Recruiting Systems Control Resume Chaos

SAN MATEO (07/24/2000) - In the past three years, the Internet has dramatically changed the face of HR recruiting. Job boards, newspapers, and professional recruiters are all vying to provide hiring managers with browser-based access to online databases that contain the professional histories of every job-seeker who has access to a computer.

But despite the hype of online job boards and recruitment agencies, finding the dream employee to fill your job vacancy hasn't become any easier. Rather, these online resources have delivered a deluge of resume information with no means of managing it. The resulting influx of electronic resumes has made it more difficult than ever to cull promising candidates from the heap, requiring businesses to hire more HR staff to sort, qualify, and respond to interested, but often underqualified, hopefuls.

Furthermore, basic job board solutions, such as BrassRing.com and AltaVista Co.

Careers, lack the proactive means of engaging or tracking candidates and suffer from an inability to integrate with in-house HRMS (HR management systems) and HRIS (HR information systems).

A new generation of Web-based recruitment solutions promises not only to ease the search for qualified candidates but also to streamline the recruitment and hiring process through resume management, workforce or process management, and new-hire campaign management. Although a number of vendors offer one or two of these three primary feature sets, only a few combine all three in a complete end-to-end solution.

Internet-based recruiting will not replace traditional practices, but a well-implemented e-recruitment strategy can help you find better candidates, reduce the time and cost per hire, improve hiring decisions, and cut the staffing costs required to net qualified workers.

Taming the beast

Due to a range of options and capabilities in this still-emerging product category, finding the best Web-based recruitment tool to fit your company's needs can be tough. Choosing a solution should not only entail a close scrutiny of features but also take into account how successfully the solution can be married to the HR infrastructure already in place.

Beyond simply targeting prospective employees, an effective recruitment solution should, at the very least, improve the quality of candidates being presented for consideration. In addition to a solution's capability of successfully matching job qualifications and requirements, companies with heavier recruiting needs should also look for features such as applicant tracking to hone efficiency throughout the hiring process and proactive e-mail campaigns to help locate passive candidates.

Any evaluation of today's Web-based recruitment tools should also take heed of the nascency of this product category. Still shaking out, this market is experiencing frequent mergers and acquisitions that, such as HotJobs.com's envelopment of Resumix in April, are quickly bringing new breadth and functionality to recruitment tools. And although the capabilities of current tools are promising, it still gives pause when a basic entree price for a recruitment solution, beginning at around US$10,000, can escalate quickly to $75,000 and more for an enterprise-level implementation. As most of these products are still new and unproved, investing in a long-term, in-house software strategy will introduce additional ROI risks. Businesses should consider exploring the more flexible pay-per-use and monthly leasing options of ASP (application service provider) solutions such as RecruitSoft. ASPs such as this promise to help improve ROI without demanding extended commitment or driving up IT administration and maintenance costs.

Resume management

Most contenders in the e-recruitment space are simply resume management services, which extract useful data from resumes to create a more structured and more easily searchable means of identifying prospects. Although most of these services are near turnkey to implement, few offer the advanced profiling capabilities necessary to automate the sifting process.

But ICplanet is one matchmaker that has developed a search and profiling process that helps it stand out from other job board services using only basic keyword searching. By allowing self-classification into predefined categories, such as skill set, years of experience, and education, ICplanet takes much of the guesswork out of matching employment prospects to job requirements.

Furthermore, ICplanet's Web-based interface makes easy work of locating candidates. It not only requires minimal training, but also provides a wealth of selection criteria to help narrow or broaden the query results.

I was able to compile candidates according to a slew of criteria including job category (such as IT Hardware/Software or IT Internet/Wireless), specific areas of specialization, and geographical region. The resulting listing could then be viewed and sorted by any criteria. ICplanet even offered helpful, one-click tips to improving search results. For example, it informed me that by changing the start day by one, I could increase the results by 130 new prospects. My results could then be saved to a folder for later referral.

On the downside, ICplanet's database of 14,000 applicants is small by today's standards, when many services are offering simultaneous searches across multiple resources. And although ICplanet helps sift and rank prospects, it does nothing to help automate the hiring process beyond this initial step, making it better suited to small and midsize companies with more modest staffing requirements.

On the upside, ICplanet provides an optional prescreening service that verifies an applicant's background and work history prior to posting, potentially saving a lot of HR legwork.

ICplanet currently offers its service for free, but expects to turn to a fee-based model by year's end, affording companies ample time in the interim to explore the usefulness of this solution.

Managing workflow

The costs for a new-hire acquisition don't end with identifying prospective candidates. Although most tools offer good resume management capabilities, the majority have not realized the benefits of managing the entire collaborative hiring process.

Process management tools provide the capability of involving all members of the hiring pipeline, including candidates, outside recruiters, HR reps, and hiring managers, by automating messaging and workflow to improve efficiency while moving a recruit through each step of the new-hire process.

Features such as resume capture, requisition management, interview scheduling, reporting, cost tracking, and Internet job board posting, have become part and parcel, putting all of the data, from initial candidate screening and interviewing to management sign-off on an offer letter, at the fingertips of everyone involved.

A typical workflow allows a hiring manager to fill out a new-hire requisition form online and send it off for approval. The system automatically forwards an e-mail to the appropriate higher-up, who clicks a link in the message to launch a Web browser and approve the requisition. The requisition is posted on the multiple job boards and newspapers to which your company subscribes, and the job criteria are searched against subscribed resume databases and outside recruitment firms to generate a list of prospective candidates. The list is returned to HR for consideration and additional pruning before notifying the hiring manager to examine the list and select the applicants to call in for an interview.

The entire process, from HR contacting the candidates by phone or e-mail, scheduling interviews, and assigning in-house interviewing responsibilities such as prescreening, is automated. All participants are afforded one-click access to scheduling information, interview notes, standardized EEOC-compliant questions, flags to fast track and prioritize applicants, and resumes, which can be shared and reviewed from the desktop.

The chosen candidate is approved and HR is notified to send an offer letter, where all job-specific information is plugged in to a template and generated automatically.

These systems not only ensure that proper procedures and approval routing are followed but provide everyone with easy access to the status of a project from any Web browser, allowing easy pinpointing of process bottlenecks.

And with good reporting options that help assess the time and effort expended per new hire, track EEO statistics, and provide insight into job board and recruiting firm effectiveness, these solutions make it easy to demonstrate your return on investment with cold, hard facts.

One of the best tools I came across for managing the recruiting process was iResumix from Resumix. Delivering a suite of Web-based staffing solutions, this ASP boasts a real-time candidate evaluation system that aggregates and auto-profiles applicants gleaned from multiple free and subscription-based job boards, as well as from in-house resumes.

Using natural language query rather than keyword searching, iResumix weeds out the poseurs by extracting relevant data from resumes and matching them to your job requirements. iResumix's workforce automation makes easy work of routing and tracking applicants through the interviewing process. It also helps corral all pertinent statistics for centralized access and facilitates posting of job openings to online data banks.

Although it lacks the wizard components found in Employ from Deploy Solutions, the seamless integration into Domino environments offered by Skillset Employment Exchange, and complete end-to-end integration with existing in-house HRIS solutions, iResumix boasts one of the shortest deployment times, often within 48 hours, and an easy-to-use interface that enables quick productivity.

Also, iResumix has a monthly base price starting under $10,000 -- which includes the outsourced processing and classification of paper resumes, a service for which competitors include an extra charge -- making this an affordable solution for the most demanding staffing requirements.

Campaign trail

Although process management and resume tracking systems go a long way toward improving the back-office proficiencies of recruiting, they fall short of benefits found in more proactive solutions such as Hire.com and RecruitSoft.

In addition to providing easy management of job requisitioning, support for multiple sourcing strategies such as multiple job boards, subscription-based recruiting firms, and print media, these solutions borrow e-mail campaign technologies found in popular e-commerce and e-CRM (electronic customer relationship management) solutions. The next generation of e-recruitment tools go beyond passive data mining to launch comprehensive e-mail campaigns that mine, profile, and rank active and passive job seekers alike.

RecruitSoft and Hire.com allow businesses to define e-mail questionnaires that are mailed out to ascertain candidates' skills and experience. The returned responses from these targeted communications are automatically tracked and profiled before being entered into the HR database, delivering a less resume-centric view of a candidates capabilities, but allowing improved identification matching over many keyword search alternatives.

By also integrating directly onto the HR page of your existing corporate Web site, the efficiencies of the questionnaire profile can be quickly implemented.

Templates for questionnaires help jump-start deployment efforts through a fully customizable framework of standard job classifications and skill assessment questions. And features such as superb candidate tracking, automated match notification, and reporting capabilities are all present, going a long way toward easing the costs and administrative overhead of the hiring process.

For my money, RecruitSoft stands out as the solution of choice for enterprise consideration, delivering pay-per-hire pricing, multi-lingual support, and integration with back-end HRIS such as PeopleSoft and SAP. The inability to integrate with traditional HR systems to extend Web-based recruiting efforts across the enterprise is still currently an enterprise stumbling block being addressed by Hire.com (see the full service review of Hire.com).

Caught in a trap

For companies currently invested in expensive HRMS systems such as those from Oracle or J.D. Edwards, don't fret: Traditional HRMS vendors are quickly catching up with solutions such as COM.sortium WebRecruiter and Personic Workflow that can be integrated to leverage Web-based recruiting methods.

Personic has also begun work on an interesting procurement-style business-to-business exchange, the Personic Exchange, for workforce acquisition, which leverages XML to make ordering a new employee from a labor fulfillment house as easy as ordering a box of pencils. However, the exchange currently requires additional products, such as Personic Workbench, to extend the complete end-to-end benefits of more advanced workforce automation.

With the promise of enhancement on the horizon from most of these vendors, I wouldn't trade in my current HR system just yet. But by supplementing new-hire acquisition with the right Web-based tools, companies can begin to reduce the staffing effort and cost-per-hire in a workforce market that is extremely competitive.

Senior Analyst James R. Borck (james_borck@infoworld.com) covers e-business solutions for the InfoWorld Test Center.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Web-based recruiting systems

Business Case: Web-based recruiting systems help locate better job candidates, improve hiring decisions, and streamline the recruitment process, all of which reduce HR staffing requirements and the time and cost to hire. Outsourced solutions reduce the costs and IT burden of installing, administering, and maintaining in-house systems.

Technology Case: Web-based recruiting could pose additional cost considerations for groups already invested in HR management or HR information systems. Most solutions provide easy-to-use interfaces that make training a nonissue even for nontechnical HR staff. Web-based access extends automated recruiting processes across the enterprise.

Pros:

+ Improves quality of candidate pool

+ Reduces time and cost to hire

+ Easy for nontechnical staff to learn

+ Streamlined processes help reduce HR staffing requirementsCons:

- Limited integration with existing HRIS- Security issues raised with off-site data storage.

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