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Ensure Your Recruitment Tech Isn't Costing You Quality Candidates

A person typing on a laptop.

​Recruitment technology is designed to make your job easier. But what if the technology you're counting on to streamline the process overlooks solid candidates?

Attracting a qualified talent pool and moving people through to interviews is challenging enough. It's imperative to evaluate the technology you're using and create checks and balances to keep a good candidate from slipping through the cracks.

Kelly DuFord Williams, founder and managing partner of Slate Law Group in San Diego, points to government agencies as examples of entities facing challenges related to using an applicant tracking system (ATS). The recruitment technology some agencies used scored individuals strictly on specific criteria, which undercut its recruitment strategies by culling strong candidates out of the process.

"If you did not score high enough in particular areas, you weren't even qualified for an interview with certain cities and counties," she said.

This created situations where individuals with previous experience as a U.S. city or county employee ranked higher on the candidacy list than an individual who had attended law school or had an international college experience.

"As tech begins to 'phase people out' based on what it perceives as a shortcoming on a resume, [employers] could miss out on potential employees who could lack traditional backgrounds but possess a lot of grit," Williams said.

Small companies with fewer than 100 employees share similar struggles, even though they likely aren't using an ATS. Sharon DeLay, SHRM-SCP, president of GO-HR in Columbus, Ohio, said ATSs are just too costly for these employers. Instead, they rely on platforms like Indeed, ZipRecruiter and others. The cost savings comes with trade-offs.

These platforms can restrict applicant responses by character or word count. Some of them limit what types of files can be uploaded. Closed-ended questions and a focus on years of experience make it easy to miss qualified candidates.

"It's very one-dimensional. When I post a job on Indeed, the prescreening can require five years' experience. That cuts anyone out who has four and wants to be honest on the application," DeLay said. "But four years in one business can be a tremendous advantage over five years in another."

Even with all of its flaws, however, recruitment technology is here to stay. Experts offer three ways organizations can embrace the benefits and avoid pitfalls:

Make it easy. Every barrier that makes it more difficult for a candidate to apply increases the likelihood of losing the candidate. DeLay suggests simplifying the process by adding a form to your website's careers page that can take the place of ATS or job board screening. Limit the form to five or six "make or break" questions that would invite or disqualify a candidate for a screen call. For example:

  • Ask how many years of experience candidates have performing specific skills, rather than asking them to state a specific number of years of general experience.
  • Ask for an example of how the applicant handled a situation related to the open role. For instance, for a customer service role, say, "Give me an example of how you handle customer complaints."
  • Ask, "Are you eligible to work in the U.S.?"
  • Let candidates know if the job requires a drug test and ask if they understand that.

"We are losing candidates so fast because there are so many opportunities," DeLay said. "When we ask them to go through long, cumbersome applications with repetitive information, they will go elsewhere."

Use tech to eliminate obvious mismatches. Williams has found HR professionals struggle with what tech to use, how to use it and how to ensure it is turning up candidates who are right for the position rather than just generating an arbitrary score.

She encourages HR teams to use tech more to weed out the "absolutely not" candidates rather than using it to identify "the one."

"Think of it as more of a way to get rid of the high school graduate who is applying for a graduate degree-required position than a way to get the best person for the job," she said.

DeLay added that smaller businesses that cannot afford high-end ATS solutions may be able to leverage services from a provider—like the payroll company—they already work with, especially if they are only hiring one or two people each year.

"Find a solution based on what you already have in place," she said.

Understand how job boards work. DeLay recently helped a client post a job to ZipRecruiter. She and the client were shocked to find one of the client's old job posting on the site still taking applications and considered "active" despite being more than a year old.

"The system accepted the application but took me to other jobs available at the same company," she said. "It's how these platforms tell you how many people they've linked and attracted people in, and it's creating confusion. It's just another way tech causes candidates to get lost and even a little bad attitude toward the process."

Katie Navarra is a freelance writer based in New York state.


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