In a recent episode of Talent Talks, Jenn Terry (VP of Strategic Initiatives, Joveo) and Chad Sowash (Co-host and Producer, Chad & Cheese Podcast) discussed the Talent Acquisition tech stack – and why every employer needs to start from ground zero and re-configure recruitment processes to ensure optimal utilization, functionality, performance, and ROI.

They also spoke about Application Tracking Systems (ATS) and modern talent sourcing tools such as conversational chatbots and programmatic job advertising platforms, the importance of leveraging existing talent pools and candidate databases, and the need to focus on data.

Watch the video or check out some of the highlights in the transcript below!

The tech we have today!

Jenn: So we’re nearing the end of the year, and people have maybe had a little time with some down-hiring. Interested in your perspective – what does a good tech stack include?

Chad: Well, first and foremost, I think the tech stack is nothing but a ton of layers of technology that most talent acquisition professionals have not truly gone in and done their due diligence on. Because most of the old tech that you have, has evolved. And there have been different features that have been added to it.

I’ve actually advised and worked closely with so many companies that were saying, “Well, we’re evaluating this platform over here.” A point solution. I’m like, “Why are you doing that? Your ATS does it.” – “No, it doesn’t.” – “Yes, yes it does!”

I always want to pull away first and say, I love the idea of the “tech stack” itself, but we have to blow up all of our process methodologies, we have to focus on the tech that we have today, re-configure our process methodologies, and start from ground zero instead of just layering things one on top of the other.You’ll save money, it’ll be better for the entire organization, and hopefully the candidate experience. And voila! Hopefully you’ve got something new, that’ll help you out without again, spending that cash. That’s my biggest focus when it comes to tech stacks.

Integrations still have a long way to go

Chad: The second piece is the integrations piece, which still sucks, and it shouldn’t! I remember working with Taleo, and some of the things that we actually had to do back then for integrations, they’re still the same things today! That was almost 20 years ago!

From a stack standpoint, those are things that we should be well past by now, and able to put more resources – money – into XML feeds and APIs, and dual APIs. That’s where we should really be focusing, instead of the bright and shiny.

Jenn: So first off, you said the dirty word, right? ATS. Every time I have that conversation, I watch every TA professional I know shrink just a little bit. And I’m just like you. Once you open your eyes to the opportunity within ATS, I think that the basics get easier, and you can unplug a lot of things that maybe somebody else saw as a shiny bubble before you.

I always think about particularly older tech stacks, ones that have just been added to over time. I look at them like a museum exposition of people that came before me.

Chad: Right. And it’s duct tape and baling wire that holds all of it together.

Jenn: Yes! Shiny baubles held together by the ugliest duct tape you’ve ever seen!

Leveraging the candidate database

Jenn: Once you get past the basics of using your ATS, what are some of the thoughtful things that employers should consider bolting on?

Chad: Well, speed equals experience. There’s no question there. If you are fast, it’s a great experience, and being able to ensure that you have a great experience is key for your brand – not just your employer brand specifically, but your entire brand. Because that individual could be buying your products.

But overall, we have, in talent acquisition, spent hundreds of millions of dollars in attracting candidates over, and over, and over, and they’re in our database.

And being able to use technology that helps to keep those individuals engaged – number one.

And number two, looking to that database first. Your primary source of great talent is your database that you’ve built. You should get more ROI out of that dollar that you’ve spent on all those silver medalists, all those bronze medalists, who today, could be your gold medalist.So I think any technology that helps you leverage the money that you’ve already spent, it makes the most sense, and would be the priority for me.

The chatbot experience

Jenn: What do you think about chatbots?

Chad: I know you’re not a big fan, but I think a lot of it has to do with process and experience. And I think that many companies try to over-engineer the experience. It’s all about light and quick – that’s it!

If I’m asking you a yes or no question, don’t make me type it out. Because I’m going to be doing it on my phone for the most part. Give me a button that says yes or no. All of those really easy questions that are really standard to be able to get me through the process – make it easy for me.

When you have to ask questions where that’s just not applicable, that’s where NLP takes over. That’s where – again, don’t over-engineer it – but just focus on making it a light, quick experience. Simplicity is the key.

Jenn: I’m not going to say I’m there yet, but a couple of things have happened recently that have made me see light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t a train. I’ve seen a few applications where they are having the chatbot offer you up the FAQ for the section that you’re in.

So it feels very much like “You’re here, and you’ve been here for a while, are you having trouble with these things?” I didn’t mind that! It felt helpful.

I recently once had to use a chatbot, and it was awesome. I typed in my question, and it asked me if I wanted it to do it for me. THAT’S the kind of chatbot I can get behind! The one that does things!

If I’m asking a question about this, I want you to answer my question about this. I don’t want you to send me to the FAQ page and tell me you’ll get back with me in an hour. The other thing that I’m just going to put on the record here – anybody out there that still has “Chat with a recruiter” and I’m talking to a bot, you’re just telling me that your recruiters are bots. Let’s get rid of that.

Chad: Oh yeah. I want to talk to a human, but if that’s not really a human, we’re going to know, you’re not fooling anybody.

Programmatic job advertising – doing business responsibly

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Jenn: So programmatic. I think it’s the wave of the future. What are your thoughts? Good, bad, the right way for the industry to go, where’re you at?

Chad: It’s not happening fast enough for me. That’s the biggest key. Just basic common sense – two things – pay for performance and get great targeting, or just throw my jobs out to everybody and anybody – what would you rather do? Well, it’s always gonna be “A,” but yet, at least half the decisions that are happening today are still on the dumb distribution: post-and-pray kind of scenarios with no performance backing. It just doesn’t seem smart. It doesn’t seem responsible.

If you’re in talent acquisition and you’re spending money – again, to attract candidates that you probably already have in your applicant tracking system, you’re not doing business responsibly. Let’s just put that out there. This, I get it, is your job – you need to start treating it like a business. You have to be more responsible with how you’re actually going after candidates.

Jenn: I get to hear the objections of employers and why they are not making that transition faster. And overwhelmingly, it’s about understanding – people don’t understand the difference between a programmatic provider and just posting your jobs in slots. As a TA professional, what I needed to know was what was performing best, regardless of the label you put on it – whether it was programmatic, or a board, or a slot.

I think that the barrier to doing that in most systems is the inability of most programmatic players to be able to ingest all that into a dashboard for an employer.

Chad: And that data right there – that’s another thing that we have to focus on. We have to be able to pull our data together in one spot so that we can analyze it. Again, that is a business process, because when we go to the C-suite and we’re talking about things, we can’t just be talking about cost per hire. We have to be talking about bigger initiatives, and we need the data to be able to back that.

Jenn: And there are so many opportunities with data, not only the data around cost, but also the efficacy of the candidates, right? Sometimes people just think “My cost on my talent acquisition is how much I pay for X.” But the reality is, if you’re generating hundreds of applications that you don’t need, you are messing up your X, and you’re also putting a huge strain on your staff. It’s a tough deal!

What else? Are there any other big things in the tech stack that you think employers should really be considering or looking at?

Chad: Yeah. I hate to give such a fuzzy answer, but every employer is different, and every stack is different. It’s so important for every employer to start from ground zero, do due diligence on the tech they have today, and get rid of the extraneous dollars in tech that they have just baling-wired on. And when they focus on that piece, they need to put a prioritization on the data that they already have – and have partnerships and/or vendors who will help them with that data and those candidates.

When you’re talking about an individual who does not even come close to being qualified for that sales position, that is still a human being who should be treated well. What does “well” look like within your organization? And will that person prospectively buy your product maybe now, or in the future? We have to have those bigger conversations, as opposed to, “No, that’s just junk.”