Tools of the Recruitment Trade

SAN MATEO (07/31/2000) - Joe Geller, a Web content developer in Santa Cruz, Calif., was recently on the hunt for a short-term assignment. Like many of his IT colleagues, Geller went online to research employers and to uncover opportunities. The Web developer applied to 10 different companies and submitted his resume to a few job boards.

Not surprisingly, Geller received numerous e-mail and telephone responses from recruiters throughout the San Francisco Bay area. Although pleased that his resume got some play, Geller isn't sure that the recruiters who contacted him understood his career objectives or his skill set. "If you just post your resume, you're contacted by people who seem as if they haven't even read it.

[Prescreening a candidate] might be helpful," he says.

Geller is on to something. He's just one of scores of IT professionals who find that digitally submitting a resume and waiting for a reply isn't as productive anymore as the process was during the first days of e-resumes. Geller and his colleagues -- your future employees -- don't want to waste time sifting through employment come-ons that only half fit their career goals. "Instead of just sending an automated response based on a few buzzwords in your resume, if would be nice if the recruiters took time to look at your resume to see if you actually fit the job," he says.

Overwhelmed with information

An IT job candidate such as Geller is one click away from submitting a resume to your company. The challenge facing hiring managers, despite the IT labor shortage, isn't identifying talent; it's recruiting them and designing an efficient hiring process to do so.

Without a strong administrative system, recruiters and managers can lose track of e-resumes. They may lack the capacity to handle e-mail inquiries from interested applicants or lack the time to review resumes adequately. This leaves recruiters and hiring managers in an uncomfortable spot: outside that small window of time when talented individuals are actually considering job offers. The entire recruitment process can be painful for companies -- and unwelcoming to IT professionals you're trying to hire.

"Monster and all the [other job boards] are creating this ocean of information.

Companies are finding they need better tools to navigate it," says Mark Leng, vice president of business development and marketing at BrassRing Systems, a provider of recruitment services and online hiring management, in San Mateo, Calif. "Let's say you run an ad, and you get 500 resumes. How do you identify the people who are truly qualified for the position?"

Streamlining the process

To streamline the candidate identification and hiring processes, developers are unfurling technical offerings designed to cut both cost-per-hire and time-to-start. These offerings -- ranging from applicant tracking programs to Web-based prescreening interviews and online skills and psychological tests -- aim to improve resume management, simplify candidate tracking, and improve the prescreening process.

BrassRing Systems, one of many companies seeking to improve functionality of matching candidates to openings, developed HireSystems, a blend of Web-based software and client-specific services. Companies use the program to manage resumes received from job boards and the company's career page. Among its features, the program pulls data, such as name, street address, and skills from an electronic resume and distributes that information among 40 unique data fields, Leng says. This automated "cut-and-paste" process avoids the need for the job-seeker to navigate drop-down menus or create an online profile, says Leng.

Geller says he would, for one, rather cut and paste his resume in one step.

"But the other method [of filling out a profile] could be more effective because [companies] could gear their questions to elicit more specific responses," the Web content developer says.

Even the format and content of the initial query about an opening can leave the IT candidate with questions. "Do they want references? Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't," Geller says. Better initial communication could clarify this for Geller and others.

Making the process work for candidates means it must work for recruiters. After an e-resume is submitted and the information is extracted, a company can perform a search of a BrassRing database to identify and qualify candidates. A hiring manager seeking a Unix programmer, Leng says, could specify that the only resumes e-mailed to his or her inbox for a certain job should come from candidates with more than eight years of experience, who hold the title Unix programmer, who live within a certain ZIP code, and so on.

Recruiter insight

E-business information provider Acutate tapped in to BrassRing's offerings in the wake of fast-paced growth. During 1999, the South San Francisco, Calif.-based company grew from 125 to 450 employees, predominantly hiring IT staff. David Bowles, director of staffing at Acutate, says the tool enables the company to track candidates through all stages of the hiring process. "When you're hiring 40-plus people a month, you really need something to track all the loose ends or you'll let the ball drop," Bowles says.

"The flow of candidates' resumes is like an avalanche of information that you need to be able to intelligently sift though and make the best possible informed decision whether to use your energy and resources in [pursuing a candidate]," Bowles says. Acutate officials predict that their employee total will hit 700 by year-end.

Financial impact

Saving money by using an automated system is another benefit, says Bowles.

Acutate recruiters use the tool to ensure the company is not paying a recruiter for a resume currently stored in the company database. The tool has already saved the company substantial sums. "If we had relied on recruiting agencies for all of our growth, we would have spent millions of dollars," he says.

Money and control go hand in hand for Jim Holdman, vice president of procurement at State Street, a Quincy, Mass.-based provider of management and administration for institutional investors. The company, which has over 17,400 employees worldwide and a 350-person IT contractor staff, sought to cut expenses and paperwork while still delivering quality IT talent to hiring managers, Holdman says.

State Street turned to IT.com, an end-to-end Web-based e-procurement solution from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Spherion. The Web-based system links contractors and prospective full-time employees with large IT companies.

Company representatives say that IT.com delivers prescreening assessments, including skills and psychological testing, and additional post-hiring components.

State Street's Holdman says that although he hasn't assessed the time savings since the early June pilot program, responses from State Street users have been positive. "It provides a lot of information to the hiring manger, and it provides it quickly, which is what we were looking for," Holdman says.

Tapping in to the IT.com database, Holdman says, the company can more easily assess an IT worker's skills and past experience with the company. "By having a little bit of history and some testimony from previous managers, we hope to retain people longer," he says. Holdman also anticipates the company will save from US$2 million to $5 million overall with the service, mainly due to the HR management functions.

Prescreening savings

For recruiters and IT professionals alike, Web-based prescreening tools can be a welcome relief to the initial round of "potential fit" discussions which often resemble an disorganized dance. Andy Weighart, a systems programmer at Household, a consumer finance company in Chicago, also holds a master's degree in personnel psychology. Weighart says that an online screening test is an indicator that a company takes learning about job applicants seriously. These prescreening tools can be a "cheap alternative to administering and hiring a good industrial psychology consultant or having an [HR] department that was really dedicated to doing some more serious testing," he says.

Speed and efficiency are the Web-based prescreening and assessment tools' advantages, says David Patrick, vice president of business development and co-founder of Advantage Hiring, in Pittsburgh, Pa. Advantage Hiring developed Net-Interview, an online screening tool released in April.

Using Net-Interview, managers and recruiters create a set of multiple-choice questions for job candidates to answer online. The set includes questions written by organizational psychologists and interview questions based on a profile the manager creates for each position. Candidates take the Net-Interview when applying for a job online. The hiring manager is then able to review, in real time, the candidates' rankings, based on such factors as skill levels or how weighted questions were answered. "For a hiring manager, you're getting a nice detailed first pass of the candidate, and based upon their responses to some questions, you can make some quick and efficient decisions about whether you want to advance the candidate," Patrick says.

High tech may not work

But the question that arises is whether highly sought IT professionals will wade through a lengthy Web-based prescreening interview. Gale Sroelov isn't sure that high tech is the way to go. Sroelov, vice president at A&S Computer Services, in Union City, Calif., opines that because IT professionals are in such high demand, some may not be as amenable to answering an array of questions online and that the human touch may be necessary to further determine matches between companies and candidates. "You have to kind of work with them and work with the company to make sure the company is getting the best candidates without making the applicant jump through too many hoops," Sroelov says.

As a Web content developer and recent job-seeker, Geller sees Web-based prescreening in another light. "A set of prescreening questions may also equip a candidate with some knowledge of what a company is seeking, thereby better preparing him or her for a face-to-face interview," he says.

Despite advances in resume-tracking and prescreening tools, Geller is not convinced that high-tech recruiting tools alone will work.

When pursuing a new job, he'll again post his resume online. But Geller says he will use the tried-and-true approach to track down the right full-time position: researching companies, attending job fairs, and networking. "It's not 100 percent certain that no one can find that perfect job on the Web. It could very well happen. But if you go to the job fair and you spend 20 minutes talking to a person about a job, you're more likely to find something that is really a good fit," he says.

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