shutterstock_27497656Having spent over a decade sitting on both sides of the table in the recruiting and talent acquisition industry, I’ve seen the space evolve as both an end user and a solution provider trying to solve real challenges confronting real practitioners. This perspective has given me some interesting insight into the HR Technology landscape, one that, even with my experience, still leaves me a bit baffled. While there’s a ton of great HR technology out there, but there’s also a myriad of products and services that I have never quite understood where – or even how – it fits the needs of actual employers and practitioners.

That’s why I’ve spent the last month researching the current HR Technology landscape and how the current set of software and solutions actually relate to talent attraction, talent engagement, and candidate experience.

With this in mind, this is the first post in a series I’m planning to review the somewhat surprising findings of this research.

Here’s what I found:

New Tools, Same Results: Recruitment Marketing Today

T1307221819244098-talent-pipelinehe technology and processes currently in place to support the talent acquisition functions are years behind where they could – and should – be. We (and by we, I’m referring to HR and recruiting professionals) tend to be reactive, not proactive, when it comes to anticipating and processing change, taking risks or adopting new ideas, innovative technologies or adding any element of disruption, even if it’s only iterative.

To keep this post as short as possible, I’m going to focus on a single category that’s moved from the margins to the mainstream of HR Technology, becoming essentially ubiquitous in the recruiting conversation: Talent Networks and Talent Communities (different buzzwords, same idea).

A large percentage of employers, from SMBs to multinationals, have invested in tools explicitly designed for building these Talent Communities and/or Talent Networks. These investments, largely, have paid off by enabling employers to capture both passive and active job seekers, using these networks to push jobs, career copy and corporate accolades. This push marketing is wonderful, a sign of success that at least we’re doing our job of building better informed, better prepared candidates.

But for most employers, that messaging is where the majority of candidate interaction and engagement ends. From my month of research, which involved using a representative (or fake, if you want to be blunt) resume and online profile, I applied to 30 proprietary talent networks running the gamut from mom and pop shops to the world’s biggest brands. In almost every case, I fell into a CRM black hole.  I also applied for a few jobs so I could better understand the application process involved and get some insights into what candidates really experience, and that same black hole seems similarly pervasive to applicant tracking systems, too.

Whether using an ATS or talent network tool, turns out that a submitted application or expression of interest ended up with the result: no response from employers whatsoever.  This not only creates a poor candidate experience, but also represents a massive missed opportunity by the organizations paying a premium for these talent network tools to realize real recruiting ROI.

So, what explains this lack of interaction? Why was there no real follow up, customized communication or any element of engagement? Why is it that this sampling of thirty companies are building pipelines of interested, qualified and available candidates only to have them sit untouched in their system?

Forecasting the Future: Recruitment Marketing Tomorrow

future-crystal-ballWhat does the recruitment marketing technology of tomorrow look like, considering it’s seemingly broken today? When I say tomorrow, by the way, I’m not looking too far into the future; I literally mean tomorrow (or even the day after).

There are quite a few vendors out there offering recruitment marketing features and functions to enable employers to do more with their extant talent networks.

Companies like Avature, Talemetry,, Smashfly, iCims, CareerBuilder and Talent Circles are just a few of the more prominent examples that come to mind in a cutthroat, competitive category that’s increasingly crowded with more vendors offering more or less similar solutions and software.

No matter what recruitment marketing vendor you’re talking about, however, there are a few critical questions that come to mind:

1. Do these solutions deliver as promised to practitioners, or are their “solutions” really just vaporware hidden behind the veneer of slick marketing and product messaging?

2. If these solutions are as robust as the CRM systems being used by marketing departments, like Hubspot, Salesforce or Marketo, why are these 30 companies choosing to use these point solutions, with their inherent limitations, instead of adopting the most advanced technology out there on the market? Certainly, each of these companies could benefit from a more robust solution, given what seem to be extensive product limitations?

My guess is that, like most HR and talent acquisition technologies, these new SaaS solutions suffer from legacy issues long plaguing the industry: low user adoption rates, limited or non-existent training/end-user enablement, point solutions that only offer limited features and functionalities instead of addressing big picture human capital problems, difficulty with integrations and implementation, and, of course, deploying capabilities that add value, but not to the end user who actually leads recruitment marketing and employer branding.

From my perspective – and my hands-on experience with these organizations – HR Technology lags about 15 years behind the consumer curve when it comes to leveraging and optimizing the power inherent to a truly effective enterprise CRM system. Even if those recruitment marketing/CRM tools offer all the bells and whistles of the leading automation tools used by marketing, the results are extremely poor by comparison.

That’s why instead of just investing in tools or technology, talent acquisition teams need to focus on improving training, driving increased user adoption and building better integrations with their core systems, like ATS or HRIS systems. And, of course, it’s incumbent that the right stakeholder internally run the talent marketing ship. Without these safeguards or strategies in place, purchasing these tools, no matter how good they might be, seems somewhat specious.

Again, I’d like to stress I’m not taking away from any of these tools due to not offering the same core functionalities (personas, workflow automation, campaign management, competitor analysis, customized landing pages, A/B testing – the list is essentially infinite) that the same solution set already being employed in marketing.

I’m just saying that when it comes to candidate and recruiter experience, these tools aren’t delivering anything except another black hole – and we already have enough of those in our industry.

Next, I’ll take a look at findings from my research by taking a deeper dive into the vendors currently competing in the recruitment marketing space, so stay tuned to learn what you need to know about the products and players emerging in this critical HR Technology category.

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About the Author: Bridget Webb is a Recruitment and Marketing enthusiast, leader, and speaker. Her specialties include Demand Generation (customers & talent), People Analytics, Employer Branding, HR Technology and homeroom mom duties.

She graduated with a degree in Design and Business Management from the University of Montevallo and currently resides in South Carolina.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @Webb_Bridget or connect with her on LinkedIn.