however, they all seems to be a derivative of the Myth of Automated Recruiting. The myth is simple and easy to understand…. There is no such thing as automated recruiting!

The Origin

Ever since the 1980's when microcomputers were coming of age the word automation has been associated with the installation of application software and technology in businesses. While there are many tasks that application software can automate, the word is often generalized and over used, which can create misperceptions as to what a software package will actually do.

The HR organization had typically been the last to receive funding for automation in most companies and recruiting usually took a back seat to the HRIS systems that support the compensation, benefits, and payroll aspects of HR.

In the late 1980's as more sophisticated applicant tracking software became available the term Automated Recruiting System was introduced. The software vendors latched onto this term and began selling their products as automated recruiting systems. To help illustrate the point, below are some phrases that are actually used in the marketing of recruiting software:

  1. "Meet Joe, Recruiter. He can pull candidates out of seemingly thin air. His secret?…. He'd be willing to share with you, as long as you promise not to tell the hiring managers that his [recruiting] software does all the work!"

  2. Our solutions-from automatic job posting on the Internet and comprehensive requisition workflow, to resume management and applicant tracking-automate the entire recruiting process and permit the rapid exchange of searchable employment-related information

  3. [Our product] is the one place you need to turn to automate every aspect of the recruiting process.

This is where the myth begins. While the applicant tracking tools and recruiting systems today will automate certain tasks, it is a mistake to believe that the entire process of recruiting can be automated. HR organizations that are faced with tighter budgets and having to do more with less fall into a trap. They believe the salespeople and think that if they implement the state-of-the-art automated recruiting system, that somehow magically productivity will increase. It is as if they believe the intelligence level of the human capital required to execute the recruiting function will be reduced. The result is often inexperienced recruiters trying to use sophisticated software delivering less than acceptable service to the hiring manager.

This trap is called the Productivity Paradox. Just like the story at the beginning of the article, the company expected the system to increase productivity, but in reality that is impossible. The system and automation can only create an environment that facilitates productivity, not increase it. If a system does not perform reliably, it can inhibit a recruiter and potentially decrease productivity, but it will never increase it. The only factor that has the power to increase productivity is the human being in the middle of the equation. When a system is implemented to remove barriers from the recruiter's path by automating certain tasks, it gives the recruiter an opportunity to be more productive. If the recruiter involved is in-experienced and unaware of good recruiting practices, this opportunity can be squandered and the recruiters may simply become monitors and coordinators of the automated tasks.

Another common trap is when the system gets implemented with all the bells and whistles, however, the recruiters avoid using it because it does not support the way they do their work. This is because recruiters follow The Path of Least Resistance. A good Recruiter's personality will always lead them to the path of least resistance to fill a job. Who can blame them, it doesn't make sense to work harder than you have to in order to get the job done, right? (I do not intend to stereotype here, but most of the recruiters I know will agree). When a new system gets implemented, it does not matter how good it is, during the learning period it will introduce friction (or resistance) in the recruiter's path. In many cases, simply the way a system is implemented can create the perception of a true barrier. The trick is to understand the way recruiters recruit and implement the system as the path of least resistance.

The bottom line is that in order to have a successful recruitment system implementation, the recruiter still needs to know how to recruit, and the system needs to be perceived as a valuable tool in managing the workload. Don't let the myth fool you, ultimately a recruitment system will only be as good as the people using it.

Ed Newman, President and Founder of The Newman Group
The Newman Group was founded in 1999 with a mission to create a center of excellence in recruiting technology. By building strong relationships with the leading technology vendors, and fostering a highly rewarding culture, The Newman Group has become the market leader in delivering recruiting technology consulting services.