What Every Recruiter Should Know About Candidate Relationship Management

April 10, 2017 John Sumser

The ways in which employers interact with potential workers are changing rapidly. Driven by a combination of demographic and technical changes, today’s workforce requirements shift dynamically. Recruiters once simply acted as filters for a large flow of applicants but are now required to be more proactive in their work.

What was once a perfectly acceptable recruiting practice—posting an ad and then filtering the responses—has increasingly been replaced by an active search for specific individuals in advance of needing them. These “passive candidates” are “nurtured” through a “recruiting funnel,” placed in “pipelines” or “talent communities,” and then activated when a specific need arises. Beneath the buzzwords lies a new way of thinking about, relating to and energizing prospective members of your workforce. 

The idea is neither new nor original to the recruiting world. It’s modeled after a marketing process perfected by Salesforce.com called customer relationship management. Some innovative recruiters and vendors realized that 21st Century recruiting would be more like marketing and began the process of adapting the tools of one industry to the other.

In recruiting, the process is called candidate relationship management (CRM). It differs in some significant ways from the marketing process. In marketing, there is a relatively constant pressure to execute specific percentages of specific transactions in specific time frames. In recruiting, the strength of the pipeline may lay in its future value. The marketing process is designed to drive incremental revenue. The recruiting process solves a combination of growth and attrition problems that are less predictable than the revenue problem.

CRM is the backbone of contemporary sourcing activities. Once prospective employees are identified, they are placed in the CRM database where they are vetted and nurtured through a series of campaigns. Resumes are just one part of a candidate dossier or profile. One of the purposes of CRM campaigns is to continuously improve the depth and quality of the profiles in the database. 

A look at the key elements of a CRM software tool will make this much clearer.

  • CRM Database
    In its most basic form, a CRM system is like a blank spreadsheet. The database is largely empty and the various fields need to be identified and configured. In some offerings, the basics of candidate contact data are fleshed out.
  • Dossier/Profile
    The heart of the CRM is the individual candidate record or profile. This window into the candidate relationship includes all of the bits and pieces collected about the candidate, including social media data imports (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.) and a record of each contact made with the candidate. Like any good contact database, useful tidbits of information about the candidate are assembled to make each interaction more effective. Given the abundance of data available for individual candidates, the problem is keeping the information intelligible. But having a detailed track record of emails and other interactions enables the individual candidate to be handled easily by whichever member of the team is appropriate at the time.
  • Tagging/Categorization
    Tagging and categorization are also central to effective use of a CRM. Some companies tag by job requisition or title. Others use broader categories like engineer, coder, operations and sales. The tagging schemes make it possible to address individual candidates as a part of a larger audience.
  • Campaign Management
    Talent pools, pipelines and email lists all mean about the same thing. Relationship is the center of a CRM. That relationship happens in face-to-face meetings, phone calls, webinars and (mostly) emails. The campaign management toolkit allows users to manage the overall effectiveness of a campaign mailer while updating individual records to show the pulse of each individual relationship.
  • Schedule Integration
    From the scheduling of emails to the calendaring of calls and appointments, a good CRM either serves as the recruiting calendar or directly integrates with it. The individual profiles need to show the meeting schedules and notes.
  • Applicant Tracking System Interface
    The relationship between the CRM and the applicant tracking system (ATS) is complex. Formal recruiting workflow requires a clear picture of the relationship. The end of the CRM workflow is that a candidate is ready to be tracked in the ATS. Effective exchange of information between the two systems is essential.

The maturation of various aspects of CRM is at its earliest stages. In some leading edge companies, recruiting is becoming two functions: the market facing (called sourcing or recruitment marketing) and the internal facing (called recruiting). The CRM is the heart of the external facing part. The ATS is home to the internal recruiting workflow.

Learn how to prepare for the future of recruitment.

John Sumser is the founder, principal author and editor-in-chief of the HRExaminer Online Magazine. John explores the people, technology, ideas and careers of senior leaders in human resources and human capital. John is also principal of Two Color Hat where he routinely advises human resources, recruiting departments and talent management teams with product analysis, market segmentation, positioning, strategy and branding guidance. 

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