Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Talent Acquisition Killer App

In the past, the candidate intake process consisted of collecting existing information (via applications and resumes), generating new information (via assessments and interviews) and confirming information (via reference and background checks). Each step of that process generated different documents (application forms and paper resumes, printed test scores and interview notes, and background reports). And this information was all centralized in that old standby, the paper file folder.

As the process evolved, the paper folder was replaced with a subdirectory on a computer’s hard disk. Paper applications were replaced by online forms, paper resumes by scanned images, printed test scores by database records, etc., yet each of these components still existed separately from one another. While some efficiencies were gained by “going paperless”, the move from paper documents in paper file folders to scanned images on a hard disk hardly represented a re-engineering of the hiring process.

The integration of online assessments and Internet-delivered applicant tracking systems (ATS) created the opportunity to transform, rather than simply automate, candidate screening and hiring. This is because an ATS system provides more than just a centralized database of candidate records. It provides candidates and recruiters with portals into a variety of data sources including application and resume data, job interests, references, etc. Recruiters can view this information by individual candidate or in aggregate, enabling recruiters to rank candidates before choosing whom to interview. Modern ATS systems can also manage all of the steps in the recruiting and hiring process, right through employee onboarding.

Assessment is one of the few talent acquisition tools employers can use to generate new, unique data about a candidate that is not available to every other employer. And when skills and behavioral testing is integrated into automated applicant tracking, applicant tracking moves from a tool for increasing efficiency and compliance, to a platform for strategic re-engineering of the hiring process.

To begin with, simple “knock out” assessments can be used to gate the entire process, removing candidates who would be disqualified due to inexperience, legal status or some other factor before anyone wastes any time on their application. When behavioral and skills assessments are integrated later in the ATS-driven application process, recruiters can consistently compare all candidates against a job-based set of standards. Resume formats and language can vary, interviews can be subjective, and reference checks can be generic. But assessment is the one element of the talent acquisition process that creates new information related to job fit in a consistent way, through testing instruments designed to be fair and free from bias or subjectivity.

In a single platform, modern applicant tracking systems can integrate assessments, background checks, requests for substance abuse screening, even a window into whether a company can obtain tax credits by hiring a particular candidate. These capabilities do not simply increase efficiency, they transform what were once discrete processes into the “Killer Application” of talent acquisition.

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