HR Technology: Be Smarter Than a Logo and Color Palette

A true human resources professional knows it’s tough to manage an open job requisition and the 100 moving parts in the hiring process. From selecting candidates to scheduling interviews, much of recruiting comes down to administrivia and good old fashioned project management.

When I was a human resources generalist, I did my job without the luxury of an applicant tracking system (ATS). I had access to my email inbox and an Excel spreadsheet. And I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs. An ATS can be implemented on an enterprise or small business level, depending on the needs of the company. An ATS is very similar to customer relationship management systems, but are designed for recruitment tracking purposes.

Now I’m on the other side of the table. I make money advising HR software companies on how to structure their marketing and advertising strategies so that you — the dogged HR generalist — will buy a piece of software to help you manage the 6,000 resumes in your Outlook inbox.

So what do I know about HR technology solutions?

Well, there are all kinds of technologies to make the recruitment (and entire employment) process easier. There are differences in price, size, scale and flexibility. Some technologies are in the big cloud in the sky. Some are on a big computer (a server) that you own.

But what if I told you that many of these technologies are the same product bundled up in a different wrapper? Because it’s true.

Yes, the user interface may differ. Yes, the speed of delivery might differ. But what differs most between technologies — big and small — is the marketing, messaging and sales strategy.

HR technology vendors spend a bazillion dollars to manipulate your biases and try to make you think you are making a data-driven purchasing decision based on your company’s unique needs. But what you are often making is an illogical, emotional decision.

Don’t believe me? One of my favorite biases is the processing fluency bias. As human beings, we like things that are easy, fast and beautiful. Research shows that we will choose something that is easier to understand over something that is less elegant — even if the less elegant item or service is better.

Watch this little video to learn a little more about how processing fluency intersects marketing and product design. (I promise that it’s interesting and not boring.)

You probably think that recruitment and HR software transcends something as silly as the rhyme-as-reason effect, but it doesn’t. Humans are unreasonable, irrational creatures. We buy products because logos and color palettes are easy on our eyes and marketing copy is soft on our ears.


So if you are in the market for human resources or recruitment software, make sure you have a team of good people to help you evaluate the options on the marketplace. Get your IT, procurement and finance team involved. Ask your internal marketing team to evaluate the product, too. And make sure you do a little research and understand how logical fallacies and cognitive biases are manipulated by software developers, designers, sales professionals and marketing agencies to influence your purchasing decisions.

Overcome the logo. Be braver than a color palette. Human resources professionals who operate as skeptical, critical thinkers will add more value to a business than a new software product that has all the bells and whistles but fails to deliver on its promises.

FOT Background Check

Laurie Ruettimann
Laurie Ruettimann is a former HR leader and an influential speaker, writer and marketing advisor. Her work has appeared in many mainstream print publications and major news media outlets. You can find her on twitter at @Lruettimann.


  1. Cara Carroll says:

    This was a great piece! My mother asked me recently why I shifted gears from marketing (what I hold a degree in) to human resources. I explained to her that they weren’t all that different. Studying and examining behavior can be applied to most industries and get to the root of the “why”, sometimes making us better decision makers.

  2. Larry Cummings says:

    The video is a great reminder that #DemandGen is an applied science and that if we keep score even human nature can be tracked and scored. LOVE how the video answers the question!

    • Laurie Ruettimann
      Laurie Ruettimann says:

      I like that video, too. It’s really insightful and extends beyond programming, design, marketing, demand generation, etc. It makes me think about basic consumer-driven tendencies, too.

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