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Sorry, But You’re Buying Recruiting Software All Wrong

Earlier this week, I had the distinct pleasure of hosting Bersin by Deloitte analyst Josh Bersin at Lever HQ for a fireside chat. In an industry packed with pundits and awash with self-proclaimed influencers, Josh is one of the few legit luminaries. After an impressive career in Product, Sales, and Marketing, Josh founded Bersin & Associates in 2003, selling it nine years later to Deloitte. The fact that Deloitte kept the Bersin name in the resulting business unit says it all, and today, the firm counts over 60 of the Fortune 100 among its client base.

Over the course of 45 minutes, we covered a satisfying amount of industry surface area. From shifting organizational structures and ways of working, through hot trends like AI and contingent workers, to the evolving roles of Facebook, Google and LinkedIn in HR tech, this lunchtime chat had it all.

The piece I am still mulling over two days later, however, relates to the portion of the talk in which Josh sounded off on the ways in which talent acquisition needs to change, and embrace modern technology as part of the transformation. He spoke of a world in which almost two-thirds of CEOs  say their companies are struggling to recruit the right talent. Many of their organizations have experienced dizzying growth in hiring over the last decade, as they sprint in hot pursuit of constantly evolving, high-demand skill sets in technology, design, marketing and more. The legacy recruiting software platforms that still hold significant market share simply don’t support today’s hiring realities, leading to what Josh called ‘pent-up demand in mid- to large companies like I’ve never seen in recruiting.’

HR leaders are tentative, though. Their workloads don’t allow them to squeeze in what is still etched in their minds as ‘the hellish experience of buying an ATS.’ (As an aside, Josh re-lived his own experience buying and implementing a legacy platform for Bersin & Associates in the pre-Deloitte days – “It barely worked at all, but the thought of going through that again was like, ‘Oh No!’”)

And when they do buy… they don’t always focus on the right things. If you truly expect the entire organization to play the appropriate role in referring, vetting and wooing game-changing talent, for instance, you should evaluate recruiting software accordingly. Or, as Josh put it, “Because employee happiness is critical, buying systems that are easy to use and intuitive is now critical.” In other words, put down the feature checklist (or at least set it aside having validated your core needs will be met – and be real about what’s core) and get the product in the hands of users whose buy-in is a critical driver of whether you succeed or fail as a talent function.

Need convincing? Bersin’s research has shown that the single most critical factor in the success of talent teams, by a wide margin, is the health of the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers. There’s more to that than software, of course, but if it takes hiring managers and other users ten times as long to accomplish a task because of clunkiness, clickability or lack of intuitiveness, it’s going to hinder your cause.

In fact, take the time wasted by each employee due to poorly-designed recruiting software, and multiply it by your employee base. Put a dollar value on that time, because when headcount is the single biggest line item in your budget, time is money. It’s harder to assign a value to frustration or lack of involvement in the hiring process, but it all adds up to slowing you down. And one thing’s for sure: if your software doesn’t accelerate your velocity as a hiring organization, while helping you make quality decisions… if it doesn’t make your life and the lives of your users easier… if it throws up barriers to candidates applying… then it’s not worth buying, no matter whether or not it can be stuffed into the modest dollar box that your CFO has assigned it. 

We have so many more thoughts on the right way to evaluate applicant tracking systems. If you’re a small or midsize company, check out our brand new guide on How to Choose the Perfect Applicant Tracking System in Five Steps. If you’re a midmarket or enterprise organization, my colleague Jason Seiden wrote a great piece recently on how to steer your buying process. Let us know what you think.