We have started to upgrade our interface to MS OUTLOOK in our recruiting software. OUTLOOK is has a tremendous usage. Most executive search recruiters evaluating recruiting software are already using OUTLOOK.
Can OUTLOOK be used as a total solution for a recruiter?
No, it cannot. But many recruiter prospects come to us with this challenge. They are heavy users of OUTLOOK but they have exhausted the limits of OUTLOOK as a recruiting tool. However they want to continue using some OUTLOOK features. The challenge for recruiting software is provide the recruiter with recruitment software that blends the use of OUTLOOK with their recruiting software. The real challenge for us vendors is some tasks performed by OUTLOOK are best done by a recruiting system whose primary focus is Applicants/Candidates and Clients.
So we have a customer who definitely needs more recruiting software power. However they are desperately hanging on to features in OUTLOOK. They want to continue using them. They are comfortable with them. Change is always traumatic and downtime can be expected. Downtime for a recruiter can be catastrophic.
So what should a recruiting software vendor do when they introduce their product to a customer who is a heavy OUTLOOK user? Should we insist that the customer stop using OUTLOOK start using our product for tasks they were performing in OUTLOOK? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
Good recruiting/staffing software needs to adapt into an OUTLOOK environment and the recruiter must be able to continue sometimes less effective steps than if they were to abandon OUTLOOK all together. Efficiency is not necessarily the final word for a recruiter to be successful. Sometimes we as vendors lose track of our goals and make efficiency and features into deities they don’t deserve. If a good recruiter is comfortable, happy and is doing a good job, is there any reason to turn his or her life upside down in the hopes that after the ravages of change they will come out better for it. I don’t think so. Many recruiting companies loose good recruiters this way.
So I think good recruiting software has to provide options where OUTLOOK can be used or not used without affecting the recruiting system. Data must flow freely between the two systems. The recruiter must be allowed to continue to perform certain tasks that are more comfortable in OUTLOOK. HOWEVER, NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF THE RECRUITING SYSTEM!
What makes OUTLOOK so useful but not completely a recruiting system? The biggest difference is OUTLOOK is targeted for its user and all his or her activities, email, contacts and notes. But it is the view of a single user. Recruiting software is primarily geared for collaboration and the compiling and organizing of information on clients and applicants. OUTLOOK could care less if someone in the contact is an applicant or client. Outlook’s method of storing information as notes, contacts and even resumes does not lend itself to the one critical need of a recruiter, searching for candidates or clients that have a particular work history or job need that demand certain skills. OUTLOOK does not lend itself very will to bringing a job order or requisition together as a complete project. The pieces candidates, notes, references and interviews have to be manually put together. A recruiting system brings this information together as the natural course of filling a position. When you look up a candidate in a recruiting system you generally know all about them i.e., all contacts, notes, resume, interviews, salary, work history etc… When you look up a client it is generally the same thing, all contacts, and plans for contact, positions filled and progress on assignments.
OUTLOOK is not designed for this natural gathering as a recruiter works, so using OUTLOOK alone as recruiter eventually bogs the recruiter down as the number of applicants and clients increase.
Good recruiting software should not bog down as the numbers of clients and applicants increase.
How do we keep recruiters happy using our recruitment software and still not get bogged down using all the neat features in OUTLOOK? Not very easy, but are some key points that recruiting software must be able to do with OUTLOOK.
• Since OUTLOOK has a built in PDA interface the recruiting software should have an exporting and importing feature to OUTLOOK that is expressly designed for PDA use. It makes no sense to for the recruiting software to have a separate PDA interface.
• Recruitment software should have it’s own calendar system independent of OUTLOOK. BUT the two calendars must be able to talk to each other. If an entry is made in the OUTLOOK calendar there must be an option to post to the recruiting calendar and vice versa. Implementing a Calendar interface to OUTLOOK is full of land minds and can easily lead to an unwieldy tasks imposed on the recruiter.
• A recruiters notes are always about an individual either a client or applicant. OUTLOOK notes don’t necessarily attach a note to a client or applicant and I think this is where the OUTLOOK note system should be customized to identify people. I think notes should go only one way to the recruiting system notes. Porting notes from the recruiting system to OUTLOOK notes makes no sense.
• Emails of applicants and clients should definitely be available in the recruiting system. We are still undecided if they should be redundant residing in both the “pst” file and the recruiting software. What is definite is a good filtering interface so the recruiting system only accesses emails of clients and applicants.
• Batch emailing to clients and applicants is a must for recruiting software if it is going to have any CRM capabilities. OUTLOOK makes it tough to batch email because of its security features.
• Outlook’s contacts can either be expected to be all clients and applicants or have an identifier that says that they are not either and therefore not part of the recruiting system.
Interfacing to OUTLOOK is a tough job, especially since it is constantly changing. But bottom line I believe recruiting software can be judged by its interface to OUTLOOK.