Technology 1, Candidate Experience 0

I know, I work for a technology company; one focused on allowing people to "realize their full potential". There's a huge people element there. We aren't making technology for the sake of technology but to help people do more and be better. But I see a disturbing trend in the Staffing industry; one that assumes that technology takes the place of relationships, that conversations can be automated. I suspect that this trend is an attempt by these staffing systems vendors to help their clients "do more with less", but what they are forgetting is that the clients' customers are candidates; real live people that don't want to be treated like a number. Technology can grease the skids of relationship building (and yay for that!) allowing people to connect in ways they were never able to connect before, but it does not replace people interaction and it never will.

Exhibit A: Dave Lefkow writes about "Hiring Manager Self-Service and the New Strategic Recruiting Model". Dave explains the Staffing process as a number of pieces that can be automated, in-sourced or outsourced. Unfortunately, he put candidate relationship management as a "technology enabled" function, without representing any "in-sourced" candidate engagement function. Now I know, like and respect Dave, but no matter how far technology takes our back-office staffing functions, there will always be a need for value-added person-to-person contact. And as I said in my comment on Dave's blog, that's not an automated e-mail response or an online assessment. To suggest that CRM is a fully automated function is blasphemy to anyone that cares about candidate experience. Have you ever heard that saying "if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"? Not sure where that came from but I love it. Anyway, same goes for candidates (and really any kind of customer). If your process doesn't work for them,or if your competitor is providing a better process for them, they are gone as far as you are concerned. Since Dave works at Jobster and their tool does automate some aspects of candidate engagement, I understand where he's coming from. I just think a piece of his diagram is missing.

Exhibit B: An ERE article today, written by Yves Lermusiaux, called "Don't Miss the Next Strategic Turn".  Yves explains that today, many companies are only taking digital resumes (meaning, no more paper). I can't remember the last time I received a paper resume, though it's not a rule around here that all resumes must be digital (just preferred). Then he shows a screen shot of a corporate website with a message explaining that the company will only accept resumes through the website. Say what? This is supposed to be some kind of best practice? If that's the future, I'd like to not go there, thank you very much. How about enabling an application process that is based on the ways the candidate (a customer in the staffing process) wants to submit a resume? We've all heard about the black hole phenomenon of submitting a resume to a career site. You send it but you aren't sure where it went and whether anyone actually looked at it. It's a great way to get a resume into the system and for the candidate to identify potential openings, but that's not all there is. What about networking? An employee meets a potential candidate at a business conference and he sends her to the corporate website to "apply"? You speak with an awesome candidate that hasn't prepared a resume and is debating between talking to your company and your competitor and you direct them to your corporate website to apply? Employee referrals are told to go to the website and apply? This just doesn't sound right to me! Are we (the Staffing industry) getting so mesmerized by the flash and dazzle of technology that we forgot that the candidate/customer is at the center of all we do?

I'm encouraged by the number and quality of new staffing tools being introduced into the market (though still waiting for a real CRM back-office tool) and that people from these companies are engaging in some leadership and dialog around what we can expect in the future. But as customers of these companies, staffing organizations and, by extension job seekers (active and future), should demand that the analysis does not stop with streamlining process. What we gain in efficiency is to the detriment of candidate experience. Or, at the very least, the topic of automation may lead us down a path where we forget what is truly most important. My goal is to reinvigorate the issue of candidate experience as it relates to efficiency (otherwise, what's the point?). Yes, our companies want better hires faster, but speed comes at a cost (and I'm not just talking about $$). Nobody wants to be rushed through a process that changes their lives. Over-automation is a big turn off to candidates, who want to be treated with respect. And if the candidate ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Oh yeah, and if I ain't happy, I'm going to blog about it ; )


Comments (6)

  1. Mark Tookey says:


    Good to see you back on top form! I think you’re quite right about the need for balance between technology and relationship building.

    Strikes me that Blogs like yours are great examples of this working the right way – a new(-ish!) technology is allowing you to reach out to the candidate/potential candidates world, but there is no hiding behind the Blog – people can always email direct to you with their resumes, questions, anything. and build a relationship. If all you said all the time was "interested? Then go to Microsoft’s career Web site and submit a resume" somehow it wouldn’t be the same…



  2. Greg Roth says:

    Amen sister! I could not agree more. Technology is developed to serve the customer not the other way around. Technology can be a great tool to help us reach a lot of folks and help initiate relationships. Your Blog is a perfect example. We are in the people business where building long term relationships and nurturing those relationships is key to our success at least it has been for me. Technology can augment relationship building but not replace it. A candidates experience does not necessarily come from cool technology but the human relationships that they build with the recruiters and the people they meet along the journey and the relationships build in the process. That is what makes our jobs fulfilling and special. Thank you for the brilliant post!

  3. Anil says:

    I am amused by the usage of the word ‘strategic’ by Yves in his article. How does directing a candidate to the corporate web site make hiring strategic? It seems like some HR folks want to sound cool and therefore feel the need to use the word ‘strategic.’

  4. Dave Lefkow says:

    Just thought I’d chime in and clarify my comment – by technology-enabled, I mean the same thing that Microsoft means when they say "enabling people to reach their full potential." I strongly believe – and I’m sure you would agree with me – that technology should be used to strengthen relationships, not erect barriers to them. But one person can’t easily manage 100, 1,000 or even 10,000 relationships – which is where technology can really help.

    You should know me better by now – I would never, ever suggest that technology should replace human interaction, only augment it. Just like we know each other and could talk over the phone about something like this – for some reason it’s so much easier to blog, post comments to each other and manage relationships with lots of other folks out there that may also have an opinion 🙂

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Dave, I get it…that’s why I said that I think there’s still a box missing from the in-sourced piece because a person still has to manage the relationships. You know I don’t have an issue with enabling technology. So to be clear, having a part of the CRM under tech enabled, I am cool with, but I believe that there needs to be an in-sourced CRM component given that the technology does not own the relationship.

  6. 247Blogging says:

    I know, I work for a technology company; one focused on allowing people to "realize their full potential". There’s a huge people element there. We aren’t making technology for the sake of technology but to help people do more and be better.

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