Recruitment, it seems trite to say, is inherently a search problem. Like Web search engines, good recruiters strive to ask the right questions, communicate clearly, keep their categories straight, and find information relevant to them. They employ rules of thumb -- computer scientists call these heuristics -- to point them in fruitful directions.
There's a small but growing category of businesses that purport to streamline the search. They don't use résumé-sorting programs or job-board search engines, but systems for applying insight and know-how at key junctures in the hiring process. These tools are like expert systems that capture and partially automate the experience of successful recruiters.
These "smarter" hiring tools are, in part, a response to the growing recognition that job boards are becoming less useful to time-starved corporate recruiters. Obviously, sifting through six million résumés is not a fun or productive process. These newer recruitment tools help the recruiter dig deeper and answer the most important questions about candidates: Can they do the job? Do they have a criminal record? Are they team oriented or individualistic to a fault? Have they successfully done a similar job in the past?
Lou Adler's PowerHiring.com
These new systems have one thing in common: they all concentrate on the matching and screening stages of hiring. Finding a good match requires paying close attention to seemingly mundane tasks like writing compelling job descriptions. Screening works best when you know the right questions to ask during an interview, or the kinds of background checks that can legally provide the most useful information.
Lou Adler's Power Hiring is such a system. Based on Adler's 1998 book, Hire with Your Head (John Wiley & Sons), it's a series of steps, one for each letter in the word power, designed to help you quickly find and recruit the top people in any profession. O, for example, stands for objective evaluation -- shorthand for interviews that filter out the subjective. Adler, president of both Power Hiring Inc. and CJA-The Adler Group, an executive search firm in Tustin, Calif., also runs courses for recruiters and has a Website, PowerHiring.com, on which he makes his services accessible online. Adler, a former Rockwell financial manager, counts Cisco Systems (San Jose, Calif.) and Pizza Hut parent Tricon Global Restaurants (Louisville, Ky.) among his biggest customers.
The gist of Adler's method is behavioral-based interviewing, which essentially keeps interviewers focused on the facts of a person's actual past performance rather than emotions felt during the interview. It differs sharply from personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
Power Hiring also emphasizes smartly crafted job descriptions. "If you use traditional advertising, you'll get traditional results," Adler says. Bad job descriptions blather on about skill sets. Good ones describe the opportunity and the work the candidate will be doing; they include the words that match candidates with jobs and cultures. They're also the basis of future performance reviews.
Adler offers tons of insights into how to turn candidate interviews into fact-gathering opportunities. For example, Adler says, many candidates are either nervous interviewers who don't make their case very well but who underneath are the most qualified, or the opposite -- those who exude confidence that masks inexperience. Adler says that over many years of conducting interviews he's observed an interesting effect: the two traits tend to flip-flop the longer the interview lasts. He therefore recommends that interviews last at least a half hour.
"People get less confident if they don't really have the skills," he says. Conversely, recruiters who spend the extra time to make nervous people comfortable will find that their interviewees sound more confident as they begin to realize they can do the job. "Anybody can fake it for an hour," Adler says. "Interviewing personality doesn't predict on-the-job performance."
Like PowerHiring.com, other hiring portals offer access to varying combinations of software, training, information, and recruitment services.
IT-focused Directfit (Irvine, Calif.) claims precision matching with online tools that require hiring managers to complete a profile describing the types of people who fit their corporate culture. You also work with a job-description wizard that can handle jobs in 23 technical categories and is kept up to date with information Directfit gleans from meetings with IT professionals. Live Directfit recruiters do phone interviews with candidates and ask them to complete behavioral-based profiles and make a video at one of the company's 17 locations. Directfit performs background checks and sends only the prequalified names back to the client.
Use of the site is free, but Directfit gets an industry standard 15 to 25 percent commission on completed transactions.
Taking the résumé out of play
"It really takes the résumé out of play and allows the IT hiring manager and the IT professional to get to a much deeper place in the recruitment process," explains Nat Dodge, Directfit's executive vice president. "It's using technology to streamline the evaluation process and have it done more precisely and quickly." Dodge adds that Directfit's human intervention is equally important. "It's very hard to capture all the vagaries of a final match with an online tool," he says.
Similarly positioned is Source2Hire, a suite of Web-enabled software from Development Dimensions International (DDI), a 31-year-old vendor of personnel-management tools. Source2Hire automates matching and screening, like the others, but goes a bit beyond them with additional forms and software that helps HR track candidates through the various stages of employment. At the front end, "the objective is to educate the applicant as much as you can and let them practice employer screening," says Nathan Mondragon, technology leader of DDI's staffing practice.
Likewise, KnowledgePoint, a human-resources software vendor in Petaluma, Calif., offers hiring tools centering on Descriptions Now 5.0, originally a job-description tool that has been expanded to include other steps in the hiring process. "The product will automatically generate an interview session for you that includes behavioral-based interview questions," says Ian Alexander, KnowledgePoint's vice president of sales and marketing. The applications are available online at the company's HRTools.com and JobDescription.com sites.
In comparison to the above four, HireRight (Irvine, Calif.), a partner of Adler's, focuses on pre-employment screening: drug tests, background checks (such as Social Security traces and criminal records searches), and skills and personality assessments. Cisco and Fujitsu are major customers. Costs run from $28 to $130 per candidate. The requests, fees, and information are exchanged online, but behind the scenes is a different story. HireRight sends people out to the courthouse to find criminal records. "It's a pretty arduous process," says David Nachman, HireRight's vice president of business development. But it's also much in demand. "A lot of people will say, 'All I care about is whether I'm bringing a criminal into the office,'" Nachman says.
- Development Dimensions International, maker of Source2Hire Web-based hiring tools: http://www.ddiworld.com
- Hybrid IT staffing agency/ASP site: http://www.directfit.com
- HireRight pre-employment screening service: http://www.hireright.com
- KnowledgePoint's ASP site for HR; includes numerous recruitment tools: http://www.hrtools.com
- Another KnowledgePoint site: http://www.jobdescription.com
- KnowledgePoint: http://www.knowledgepoint.com
- ASP site for Lou Adler's Power Hiring: http://www.powerhiring.com