High Unemployment and Technology: A love story

Their eyes met across the room – he was everything she had been looking for: Organized, Responsive to Candidate Needs, Interactive with Her Hiring Managers, Great at managing the recruiting process – even tracked her metrics. She was everything he had been looking for: Someone to give his product a chance.

The time was 2001 – the location was any company in America that was evaluating software. You see, at that time – the “who are your other clients” question was paramount to getting your foot in the door. It didn’t matter what your product looked like – just how popular you are. Because as we all know – more clients must mean better service/product/responsiveness… right?

Fast forward to November 2008 – a Number of people from our industry attended the Kennedy Recruiting Conference in Orlando. Politics were still fresh on everyone’s mind and the topic of unemployment rate was brought up in more than one conversation I was involved in. If you recall, at the time we were right around 6.5% unemployment nationally and the debate that was occuring was about just how I it would go. The more tenured people in the conversations remembered the mid 70’s and early 80’s when the numbers were in the 8-9.5% range. The rest of us – weren’t in the work force to experience it and found the numbers staggering. In one of those conversations at Kennedy was the first time I ever heard someone say that we would have 10%+ unemployment rate by the end of 2009. (Numbers for July will be released Friday 8/7)

In fact, to many of us young X’ers and old Gen Y’ers (Iran Revolution Babies for @Animal) – the largest unemployment numbers we had ever actually experienced came after 9-11. In 2002 I was working for a company HQ’d in Chicago that was amazingly still growing by leaps and bounds. I was brought in to evaluate their processes/systems and help with some of the high level searches in New York and New Jersey. I can assure you that hiring in that area just a few months after 9-11 was challenging to say the least. Not because there weren’t any candidates available, but because of the number of applications we saw (often 1500+ per opening in a single weekend) were overwhelming to say the least.

Flashback to 2002 – The small to mid size companies are still being overlooked by the popular kids in the ATS space, but the A/V club kids have something to share. An new type of ATS – completely online – no hosting, no in house support team needed. In fact, you can access it anywhere with internet access.

The high unemployment of 2002-2003 allowed some of the smaller players to have a shot and opened the doors for a whole new level of ATS. Did we still pay A LOT of money for what we actually got – compared to today – ABSOLUTELY! But at the time – it was worth it and opened the doors to innovation and competition that 10 years ago didn’t seem possible. In fact – I remember at the time we watched demo’s of some of today’s major players via powerpoint screenshots because there wasn’t a product actually built yet.

So, here we are again – Unemployment rates are even higher, technology is even faster/better/cheaper than before – what ATS innovations will we see come out this time? Will the global companies start looking at new, innovative solutions instead of the 4 standards? Will an ATS finally become less of an ATS and more of a true Recruiting tool? Will we FINALLY get mobile? Will companies again be able to tell their vendor what they want and be able to get custom solutions that WORK?

While most people don’t see it – it is all happening – and I am sooo excited to be along for the ride.

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