I know, I work for a technology company; one focused on allowing people to "realize their full potential". There's a huge people element there. We aren't making technology for the sake of technology but to help people do more and be better. But I see a disturbing trend in the Staffing industry; one that assumes that technology takes the place of relationships, that conversations can be automated. I suspect that this trend is an attempt by these staffing systems vendors to help their clients "do more with less", but what they are forgetting is that the clients' customers are candidates; real live people that don't want to be treated like a number. Technology can grease the skids of relationship building (and yay for that!) allowing people to connect in ways they were never able to connect before, but it does not replace people interaction and it never will.

Exhibit A: Dave Lefkow writes about "Hiring Manager Self-Service and the New Strategic Recruiting Model". Dave explains the Staffing process as a number of pieces that can be automated, in-sourced or outsourced. Unfortunately, he put candidate relationship management as a "technology enabled" function, without representing any "in-sourced" candidate engagement function. Now I know, like and respect Dave, but no matter how far technology takes our back-office staffing functions, there will always be a need for value-added person-to-person contact. And as I said in my comment on Dave's blog, that's not an automated e-mail response or an online assessment. To suggest that CRM is a fully automated function is blasphemy to anyone that cares about candidate experience. Have you ever heard that saying "if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"? Not sure where that came from but I love it. Anyway, same goes for candidates (and really any kind of customer). If your process doesn't work for them,or if your competitor is providing a better process for them, they are gone as far as you are concerned. Since Dave works at Jobster and their tool does automate some aspects of candidate engagement, I understand where he's coming from. I just think a piece of his diagram is missing.

Exhibit B: An ERE article today, written by Yves Lermusiaux, called "Don't Miss the Next Strategic Turn".  Yves explains that today, many companies are only taking digital resumes (meaning, no more paper). I can't remember the last time I received a paper resume, though it's not a rule around here that all resumes must be digital (just preferred). Then he shows a screen shot of a corporate website with a message explaining that the company will only accept resumes through the website. Say what? This is supposed to be some kind of best practice? If that's the future, I'd like to not go there, thank you very much. How about enabling an application process that is based on the ways the candidate (a customer in the staffing process) wants to submit a resume? We've all heard about the black hole phenomenon of submitting a resume to a career site. You send it but you aren't sure where it went and whether anyone actually looked at it. It's a great way to get a resume into the system and for the candidate to identify potential openings, but that's not all there is. What about networking? An employee meets a potential candidate at a business conference and he sends her to the corporate website to "apply"? You speak with an awesome candidate that hasn't prepared a resume and is debating between talking to your company and your competitor and you direct them to your corporate website to apply? Employee referrals are told to go to the website and apply? This just doesn't sound right to me! Are we (the Staffing industry) getting so mesmerized by the flash and dazzle of technology that we forgot that the candidate/customer is at the center of all we do?

I'm encouraged by the number and quality of new staffing tools being introduced into the market (though still waiting for a real CRM back-office tool) and that people from these companies are engaging in some leadership and dialog around what we can expect in the future. But as customers of these companies, staffing organizations and, by extension job seekers (active and future), should demand that the analysis does not stop with streamlining process. What we gain in efficiency is to the detriment of candidate experience. Or, at the very least, the topic of automation may lead us down a path where we forget what is truly most important. My goal is to reinvigorate the issue of candidate experience as it relates to efficiency (otherwise, what's the point?). Yes, our companies want better hires faster, but speed comes at a cost (and I'm not just talking about $$). Nobody wants to be rushed through a process that changes their lives. Over-automation is a big turn off to candidates, who want to be treated with respect. And if the candidate ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Oh yeah, and if I ain't happy, I'm going to blog about it ; )