The volume and variety of talent acquisition technologies on the market would lead even experienced HR professionals to believe that at least one of those technologies must be the key to improving the speed and quality of hiring. In fact, in 2019 experts predicted that the market for human capital–related technology (mostly related to hiring and retention) would approach $30 billion by 2025. Even during the difficult economic times of the past year and a half, much of the talent acquisition chatter continues to have a strong technology bent.
In truth, hiring wasn't fast enough or good enough for many organizations even before the pandemic. Hiring managers expressed frustration with the speed of finding interested and qualified candidates, with recruiters’ inability to compel top talent to consider the opportunities they offered, and with the quality of the candidates they saw.
As economic pressures mount in the wake of the pandemic, as hiring needs are pared down to the most critical roles, as the demand to attract qualified candidates of color increases, and as the number of applicants seeking work spikes (complicating the search process), the spotlight remains on talent acquisition to attract and select high-performing, diverse talent. Amid all this, virtual advertising and white papers tout “something for everyone” on the recruitment technology front: applicant tracking, employee referrals, job searching, brand creation, job marketing, resume builders, job board distributors, social networks, job search, CRM, mobile-friendly job applications, resume parsing, job matching, interview scheduling, video interviews, skill-and-fit assessments, candidate referrals, AI, predictive analytics, metrics management, volunteer management systems, temporary labor management, and more.
Despite the availability of these technology options, finding high-performing, diverse talent isn't getting easier—even though the number of candidates actively searching for work has dramatically increased. Why?
Missing technology is almost never the root cause of hiring problems.
Any audit of an organization’s current state of recruitment (including an analysis of its most critical concerns) will almost never point to missing technology as the root cause of the problems. The fact is that the most important talent acquisition activities happen outside of any technology. These include understanding the specifications of a role and the business it will serve; identifying the right prospects to target; crafting compelling, authentic messages; screening applicants; reaching out via personal and customized communications; and selecting candidates and convincing them to consider the job and the company. Even technologies that claim to “find” passive candidates won't help recruiters convince such talent that they should quit their current jobs and joining a new company.
Without documenting exactly how these activities should work and which steps are supported by technology, hiring efforts quickly become haphazard. Also, effective hiring requires skilled recruiters with business acumen, functional expertise in talent acquisition, and the ability to innovate and drive results. Technology will certainly help recruiters track, report on, and continuously improve their hiring activities, but it will never replace these essential process-design requirements and recruitment capabilities.
Adding technology usually takes longer than anyone expects.
Making the decision to acquire technology is just one step in a very long process. Considering what’s involved—influencing key stakeholders, budgeting, a request for proposal process, vendor selection, contracting, configuration, testing, implementation, training—the timeframe is often measured in years, not months. Talent acquisition leaders rarely stay in their roles long enough to see evidence that the technology is, in fact, adding value to the hiring process. HR leaders understand that the selection and implementation of technology are all-consuming tasks and that it may take years for the results of such efforts to be captured and assessed.
Technology without process design may not even provide an incremental lift.
When technology isn’t configured to support a specific and detailed desired state process (which in turn supports a broader talent acquisition strategy), it simply can’t work. When laid on top of an unclear process in which roles and responsibilities aren’t defined or desired outcomes are unclear, even the most advanced and most perfect technology will never add value. Plus, once implementation begins, HR leaders often find that their chosen technology doesn’t integrate well with other systems, that there aren’t enough workflows or configuration options, or that users push back because the technology is "too difficult" to use and the upside is unclear.
It’s too good to be true.
As much as recruiters want to believe that hiring technology will live up the promises laid out in compelling demos, it can’t succeed on its own. Companies—especially those powered by intellectual capital and dependent on quality hires—simply can’t avoid the hard work involved with attracting, selecting, and retaining talent, no matter how many technologies they cobble together. As the pandemic persists, the war for scarce talent is getting harder, and the solutions to hiring problems are not as quick and easy as recruiters wish they could be.
There are great talent acquisition technologies out there—and a time and place for them. They are most successfully implemented in organizations with defined talent acquisition strategies and detailed process designs. With those road maps in place to define the work needed to win top talent, technology can fill the role of supporting that vision and enabling the work needed to achieve it.
1 Mark Feffer. 2019. "HCM Solutions Market Seen Growing to $30 Billion by 2025." HCM Technology Report, August 27, www.hcmtechnologyreport.com/hcm-solutions-market-seen-at-30-billion-by-2025/.