The HR Technology Nightmare That’s Keeping You Up At Night…

can't sleep

I saw a post on FB the other week for the venerable Gerry Crispin that gave me the shivers because it hit way too close to home. He shared the experience a friend of his in a Fortune 50 company went through when an external candidate contacted them and requested to be “unsubscribed.” So what happened next? They…

  • Manually deleted him from their ATS.
  • Manually deleted him from their mobile front-end provider.
  • Manually deleted him from their TRM.
  • Manually deleted him from their campus database.
  • Manually deleted him from their OnBoarding tool.
  • Manually deleted him from their electronic offer letter tool.
  • Manually deleted him from their background check provider.
  • Manually deleted him from their reference checking tool.

None of their systems were integrated into their ATS and they weren’t using their ATS or their ATS’ certified partners for all of these functions even though some of it was likely possible. (With some compromises—which no one wants to make if they don’t have to.)

Sounds like a nightmare. But it’s not. It’s real. Call this the fate of those who want “best in breed” solutions. And this mess is keeping a lot of TA leaders up at night, exacerbated because there are vendors galore out there right now. And it seems like there’s no single solution to help solve all your needs (or so you think). So you’re then bolting solutions onto your enterprise technology, and now you’ve got a whole other issue from a maintenance perspective. Plus all of the added costs. And then you get a phone call about yet another new solution. Your boss forwards you an email they received about a different shiny object. Oh, and here’s another whiz bang thing to solve all of your woes. It. is. endless. And it’s beginning to get ugly.

So what’s a TA leader to do?

– Get your basics right. First and foremost, get the basics right before you start layering in all this other stuff. Technology can’t and won’t save your soul if you’ve got fundamental issues with your recruiting team, or you lack any kind of decent process (yes, you need that too), and don’t get me started on your nonexistent or unarticulated employer brand.

Then, decide who you want to be. Before you get too overwhelmed or crazed by all of the tech out there to support your TA efforts, first, make a decision about how you want to lead on behalf of your organization. Are you an innovator? Or are you an early adopter? Often with technology adoption there’s early and late majority status as well as laggards. You could also be what I like to call a fast follower. Decide who you want to be and stick with it so that you can focus on different kinds of technologies and know how to respond. If you do want to be “best in breed” then there may be a price you’ve got to pay with being that… but also keep in mind that best in breed is going to be defined differently by different people. And, best in breed to a candidate might be something else altogether. (Ahem, the basics, folks!)

But if you’re going to be an innovator, know that you’re going to be working with vendors to develop. If you’re an early adopter, you’ll be testing lots of new technologies so by all means, chase those shiny objects. But maybe you’d rather be a fast follower—and that’s OK. Let others test, get the kinks out, figure out what’s gonna flop or flourish… then make decisions from there. But to save your sanity, first, decide who you are, then chase and evaluate technology from there.

– Don’t forget to talk to your friends in other organizations. You aren’t alone… just scroll back up and read what that F50 company had to do to unsubscribe a candidate from their systems. Sound familiar? Chances are, there’s a good bit we can learn from one another about how to use technology to tackle our latest and greatest issue in TA. Or they’ve already demo’d something and can save you time in deciding whether to return that call or not.

– And lastly, maybe most importantly, fight for what you want and need with vendors. Have a read of this nice piece from HR technology analyst George LaRoque.

“We’re entering an age of workforce and HR technology where you get to have your cake and eat it, too. Get the platform to drive the core processes and seamlessly integrate the right apps at the right time.”

But how? Go on, read his post. The real winner in the HR tech space is the informed customer… you don’t have to live life with all of these different pieces of tech laced together to then manage messes like that simple task of unsubscribing a candidate.

You’re in control here—if you demand it.

FOT Background Check

Jessica Lee
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don't be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she's still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life... she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat. Talk to Jessica via EmailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook... See Jessica's riffs and rants on Fistful of Talent here...


  1. Jack Coapman says:

    This is a very common story I hear quite frequently. But before we condemn the organization, we should recognize that these point solutions were added to the mix over a period of time to solve specific problems-mobile, TRM, university, onboarding, etc. They were probably the result of the right decision at that point in time. The next generation of recruitment technology either has public APi’s that make data integration a bit easier, have created a platform with everything in one place…or perhaps a combination of both. Now the challenge will be how do you unravel all the contracts surrounding these point solutions in favor of a single platform to drive true efficiency and effectiveness.

  2. Kelly Dingee says:

    Oh my gosh – so timely and spot on! I’m pretty niche in what I need for tech (everything’s from the sourcing perspective…) but there is a constant conversation on what works, what actually saves times and the costs involved. It involves a lot of pushback with vendors on our needs as well as within our team when individuals get sold on bright shiny objects that in reality, aren’t as shiny as they seem to be.


  3. Jason Corsello says:

    I’m not sure its fair to condemn the buyer or the technology vendors. Most legacy ATS systems, still in use today, were not built with an open platform architecture. In addition, many of the edge applications mentioned are also not built to be natively open. In a race for features and functions, most of those vendors have not cleaned up their technical debt nor have they invested in any modernization of their underpinning technology.

    A big component of an open platform is having not just public APIs but REST-based APIs designed with both read and write access of the data. As we look to the future, its really important to not just ask, “do you have APIs” but really dig under the covers to understand the capabilities of the APIs (SOAP vs. REST), the protocol (OData has become an industry standard) and how the overall architecture is designed (are things like security and monitoring a service…meaning reusable, or did the vendor just put a generic API wrapper around the data).

    Disclaimer – I work for Cornerstone OnDemand.

  4. Jason’s points are spot on, the buyer has to go deeper to find out what “we can connect to anything” means when the vendor claims that. Maybe this is a great question for an RFP – what happens when a candidate insists on being deleted?

    My guess is the European based vendors are more likely than US HR Tech vendors to collaborate better on this scenario since most were built to support the tougher European privacy laws that require data to be deleted more methodically. Would love to see some data on this if anyone knows of any?

  5. John Bell says:

    While vendors have always wanted and needed to focus on their core product, integration APIs previously viewed as “side offerings” have truly become part of the core product requirements of customers. Vendors need to apply these same suggestions offered for organizations in this post – especially getting the basics (of an API) right and talking to your friends in other organizations. Check out – getting TA industry vendors collaborating to improve candidate experience is a first step – we can collaborate and integrate much more from there.


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