Any time two or more recruiters are in a room together, the subject of tools comes up; tools for sourcing candidates, tools for tracking candidates. One of the challenges of being a recruiter with a pretty visible profile is that you get inundated with requests from tools companies to try their thing: "free trial", "I'd like to schedule some time to explain to you the benefits of <some tool with a Web 2.0 name>". I don't even have to open the e-mails now to know what lies inside.

In my world, and in Staffing at Microsoft in general, managing ones time is a daunting task. Those that are successful time managers have mastered the art of leveraging others and saying no. I've blogged about the art of saying no before; a highly underrated business skill. The two year old that lives next door to me has got it down. She defaults to "no" in any situation. Sometimes it means yes, but "no" is more fun. Also, "Dora" and "papa", but first, "no".

One scenario where I invoke my talent for saying "no" is those tools calls/mails. If the tool sounds interesting, I'll log on, poke around and try to understand the value proposition. For example, I was contacted by a company that gathers business cards at industry events, loads them into their database and then sells you access. I went in, did a search of a competitor company name and marketing and found nothing. I tweaked the search to go broader, nothing came up and that was that. When I let the account rep know, he wanted to spend more time with me on the phone crafting a search (something that any sourcing recruiter is an expert at and also, crafting the search in a tool like that should be easy). My response: no. OK, well actually, it was "no, thanks".

People in the staffing industry really can get all gaga over tools. This type of focus on the technology of recruiting is pretty common among visible recruiters.  I've seen a lot of people really geek out over tools, but it's more the promise of what the tool COULD do than what it actually does do. That's why I think customer references are something I want before I even consider using a new tool. And when I talk to the customer, I want to know about results, meaning hires, that can be attributed to the tool. It's amazing to me how skillfully an account rep can sidestep that question. And how often many of us neglect to ask sponsoring recruiters "have you used it?" and "have you made hires from it?".

I have actually become significantly engaged with 2 tools companies over the past year or 2; one for the prospect of what it could provide, in terms of results, one because of what it does supply in terms of results. I started talking to Jobster because I like the idea of making job postings viral. I've tested it out using a few different scenarios and have not yet had any hires. I'm going to give it another shot, keeping in mind that there's a point of diminishing returns when it comes to tools projects. I just want to make sure that I am selecting the right scenarios. And that the tool actually makes hiring easier or more efficient. And I also need to consider that what works for other people might not work for me. Our challenges staffing Microsoft are different than many other companies, especially here in the marketing space.

The other company that I have done a lot of work with, as you probably know, is TheLadders. My team has made a significant number of hires through them this year. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Plus, who else loves the fact that their leader, Marc, refers to his company as "not Web 2.0". He's right, it's totally not, but who cares? Web 2.0 is overrated as a staffing enabler in the absence of actual results. If I thought the most effective way to hire someone was to send smoke signals, I'd be outside stoking the flames. Plus, there's this new fangled thing called e-mail, and it's predecessor, the phone, that work fantastically. Anyway, TheLadders works for me. And I think that flipping the job board model is brilliant because recruiters have lots of choices of places they can post jobs so free postings puts your tool at the top of the list.

I guess I wanted to get this out there since I see a lot of fanboy worship of tools without the discussion of whether the person has ever used the tool (seriously!) and whether they have made hires from it. I think the tendency for the industry to pat some tools companies on the back without some critical analysis of whether they work well (or even where they work), but rather because they represent the shiny promise of "web 2.0" (gag) is not really that wise. And I want to justify my avid support of TheLadders by saying that yes, we make lots of hires through them. And I like the way they think and work. And I want to support them because they do good work and they make my job easier. And since I don't pay them for anything, all I can offer is my endorsement.

When it comes to the other tools (oh so many of them), the reason you don't see me talking about them is...well, there could be a lot of reasons:

1) they don't solve a business problem we have (for example, assessment tools don't interest me because my team doesn't do assessments)

2) they have been tried here by others and I've received feedback on their efficacy

3) I've tried them myself and they don't work well/don't provide what we are looking for/are too cumbersome/replicate a process we can accomplish better in another way.

I'd been thinking that the readers of my blog (or at least the intended readers) wouldn't be interested in this kind of stuff because they aren't really in staffing. But then I thought that anyone doing a job search probably is interested in the tools recruiters are using out there. There's so much going on and it's hard to get to the nucleus of tools companies that are effective and sustainable. I can't really say what works for other people, but for the recruiters out there: cut through the hype and take the time to understand which tools have track records of success and will work for your business. To the job seekers out there: find out what the recruiters are really using.

That is all.