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Friday, May 23, 2008

Technology offers pros and cons for recruiting firms

New software and wireless products keep matchmakers engaged

Boston Business Journal – by Jennifer LeClaire Special to the Journal

For recruiters, technology can be a blessing or a curse — a blessing it they are connected to the wireless world, a curse if they allow those bells and whistles to limit their critical thinking.

Savvy recruiters are not only plugged in through smartphones and PDAs, they are keeping tabs on potential recruits through Web-based tracking systems and customer-relationship tools to stay on top of hiring needs.

Indeed, technology offers ultracompetitive recruiters robust search and matching capabilities at the click of a mouse. E-mail and calendaring functions, as well as candidate tracking and other tools, enable recruiters to multitask while in and out of the office.

Recruiters agree it’s a must-have in a candidate-driven market.

For example, Mike Travis, principal of Travis & Co., a Boston-area executive search firm specializing in medical devices, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, swears by his BlackBerry.

“Of all the recent technological advances for recruiters, the BlackBerry — and similar devices — gets my vote as the most important,” Travis said. “The senior executives we work with are incredibly busy, and often they make contact after hours or on weekends. The BlackBerry makes it possible for them to reach us anytime, by e-mail or phone, and that can save days of missed connections.”

Travis is not alone. A recent survey by Yahoo HotJobs found that 39 percent of workers respond almost instantaneously when they receive a professional e-mail or call outside business hours. Fifty-five percent of respondents use more than one wireless device to stay connected. Recruiters subscribe heavily to the smartphone strategy.

“If there is ever a time when I don’t have important information, I can usually send an e-mail on my Blackberry from a train in Germany or walking on the streets of Double Bay in Sydney and get an e-mail back from my office in less than three minutes with the necessary information,” said Kurt Weyerhauser, managing partner at Kensington Stone Associates, an executive search firm based in Irvine, Calif.

Tools to compete

Beyond BlackBerrys, in-office tools are also helping recruiters compete.

Mark Goodstein, president of TechPros, a Newton-based recruiting firm that specializes in placing software professionals in the New England area, relies on his applicant-tracking systems, or ATS, to match candidates with corporations.

As its name suggests, an ATS is software that streamlines the recruiting process by posting job openings on corporate Web sites, screening resumes and generating interview requests via e-mails.

The software can also track individual applicants, rank résumés and develop pre-screening questions, among other functions.

“Because I’ve been recruiting for almost 20 years, I have a large database of contacts,” Goodstein said. “The applicant tracking system is a complete, comprehensive workspace for me. It lets me quickly find candidates with the right background and specific skill sets based on the information I’ve input. The alternative is filing cabinets and fax machines.”

But there are detractors.

Illya Bogorad, principal of Bizvortex Consulting Group, a management consultancy in Toronto, said high-tech recruiting can sometimes hinder the recruiting process.

“The use of technology … removes flexibility that hiring managers are urged to exercise,” said Bogorad, offering the example of a woman applying electronically for a job that requires five years of experience.

“If she has 4 1/2 years of experience, the dilemma is obvious: say the truth, and the desired interview may never happen. Meanwhile, from the hiring perspective the difference is a non issue.”

Again, technology can be a blessing or a curse. A blessing if it helps you stay connected to clients and candidates. A curse if it causes you to overlook a prospect that could seal the deal.

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