Is the recruitment database dead…?

This post first appeared on www.recruitingblogs.comclick here to see the comments it generated.

Before I got into recruitment I spent a period of time developing and implementing technology solutions for the recruitment industry.  For years ‘the database’ has been a key competitive edge, the USP for many recruitment businesses, especially those that operate in a niche. They guarded it fiercely and bragged about it in equal measure.

How ironic then that one of the reasons the industry has failed to modernise has been this obsession with the database and the fear of wayward consultants walking off with the data or accessing it remotely and downloading it. As a result the industry has lagged well behind in introducing flexible work practices and smart, ‘deployable anywhere’ technology solutions that would have helped modernise the recruitment consultant as we know them today.

Things have changed of course, particularly in the last 10 -12 years but it is client organisations, in the pursuit of efficiencies and a desire to ‘own’ more of the recruitment supply chain, that have driven this change not the 3rd party recruiter.

This subject is now top of mind for me, as we are in the process of reviewing our technology solutions. Having spent the last 17 years developing our own propriety system, we are currently reviewing that strategy. In the process, we are having the usual beauty parade of suppliers showing us their wares and I must say, in the main, it’s not the inspirational experience I might have expected.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great features in there, although social media integration seems lacking even with the bigger, more established, players. And what I look at today seems a lot more intuitive than what was on offer 10 years ago. But overall, the vast majority are still working on the same principle – its your data and we can help you pull it all into one place – your place. Yes, some are offering us the chance to relocate ‘our place’ to theirs in the form of ASP or SAS solutions but these are technical innovations/differences, not fundamental changes in practice or thinking.

It seems they are catering, increasingly so in some cases, for the recruiter who wants to ‘stockpile’ candidate records or CV’s, and pushing features that appear on the face of it to be value added and time saving but in reality are just perpetuating the same problems. Candidate access to their own records and client log in areas are two examples. But this is folly. Even systems that are hot- wired into the recruiters website have little chance of improving validity of candidate data.

Candidates increasingly don’t want, or need, to sign in and update their record with every different recruiter, and so they don’t. Solutions like iProfile have tried to overcome this to some extent by ‘centralising’ the candidate profile on the web across multiple recruiters but speaking as a previous customer, the vision didn’t quite meet the reality. CV parsing tools have also automated and improved the candidate updating process but we are still in the ‘my database territory’.

Also much of what I see before me at the moment falls short in the area of overall candidate and client experience, primarily I guess because recruitment consultancy solutions are still built around the ‘money shot’ – the placement. Is this a ‘male’ thing do you think?? If this software was developed largely by women would they focus more on the overall experience – starting earlier and finishing later?! I digress, but comments welcome on that one!

So, as I sit in front of yet another provider being bombarded with the ‘features and benefits’ I find myself wondering if we actually need a database – in the current meaning of the word – at all, especially for functional professional level recruitment. Due to the way recruiters have resorted to ‘fishing’’ for candidates rather than direct sourcing, we are now caught in a doom loop where we have to invest so much time in processing CV’s and applications. I’m not sure if the database is of as much value to the consultant and business as we think it is or if it’s really just an ever-increasing carcass for holding word documents.

As I look online and think about the tools like LinkedIn, I can see that as these evolve there is no real point in having an in house system at all. Sure, LinkedIn is not a recruitment solution or ATS as we currently understand them, but just looking at its current recruitment features it’s not hard to imagine how these will develop and become more widely adopted.

Sometimes less is more, and having reviewed the cost of replacing our own system with one of the current solutions on offer, or indeed, sticking to our own and swallowing the ongoing development costs I confess I’m struggling to feel convinced about either option.

What say you?

See Comments.

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