Adopting New Tech for Sourcing and Engaging Employees

By Lin Grensing-Pophal September 6, 2021
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​In days gone by, recruiting at schools, advertising in trade publications, and mining personal networks were often the only avenues recruiters had to find the right job candidates for their open jobs. The Internet and rapidly advancing technologies, of course, have changed all of this.

Today, busy HR and talent acquisition professionals clearly understand the power that technology can bring to their organizations across many stages of the talent acquisition process.

Technology plays a role "from the application process, to processing applications on the back end, to completing the interview process and then onboarding our talent," said Debbie Connelly, senior vice president and chief people officer with Hyland, a content services provider in Westlake, Ohio. She's had a lot of experience with it: Connelly has been with Hyland for 25 years and, over that time, has seen the company grow from 30 to almost 4,000 employees globally. Technology has not only helped to automate the process but also freed up talent acquisition pros' time to focus on more strategic activities.

An Evolution of Tech Channels for Sourcing and Engaging Employees

Monster.com was one of the first channels to evolve in the digital environment. Then came sites like LinkedIn, as well as industry- and position-specific channels to find applicants online. Today, though, even these sources are being eclipsed by more advanced technologies that use artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to help find and contact job candidates.

HR leaders have used applicant tracking systems (ATS), which they coupled with new apps, to streamline the talent acquisition process. And, of course, no one could deny the value that videoconferencing technologies like Zoom added during the pandemic.

Today, the demands on HR to quickly recruit top-notch employees is high, as employers navigate the new normal of remote and hybrid workforces, said Misty Guinn, director of customer advocacy for Benefitfocus, a software company in Charleston, S.C. "As we are all starting to move forward in this new world of work and fully accept that many things will not return to the way they used to be before the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for employers to acquire and retain talent is coming back even stronger than before," Guinn said. The more that can be done to automate the talent acquisition process, the more effective recruiters can be.

New Technology Creates New Opportunities

Randy Prout is talent acquisition manager at Plume Design in Palo Alto, Calif. Before LinkedIn emerged, he was "basically cold calling through lists." LinkedIn was "an absolute game changer," he said. However, he added, its efficacy is diminishing. While LinkedIn once provided Prout with about a 35 percent response rate, today that rate is around 8-9 percent, or even lower, he said.

Prout knew he needed to find ways to connect with a younger audience—people who were not in his network. He found a company called Findem, one of a number of similar online tools using technology to help recruiters find and contact potential applicants based on unique and specific search criteria—similar to, yet more advanced than, the people search options that LinkedIn offers. Comparable tools include Eightfold, Humantelligence, Yello, Recruiterbox and many more.

Prout uses Findem to contact potential candidates through automated "drip" e-mail campaigns. He's able to measure how well these campaigns work so he can improve his strategies over time. When potential candidates respond, they're immediately entered into the company's ATS, called Greenhouse, which automates the rest of the recruitment process.

As technology has evolved, so have applicant expectations, especially those who are younger, like Generation Z. They expect the process to be not only automated but also easy and intuitive to use. Employers that aren't providing that kind of user experience may risk losing out to other, more technologically savvy organizations and recruiters.

Technology to Stand Apart in a Competitive Labor Market

Especially in the current tight labor market, having technology that can streamline the process and improve the candidate experience is critical.

Colleen Stratton, global leader of workforce development at SEI, said her company recognized the need to improve the candidate experience about five years ago. "We really felt that the candidate experience was a bit outdated," she said.

SEI chose to invest in a system that would sit on top of its ATS and create a better front-end experience for the user. The system's vendor, Phenom, incorporates AI so that the user experience improves each time he or she interacts with the system. Internal candidates can also use the tool to ensure they're aware of positions that might interest them. "We have at least 10 times as many candidates than we did before implementing it [the new system] in 2018," Stratton said.

It's the experience with technology that a candidate has with your organization that helps employers stand out, Connelly said. That starts, she said, with what postings look like and the ease of applying for a role, but continues with how recruiters are communicating with candidates, how they're using social media channels and how they're updating their practices so that they match candidate expectations.

"So if I'm trying to recruit a midcareer professional, I'm going to communicate with that person via e-mail or via LinkedIn," Connelly said. "But if I'm trying to recruit a recent college graduate, I'm going to focus on Snapchat or Instagram or Twitter." Technology, she said, has to be tailored to the type of candidate companies are hoping to attract.

High-Tech Is Great, But High Touch Is a Must

What technology can't do, though, is replace the people-to-people connections required to hire the best candidates.

Connelly said that while technology allows the talent acquisition team to think and act more strategically and to spend more time with candidates, it can't understand candidates and their needs and preferences, nor ultimately determine the best fit.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis.

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