Corporate Recruiters Need a CRM in Addition to an ATS

I have worked in a few different corporate recruiting departments over the years.  They almost always had an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  They never had a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM).  Then I went to UnitedHealth Group.  They have both an ATS and CRM for recruiters to use.

“Why”, I thought.  Due to compliance with EEOC and OFCCP, we separate the applications from the prospects.  The ATS tracks applicants to specific positions and audited.  We had a CRM to track people we were speaking with and usually have not yet applied to a position.

I found it very helpful to have the applicants to specific positions in one location and prospects in another location.  ATS are not usually built to be a very good CRM in addition to an ATS.  Likewise, most CRM are not really built to be an ATS.

In an ATS, we need to know who applied to which jobs and where they are in the process.  Usually, the ATS integrates with the company’s job site, so applicants attach their resumes and apply.  Most corporate recruiters know why they need an ATS…but why a CRM as well?

The biggest value of a CRM is to keep track of all the communications with potential applicants.  We need to know who has spoken with them last and when.  That way several recruiters do not contact the same candidate about the same job.  Doing so makes your company look unorganized.  Doing so makes your company look like you are just spamming people.

Resumes files become less useful as years pass and the file ages.  So it is important that the CRM have a link to the LinkedIn profile.  Then with one click you can see where he or she is at now.

Another field to have is “Motivations.”  Recruiters should always ask people they speak with why they are considering leaving their companies, what is missing, what are they looking for, etc.  Knowing this information will make it easier to market positions to them later.  Knowing this will help figure out if your company is even a very good fit for them.  Also, it is good to see if the motivations change over time and in what way.  The CRM would be the central place to record such information.

If you hire a lot of consultants, enter a date field for when the candidate’s current contract ends.  Then you can try to hire them a month or so before their current engagement ends.  This field could also function as a field for date of availability for other prospects.

If the CRM does not have file attachments with indexing capability (for later searching of the content of the resume files), you will need a field to enter some of the skills and keywords needed to find them later in a search.  A separate field for highest level of education might also be helpful when searching later.  Having a drop down select field for function and sub-function might also help.  For example, IT and programmers.

Fields for where they are willing to work, how far they will commute, will they relocate (with or without assistance), and how much are they willing to travel will help…but how this is set up will depend on your business and the CRM’s capabilities.

You may want a field for work authorization.  It helps if you work with a lot of visa transfers, or not at all.

The CRM would have fields to enter a phone number and email.  The CRM likely has email marketing capabilities so you can send emails in mass (if you wish).  I don’t recommend it under most circumstances.  The CRM would also track those who opt out of future emails.

The CRM could integrate with the company’s website to create an opt-in Talent Network.  The communications would be different than job alerts that an ATS could provide.  Also, you ask them to enter the minimum information needed to find them in a search later.  You don’t ask for all the information needed for an application.

You could have a salary range field and date of last update of this information.  Do not search compensation information too much.  Salary information changes over time and circumstances.  If a couple years passed since you last saw the record, the salary might be very different than what the record shows.

What information should be in a CRM?  It comes down to knowing what information you need to know in 80% of your searches of the database.  Information that is more likely to change has less long-term value.  You will not see some records from one year to the next.  Keep that in mind.  Also, don’t try to capture obscure information for rare searches.

A CRM would be misused if you want all the information at your finger tips.  You only need enough to make a qualified phone call to the candidate.  Follow the 80/20 rule.  Enter only the 20% of the information that you need 80% of the time.  The longer it takes to fill out the record, the less that will be filled out and the more inconsistent the entries will become.

Whatever fields that you do create, a policy must state to completely fill out the record every time…whether creating a new recording or updating one.  If the information is not there, it will not show up in future searches…it is that simple.  The fields are only as good as the data that is entered.  Data integrity is key.

Someone must periodically audit new and updated entries.  Verify that recruiters and sourcers fill out the records completely, correctly, and consistently.  Again, keep how much information must be entered to an absolute minimum (per above 80/20 rule).

Finally, investigate and compare CRMs.  Fee based ones like SalesForce exist, as well as free OpenSource ones like SugarCRM or vTiger.  Investigate the functionality meets your needs before implementation.  However, it can be very inexpensive to implement a CRM within your recruiting department and the value is impressive.

When I was recruiting Epic Consultants a few years ago, I managed to build within a few short months a database of hundreds of consultants.  After speaking with them, I knew when their contracts were ending.  I had alerts scheduled to tell me when to call them before their contracts ended.  As a result, I hired a lot of consultants over the year.  It would be very difficult to do this with the ATS I was using.  Sure, I could have put alerts in my calendar to do the same.  However, when the group expanded to four recruiters, the rest of the team could also see the entries.  They knew which candidates I was speaking with and had existing relationships with.  It kept the communications straight and from multiple recruiters calling the same candidate for the same opportunities within our company.

So if you are a corporate recruiter with only an ATS, I suggest looking into CRMs for your sourcing activities.



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Eric Putkonen is a public speaker / presenter and he is passionate about recruiting / talent acquisition & retention, culture & employment brand, engagement, and leadership (which affects all of the prior). 

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