How to choose recruiting and hiring software and services

Finding, recruiting, and hiring topnotch talent is key to your company's success. These guidelines will help you assess potential vendors and services that can lend a hand.

The potential for AI to eliminate hiring bias Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee on what to expect from 'Tech for Good' companies in an interview at The Economist's Innovation Summit 2018.

Without a doubt, technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, coupled with the general digital transformation of just about everything in the modern enterprise, have benefited businesses of all sizes in various appreciable and measurable ways. But merely implementing those technical advances on their own does not guarantee success. The key to the successful implementation of any business strategy or technology, digital transformation-related or not, is a capable and adaptable workforce.

Recruiting and hiring new talent and personnel for your business can be a daunting task, perhaps even an overwhelming task, especially if your business is not equipped with the necessary human resources staff or infrastructure. Many SMBs must rely on specialty services for their recruitment and hiring needs, while other businesses may opt for specialty software to handle the entire process.

SEE: Vendor management: How to build effective relationships (free TechRepublic PDF)

No matter how it is undertaken, finding, recruiting, and hiring new talent for your business is vital to its success and must be conducted efficiently and methodically. To achieve that goal, you must first assess what talent you need to recruit, determine how you plan to search for candidates, and choose which services, software, or infrastructure tools you will use to accomplish it.

A systematic and well-documented procedure comparing the features, tools, and services offered by vendors specializing in recruiting and hiring personnel will help you narrow your choices and greatly improve the effectiveness of your decisions. The following guidelines will help you assess and differentiate the dozens of potential recruiting and hiring vendors and services available.

Note: This article is available as a PDF, along with a comparison tool, on our premium sister site, Tech Pro Research.

Analyze what your business needs

Before you can decide how you will find and recruit new personnel, you must assess exactly which skills, talents, expertise, and/or experience your business is currently missing. Knowing what you want with regard to new talent and new personnel forms the fundamental basis for every decision that follows. It is not a step that can be glossed over or made lightly—the more thoroughly you examine this need, the more likely your future decisions will yield positive results.

To make this assessment, you should answer several fundamental questions, including, but not limited to:

  • What skill set/education do we need to hire?
  • Do we need to hire one new employee or several?
  • Has an internal candidate for the position been identified? Will there be a need to recruit for a replacement, if the current open position is filled from within?
  • Is the position permanent or temporary, full-time or part-time?
  • Is the position entry level, midlevel, executive level, or C level?
  • What compensation package are we offering? What compensation package are we willing to offer?
  • Is the required skill set highly technical? Is the required skill set extremely specialized or is it general in nature?
  • Will the best candidates have specific experience? Will the best candidates have specific education? Will the best candidates have specific certification(s)?
  • Is the business pressed for time in filling this position? Can the business afford to take its time?
  • Who will triage initial resumes and applications? Will the hired recruitment service or software conduct the initial screening?
  • Who will conduct interviews? Will the hired recruitment service conduct the initial interviews or will they be handled internally?

Only after you determine what talent your business is searching for can you begin the process of choosing what kind of recruitment service or software you need to successfully make your new hire.

SEE: LinkedIn to unify hiring products on one platform (ZDNet)

Types of recruiting services

The type of recruiting service you choose will be determined in large part by what talent your business is seeking. Recruiting services generally fall into one of four categories:

  • General. This type of service, sometimes referred to as a contingency recruiting service, typically focuses on recruiting for a specific industry. This category of service can be particularly helpful if your business is seeking personnel with specific education, training, or certification, like healthcare or IT professionals.
  • Staffing. This type of service is particularly useful when your business is looking to hire seasonal or temporary workers. This category would apply if you need personnel to meet a spike in demand or a temporary employee to fulfill a role while a permanent employee is on leave.
  • Executive. This type of service, as the name implies, specializes in filling executive and C-level positions. If your business needs to employ the services of a topnotch chief operating officer, for example, this is the kind of service you're looking for.
  • Software. While still retaining many of the aspects of a traditional recruiting agency, vendors in this category offer applications, features, tools, and ecosystems that allow businesses to manage the recruitment process themselves. The quality and quantity of the tools offered by recruiting software vendors often eliminate the need for the additional person-to-person services offered by the other categories.

SEE: Personnel screening policy (Tech Pro Research)

Questions to ask a service

While there are dozens upon dozens of recruitment services to choose from, differentiating one from another can be simplified to reviewing the answers given to these basic questions:

  • Industry. What experience does the service vendor have with your specific industry? Does the service specialize in your industry? Can the vendor provide examples of successful recruiting and hiring placements performed for other clients?
  • Procedures. What process does the service vendor use to qualify candidates? How successful is the process? Is the success proven over time? Will the vendor conduct a full-service interview with your business decision makers to determine exactly what talent you are searching for?
  • Guarantees. Does the service vendor offer policies, guarantees, or assurances regarding the placement and potential replacement of personnel? What are those policies exactly? Are there various levels of service? What level of service is right for your business?
  • Competitive advantage. What competitive advantages does the service vendor offer? What services, features, tools, and/or guarantees do they offer that differentiate them from their competition?
  • Timing. How fast can the service vendor operate? How long will it take to find suitable candidates? What sort of flow should the business expect? One candidate a week? A few a week? Will the service be able to provide a continuous pipeline of suitable candidates, if asked?
  • Transparency. How willing is the service vendor to share information about how it operates, what services it supplies, and which services are guaranteed? When your business decision makers ask a question, does it get answered in a timely fashion? Is the answer complete and informative?
  • Talent pool. What is the size of the service vendor's talent pool? Does the vendor have access to a large pool of potential candidates or will it have to perform extraordinary searches to meet your business needs?
  • Scalability. Can the recruitment service vendor scale with the growth of your business? Are there policies or provisions in place to increase activity to match your business needs? What is involved with this scaling process?
  • Fees. What will the service vendor charge your business? Is there a standard rate or does it vary by contract? Is the fee structure predictable or should the business brace for unexpected spikes? Will the vendor provide detailed information about the cost of services once the level of service is established but before any actual recruiting takes place?

SEE: Tech Pro Research hiring kits

Features to look for in recruiting software

Many of the basic questions listed above can also be applied to the decision-making process associated with recruiting software. The additional characteristics that distinguish one software vendor from another in this market include the consideration of specific features, applications, and tools, including:

  • Cloud or on-premises. Many vendors of recruiting software have moved to cloud computing and have begun to shun the on-premises concept. Cloud-based computing allows for better scalability and flexibility and is generally the preferred method of delivery for modern enterprises. However, your business may have specific on-premises requirements that will limit your choices to vendors that can still provide that level of service.
  • Legacy integration. Established businesses may have legacy software that must be incorporated or integrated with any new applications or services. The ability to successfully perform those integrations can vary wildly between recruiting software vendors.
  • Workforce planning. No matter which recruiting and hiring software you choose to deploy, its primary function will be the planning and management of your business enterprise workforce. Decision makers should look for applications and tools that can develop high-quality pools of both internal and external candidates for any job position that may open in your enterprise.
  • Sourcing. Closely related to workforce planning is the ability of your chosen recruiting software to effectively source high-quality candidates by managing job postings, arranging advertising, and promoting on social media platforms. Another important but often overlooked feature is the ability to reuse job postings—there should be no need to reinvent a job posting every time you need a new candidate.
  • Candidate acquisition. Beyond finding high-quality candidates, recruiting software should help your business with the acquisition process by managing referrals, screenings, assessments, and other selection criteria. The best software should help your decision makers move from finding candidates to hiring candidates.
  • Applicant tracking. Once high-quality candidates are identified, they must be interviewed and vetted with background checks. Your chosen recruiting software should be able to help your business manage these aspects of the hiring process. Managing candidate communication throughout the process is also an important feature to consider.
  • Training. Like any technology or system, the software is useful only if people actually use it. The best recruiting software vendors will offer tools to help train existing staff on how to effectively use the new system. Depending on your business needs, this may involve hands-on training with meetings and seminars, or it may be accomplished with online or video training sessions.
  • Analytics. The effectiveness of your chosen recruiting and hiring software must be measured, so it should include comprehensive reporting and metrics gathering throughout the system.
  • Platform support. Regardless of which recruiting software your business chooses to deploy, it must be able to run on all the various computing platforms used in your enterprise. This is particularly important if your business has a strong dependency on mobile devices and intends to run the software on those platforms.
  • Technical support. All complex systems will experience problems occasionally. The vendor of your chosen recruiting software should be able to provide written confirmation of exactly what technical troubleshooting services it will offer in the form of a service level agreement (SLA).

SEE: Recruiting and hiring top talent: A guide for business leaders (TechRepublic)

Compliance

Modern businesses, regardless of size, are subject to a slew of laws, regulations, and reporting requirements regarding privacy, security, and the management of sensitive data. Gathering and processing personal information about potential candidates is by definition sensitive data, and any software worthy of your time and resources should be able to provide clear information on current legal compliance procedures. If a recruiting or hiring software vendor can't meet or exceed legal compliance procedures, they should be eliminated from consideration—no exceptions.

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By Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.