chapter two

The “Suite” Spot - The Shift Towards Talent Acquisition Suites

In the job seekers’ market, talent acquisition suites (TAS) are quickly becoming the preferred solution for high-performing organizations because they offer more of a “1-stop-shop” model, PLUS offer more modern user experiences, mobile readiness, deeper platform configurability, and modern APIs and integrations that seamlessly tie-in to third-party recruiting services. Additionally, many talent acquisition suites overcome the perceived integration advantages of an ERP vendors recruiting module through pre-built HRIS connectors that seamlessly pass data back and forth appropriately. Keep in mind, not all suites are created equal, but generally all provide a far better option compared to ERP modules and point systems. This is good news indeed for talent acquisition leaders who may be at odds with their IT departments over recruiting system selection and implementation given that the prior generation’s stand alone recruiting solutions (which most ERP vendors bought) were integration nightmares. In fact, if organizations include the need to integrate a myriad of third-party recruiting services (which traditional ERP solutions do not play well with), one could easily argue there is less integration work and pain associated with a talent acquisition suite. It is no surprise then that “top performing companies are 3x’s more likely to invest” in talent acquisition suites as a way to hedge against forecasted workforce volatility.

According to the IDC Marketscape report referenced earlier, “standalone [recruiting] vendors remain a step ahead” in several key areas – specifically, those most likely to have a positive impact on both the candidate experience and the hiring team experience. Consequently, the need for innovative recruitment technology has spurred drastic shifts in vendor offerings, prompting some ERP-providers to completely shed their recruiting modules unable to keep the pace of product development on par with market demands. In January 2018, highlighting this most recent shift, SAP announced the launch of their new on-premise human capital management (HCM) Suite with one very noticeable change – the absence of their E-Recruiting module.

Choosing The Right Talent Acquisition Suite

  • What functional gaps currently exist in our recruiting process? Does the identified solution fill these gaps?
  • How many integrations are needed to our HRIS using the identified solution?
  • Does the identified solution provide the hiring teams the functionality they need to attract, select, and hire?
  • Does the identified solution easily pass the data we need for our data warehouse? For reporting?
  • Are we getting competitive recruiting tools like CRM, Recruitment Marketing, Social Integrations, A.I. with the identified solution?
  • How much work is entailed to integrate the identified solution to our assessment vendor and background check vendor?
  • In what ways does the identified solution improve the candidate experience?
  • How often is new functionality added to the identified solution?
  • What is the mobile experience like with the idenitified solution for all users – hiring teams and candidates?
  • What level of support is provided with the identified solution?
  • Does the business get a product all stakeholers will use with the identified solution?
  • Do vendors or third-parties implement/maintain the identified solution?
  • How much training is required to learn and maintain the identified solution?
  • What type of user community benefits, user group meet-ups, and/or peer networking events are included with the solution?

A True 1-Stop Shop With No Regrets

As discussed, talent acquisition suites offer customers the easiest and most direct route for elevating recruiting to a strategic company function. These systems flex and scale more effortlessly than other recruiting tech options as they are designed to help organizations across industries transform outdated hiring processes. In addition, talent acquisition suites empower companies to create highly attractive and engaging customer experiences that capture the attention and increase conversion of highly qualified talent. Finally, even though they are already more functionally complete, talent acquisition suites consistently deliver even more recruiting-specific innovation (as it is the sole product focus of their entire R&D org) on a frequent basis.

The components within talent acquisition suites generally align to phases within the recruiting funnel – namely, the attraction phase, selection phase, and the hire phase – enabling organizations to operate recruiting like a strategic sales and marketing discipline, while still accounting for flexibility and personalization across multiple workflows, departments, and product lines. Not to mention, they’re able to go where most job seekers are found today — on their mobile devices. To better understand the talent acquisition suite components and their inherent value, an overview of the base set of required capabilities for anyone seeking a suite are provided below and serves as a core requirements checklist for anyone considering new recruiting technology options.

Candidate Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM, as it applies to recruiting, enables hiring teams to connect with talent ahead of demand. Think sourcing, only before an operation need or organizational vacancy exists. In tight labor markets, CRM is critically important because it provides immediate access to available talent, reducing application conversion time and lending efficiency to closure rates. Specifically, CRM lets hiring teams pre-emptively stack pipelines with qualified talent before a need is identified. With a pool of prospective applicants qualified and accessible, CRM lets employers engage and nurture these amassed talent pools through email campaigns and branded communications — in essence, building deeper connections that help entice job seekers to apply when requested. Now, employers don’t have to start from scratch each time a hiring need is identified because a bench of pre-qualified talent exists and is available on-demand. In a market where talent is scarce and time is of the essence, CRM provides organizations an advantage for acquiring talent quickly. Traditionally only available as a point solution, CRM should now be considered a core required module / capability of any leading talent acquisition suite. These offerings trump the standalone CRM point solutions by offering a far better experience for candidates who aren’t passed through a disconnected process and also for hiring teams who aren’t left with compliance nightmares from duplicative applications and candidate records. In a job seekers’ market, CRM is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have that provides a definitive edge to employers in a competitive and crowded talent market.

Recruitment Marketing

As discussed, job seekers have a lot of choices today, rending the level of competition for talent so severe that 84% of “best-in-class” companies struggle with recruiting today. So a positive candidate experience, where job seekers are treated like customers, is a huge differentiator in this fight. To tip the scales in their favor, many organizations resort to influential consumer strategies and marketing tactics educating job seekers on their brand and delivering a positive, more engaging experience both pre and during the application process. Specifically, recruitment marketing speaks to a set of recruiting practices and capabilities such as employer-branded career sites that use videos to increase engagement, event landing pages targeting specific applicants through imagery and storytelling, job advertisements designed around a day-in-the-life as opposed to a skills list, integrated social networks enabling employers to reach prospects where they are, and easier, more engaging application experiences. Thus, recruitment marketing enables employers to strategically leverage their brand as a way to target and connect with talent, creating a more consumer-like experience that builds brand awareness and fosters deeper engagement. When you talk to candidates like customers, the impact to recruiting is tremendous – recruitment marketing practices reduced organizations’ time-to-hire by 20% and decreased their cost-per-hire by 16%. It also improves new customer acquisition where positive candidate experiences lead to deeper consumer relationships with an employer’s extended brand portfolio. This explains why more than 70% of companies are investing in recruitment marketing capabilities over the next 12 months.

Integrated Job Distribution

Posting a job advertisement to let job seekers know you’re hiring is one of the most basic functions of recruiting and ranges from manually purchasing slots on individual job boards or advertisements on resume platforms, to contracting with agencies that advertise and post on employers’ behalf. Yet, even as a basic recruiting function, ERP solutions generally lack this functionality, forcing users to either create manual workarounds or invest in point solutions like Talametry or Broadbean as a gap-fill. Consequently, job posting becomes an incredibly time-consuming and onerous process using an ERP, with no way to measure advertising effectiveness or identify high-performing candidate sources. Some leading talent acquisition suites offer integrated job distribution, enabling users to select and distribute jobs automatically to the best performing venues of their choice easily from within the system. Talent acquisition suites with integrated job distribution generally also provide additional visibility into more important sourcing metrics that let employers evaluate their advertising ROI and make necessary adjustments for maximizing recruiting budgets.

Applicant Tracking

Applicant tracking is the oldest and most traditional capability offering by recruiting software vendors and comprises the digital, inbound-process management tool for recruiters and hiring teams to organize job applicants across generally linear workflows. The ATS – as it’s commonly called – serves as the legal system of record to ensure compliance with local HR laws (in regards to applicant flow, candidate rejection, etc.) and to, hopefully, understand where one stands with candidates for a given role. Historically, these solutions have been application centric – i.e. every time a candidate applies for a role it creates a duplicate record of that candidate – leading to severe usability and productivity issues. Furthermore, many ERP and legacy recruiting systems have taken a one-size-fits-all approach to the hiring process for all jobs, which leads to a great deal of the hiring activity happening outside the ATS. Ironically, this leads to poorer compliance. Fortunately, modern talent acquisition suites (born in an era where the candidate is king) tend to be architected as candidate-centric – meaning one record for all activity – which solves for duplication, user frustration, and simplifies compliance reporting. Importantly, talent acquisition suites understand recruiting, by its nature, is social and collaborative. As such, suites expect hiring managers to actively use the system and provide for both structured candidate feedback and unstructured discussions – which leads to capturing far more hiring activity and data naturally within the system.

Interview Scheduling

Interview scheduling is arguably the most laborious part of a recruiter’s job. Here, recruiters must coordinate participants’ schedules, secure interview locations or rooms, and book resources for hiring teams to meet with and evaluate a candidate. Calling it time-consuming is an understatement. On average, more than half of recruiters dedicate a full day per week just to scheduling, not accounting for the time spent on rescheduling, last-minute conflicts, communication lags, and scheduling errors. Interview scheduling software fills a capability gap for users of legacy recruiting systems and ERPs, helping to automate many scheduling tasks. While arguably more efficient, these external solutions aren’t always optimal given functional limitations and lack of customer support, leaving recruiters ensnared between systems. Talent acquisition suites often offer built-in scheduling tools requiring no additional software investments or integrations. And, thanks to deeper compatibility with Google and Microsoft Outlook, they’re far more efficient than their external counterparts with features like side-by-side calendar comparison, room visibility, automatic calendar updates, change notifications, and system-generated emails.

Interview Management

Scheduling is only half of the problem. Interviews themselves are often problematic where participants are ill-equipped and no structured way exists to accurately evaluate candidates — issues scheduling software obviously does not and is not meant to address. Hiring managers and employee participants are generally not experienced interviewers. In fact, one study revealed “the ratings interviewers gave candidates had ‘zero relationship’ with how they’d do when they were working.” Hiring decisions are incredibly consequential to business outcomes and hinge on accurate and quality feedback. Yet, without consistent ways of eliciting responses, managing reviews, and comparing candidates, interviewers default to gut-feelings, where applicants deemed most qualified are those most like their interviewers, perpetuating groupthink and cognitive bias. Talent acquisition suites help create fair and objective processes given organizational components that add structure and incorporate data like candidate-ranking systems, configurable scorecards to guide interviewers, integrated standardized assessments, and concealed reviews promoting impartial feedback. With a TAS recruiters are no longer tracking down feedback or working between systems, and interviewers get much-needed support for better evaluations. By digitizing the entire interview process from start to finish, talent acquisition suites deliver increased efficiency for coordinating interviews and help hiring teams make better hiring decisions, grounded in data.

Offer Management

Offer Management is an integrated component of many talent acquisition suites and provides hiring teams a digital approach for managing tasks and documents generally part of the offer process. With features like template management, electronic approvals, offer status updates, e-signatures, and process metrics, hiring teams are no longer reliant on manual workarounds or handling hard copies. Equally beneficial, talent acquisition suites often have pre-integrated recruiting services like background and reference checks, further centralizing activity to one system, which eliminates breakdowns in communication and prevents disparate processes. Delay is a deal-breaker in the offer process where every extra minute increases an organization’s risk of losing their applicant. More than 22% of offered candidates are lost to competitors simply because hiring teams don’t move quickly enough, and this is data from a period of heightened unemployment where candidates have far fewer options than today. Users of legacy recruiting systems and ERPs are often disadvantaged during the offer process given their reliance on manual tasks, hard copies, and wet signatures. Consequently, this creates delays in the form of increased handoffs, communication lags, and heightened exposure to compliance and data security risks, while also jeopardizing the entire candidate experience by prolonged wait times. Technical agility is vital for quickly locking down top talent in a job seekers’ market. So, talent acquisition suites lend tremendous efficiency by centralizing the entire offer process to one platform, providing valuable insights into process bottlenecks, and preserving the candidate experience as one seamless and secure step of the overall hiring process.

Onboarding

The period between offer acceptance and the first week of work is generally considered “onboarding” for new hires, and is an important last step in the hiring process. While onboarding is often considered the legal formality of employment acceptance, where pre-employment forms are completed, it also serves as the welcome period and introduction of new hires. Notably, it is also the last opportunity for organizations to deliver an exceptional candidate experience. Many talent acquisition suites incorporate onboarding functionality, ensuring a smooth transition from applicant to employee. Specifically, these systems enable the quick completion of I-9’s, e-Verify, and W4’s compliantly and without reliance on hard copies. In addition, employers can easily create task lists for new hires like ordering supplies, securing badges and building access, as well providing welcome videos and new hire trainings, all while monitoring performance and completion. Today, candidates have high expectations of employers and the first three months of employment are the most vulnerable period where a poor onboarding experience results in a 17% turnover of new hires. With the stakes this high, onboarding must mirror the ease of the application process and continue as one seamless journey from beginning to end. When this happens, the results are incredibly impactful on retention where new hires are more than 69% more likely to stay with an organization for several years. Many employers onboard via point solution or rely on capability of their ERP system, which can feel disjointed and deliver a completely different experience from the rest of the process, leading new hires to second-guess their impressions of a future employer. Talent acquisition suites remedy this by enabling a candidate-focused experience from start to finish, so employers aren’t sacrificing an otherwise exceptional candidate experience during the last mile. And, since some suites offer seamless integrations to HRIS and ERP systems, employers truly enjoy a flawless transition from talent acquisition to talent management without any gaps in compliance and without alienating a new employee. In short, talent acquisition suites ensure the hiring process remains a positive experience for candidates all the way to the finish line, thereby protecting your recruiting investment for the long haul.

Analytics

Today, talent acquisition leaders have a seat at the executive table in part because recruiting analytics are changing the way companies hire, helping to identify unforseen costs and hiring process deficiencies that prevent positive business outcomes. In fact, 80% of the most mature organizations have improved recruiting efforts as a result of robust measurement and analytics efforts within the recruiting process. The most valuable hiring data generally comes from talent acquisition suites that offer embedded page insights, analytics dashboards, ad-hoc report writers, APIs to extract complete data sets from personalized data marts, as well as hassle-free connectors to third-party business intelligence tools. These features give hiring teams and executives unfettered visibility into hiring performance, revealing useful data points like time-to-hire, time-to-start, source of hire, quality of hire, and average spend-per-hire, as well as other important predictors of recruiting process health. Legacy recruiting software and ERPs tend to fall short in reporting and analytics because their functional gaps equate to information gaps. Generally, there is just enough data to satisfy compliance reporting, but not nearly enough for assessing performance and measuring success. And without access to data, or where no data exists, it’s incredibly hard to understand whether a hiring process is working for or against the bottom line. Thus, talent acquisition suites are beneficial as they provide one-line-of-sight across all processes from source to hire, which produces complete datasets freeing hiring teams from piecemeal reports and incomplete analytics. Even better, the ease of integration afforded by talent acquisition suites and bi-directional data syncs with ERPs and HRISs eliminate black holes of information, letting organizations see the big picture. Actionable, data-driven insights help organizations become more strategic in recruiting and talent acquisition suites ensure your team isn’t left in the dark.

Marketplace

Hiring processes don’t exist in a vacuum. Most organizations rely on third-party recruiting services to augment their hiring process, services like background checks providers, assessment tests, drug tests, and references checks, among others. Today, most third-party vendors offer their services electronically providing convenience and quicker service delivery, and which also enables organizations to incorporate them directly into their recruiting processes.

However, doing so generally requires building custom integrations for each service, a task that often falls on an organization’s IT department to implement and manage, in the likelihood these systems integrate at all. Often, the addition of third-party services results in manual workarounds outside of recruiting systems, creating unnecessary workflows and inhibiting access to data. Many talent acquisition suites have identified this entanglement and offer employers a more viable solution in the form of a built-in hub or marketplace of pre-integrated third-party services. Such an offering lets hiring teams easily plug-and-play with third-party services, incorporating them directly into hiring workflows for easier access to data, without the need for custom integrations. Today, most talent acquisition suites offer some form of integrated recruiting service however, the number and variety offered varies.

The TAS Recap

While this discussion is not a comprehensive list of capabilities offered by all talent acquisition suites, it is a framework for buyers conducting a cost/benefit analysis of recruiting technology. As true strategic enablers, talent acquisition suites functionally stack up best, while reducing complexity and lessening pain for IT departments — a strong business case for organizations seeking to improving performance, growth, and longevity in unstable times.