TTL Lookback V4: Matt Charney on Avoiding the Graveyard of CRM Systems

Welcome to Talent Tech Labs Lookback. We spend a lot of time exploring the Talent Acquisition Ecosystem and Marketplace, but while every TTL Trends Report focuses on a different theme, we occasionally like to look back at some of our greatest hits.

In this edition of TTL’s LookBack, we are honing in on Matt Charney’s expert advice on Customer Relationship Management: Determining if your approach is the right one, identifying the difference between CRM and ATS systems and making sure you aren’t getting stuck in the graveyard of CRM systems.

Take a look at expert insight from @mattcharney on CRM in the latest lookback edition from our V4 Trends Report: Share on X

What’s the big picture on CRM?

Over the past few years, you’ve almost certainly heard the term “CRM” or Customer Relationship Management. It’s a hot topic in recruiting, but like most talent tech trends, conversations about the use of CRM in recruiting seem to be missing the bigger picture — and the bigger opportunities this trending topic represents for talent acquisition.

Today, most employers approach CRM as a way to overcome existing capability gaps or augment their existing systems and solutions. This is why so many solutions in the space serve as integration partners or middleware add-ons with traditional systems of record instead of being developed as robust, standalone solutions.

Are you taking the right approach to CRM?

It’s a tall order to transform a system of record into a system of engagement. Instead of approaching CRM as an additional feature set or functionality to extend ATS/HCM capabilities, talent organizations that really want to maximize their recruiting technology ROI should instead consider taking the exact opposite approach.

Given the increasing importance and integration of consumer and inbound marketing strategies throughout the talent attraction process, as well as at every stage of the hiring cycle, it’s important for recruiters to combine hi-tech with high touch and automation with personalization. I’m encouraged by the increasing adoption of CRM technologies within the recruiting industry and think any shift that causes recruiters to think and function more like marketers is a good thing for our customers, clients and candidates.

Overcoming process problems and talent challenges takes more than a stripped-down CRM bolted onto the same old ATS. So much of what’s being packaged and sold as a “CRM” is, in fact, nothing more than an ATS in sheep’s clothing; a “solution” that’s being created by the very same vendors responsible for creating the problem.

If a CRM offers ATS integration, it generally means that they’re structuring their data and building their workflow for the HR system, not the other way around. That’s a devil’s bargain for access to a market dominated by a few major players and one that sacrifices consumer convenience and ease of use for compliance and complexity (as HR is accustomed to doing).

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Can you spot a “genuine” CRM?

To really maximize recruiting efficacy and efficiency, at least from a systems standpoint, employers would do far better to buy a standalone CRM with ATS configurations (which, on these more sophisticated SaaS solutions, are far easier to build than the other way round). But the reason so many emerging and existing players in HR technology are moving into the CRM space is that the distinction between a CRM and an ATS isn’t always clear. The resulting confusion means most vendors have to do little more than recode and reskin their existing offering, along with a few slight custom configurations and API calls. This, of course, comes at a pretty steep premium, particularly if there’s an existing HCM services contract in place, as is almost always the case for Tier One ERP providers.

The resulting confusion comes with a fairly significant risk. If employers and recruiters continue to make the erroneous assumption that what’s really an ATS is actually a CRM, and that by adding these specious “SaaS” solutions to their existing stack, that they’ll be up to date, then we’re actually falling behind.

This potentially dangerous misconception (or misunderstanding) around what distinguishes a CRM and an ATS is understandable; superficially, these two technologies look a lot alike. But dig a little deeper and there are some surefire signs that whatever ATS, HCM or database you happen to be using, it’s not really a CRM.

  1. There are too many required fields or structured forms that have to be manually inputted by recruiters or candidates, negatively impacting time to fill, candidate conversions and completed applications, among many other metrics.
  1. The database is largely seen as administrative instead of an actual asset; data is entered for the purposes of process workflow and compliance, but it’s rarely leveraged for analytics, reporting or direct sourcing. It’s seen as a waste of time instead of a powerful platform for achieving recruiting ROI.
  1. The system doesn’t measure engagement and gives end users no quick way of seeing how active or engaged a client or candidate might be; instead, candidate activity is limited to formal interactions instead of additional engagement, information and insights on the candidate and their interaction with the company and/or recruiter. Similarly, talent organizations have no standard or centralized way to measure or monitor recruiting relationships.
  1. You’ve still got to screen resumes and have no way of figuring out what candidates want to do instead of what they’ve already done. Additionally, it’s not a CRM if the system stores data that’s almost completely reliant on information inputted by candidates themselves, with little to connect the dots. In other words, the only information the system can tell you about the candidate is coming directly from the candidates themselves.

“We’ve seen some very interesting developments in the CRM/ATS space. As more players come into the fray, accurate information and awareness of the defining features these technologies offer will be critical in making sound evaluations that lead to successful implementations.” – Jonathan Kestenbaum, Executive Director Talent Tech Labs

If any of the above information is true, then you’re using an ATS and not a true CRM solution. The good news is there’s still hope. Today’s technology solutions offer more CRM functionality for traditional applicant tracking systems (some are profiled later in this newsletter). These solutions can help you maximize your current investment without starting from scratch. Doing your research to understand the precise capabilities being offered or augmented is critical to avoiding some of the mistakes noted above. However, starting from scratch and replacing your current technology with more sophisticated, more user-friendly and more effective marketing solutions offer unique advantages and can be more budget-friendly down the line.

From CRM to ATS and recruiting, read what expert @mattcharney has to say about it all in the latest lookback on our V4 Trends Report: Share on X

True CRM systems are designed to integrate with a variety of third-party products and services. Their flexibility/configuration means that with a structured database and strict data governance, advanced user permissions and comprehensive documentation, it can easily function as an ATS, too.

There’s no doubt that the move to CRM systems has been significant, if not seismic, in the world of recruiting and hiring. But if we’re not careful to remember the distinction between CRM and ATS, then we’re all going to be stuck with lackluster ROI on our HR technology investments.

About the Author: Matt Charney is the Executive Editor and Head of Content at Recruiting Daily, a leading online resource for today’s recruiting world. He has delivered results while working with some of the world’s biggest brands as both a recruiting and marketing leader.

Download the full Trends Report V4 on CRM to unlock more insights from experts in your industry.

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