Since the beginning of time (in software years, anyway), the general consensus has been that making a list of needs versus wants is the best way to start a new recruiting software and ATS vendor evaluation process —and I tend to agree.
1) Figure Out What You Want—and What You Need
As your vendor evaluation becomes more time intensive and as new vendors enter the picture, having a basis upon which to eliminate a poor vendor fit is critical. Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as the perfect and complete system, though. Your company has specific business and recruiting wants, but no vendor can accommodate them all. Focus your attention instead on who can provide you with what you need. Your needs list is essentially creating a benchmark for your evaluation. If some systems don’t meet your benchmarked needs, move on; there will be plenty of other systems that do.
2) Avoid the “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen” Syndrome
There should be one—and only one—point of contact in your company for each software vendor you’re speaking with. This assigned leader should act as the sole liaison when it comes to sharing updates with the group or scheduling demos with the vendor(s). Having more than one leader can lead to slower evaluation and selection. It’s important to make sure each person has clearly defined roles in the research and decision-making process.
3) Create a Timeline (And Stick to It)
Like any project, creating a timeline—and adhering to it—can ensure you’re making measurable progress. The evaluation process can take up to three times longer without the use of a timeline for vendor research, vendor comparisons and product demos. As for what is considered an appropriate amount of time for evaluation, that depends on your company’s own circumstances. For example, when will your budget be released? When will the executive team be able to meet for a final decision? Those types of factors play a big part in determining the best timeline for you.
Despite your unique circumstances, consider that the average evaluation and selection process tends to take around 2-3 months. Don’t worry about the software vendor holding you up—they will be eager to quickly send you the information you need and provide you with the necessary demos as soon as your team is ready.
4) Live Within Your Means
Did I mention budget? Another important step in the evaluation and selection process is determining your budget before you begin speaking with any vendors. Once your budget has been approved, stick to it as much as possible. There are applicant tracking and recruiting software systems available to meet every need and every budget.
Here are a few additional things to keep in mind:
- Before you spend time scheduling demos with vendors, make sure you have an approximate ballpark of what their annual fees will be.
- The first year’s fee is generally larger due to data migration, integration and implementation costs.
- If one vendor solution is priced significantly higher than another, focus your research on what additional features, functionalities, or services validate those higher costs.
5) Create an Effective RFI
After you’ve completed your preliminary research and created a short list of vendors to review, it’s always a smart idea to send each vendor a Request for Information document. So many organizations skip this step in the evaluation process, which can ultimately lead to a lot of wasted time. Creating an effective RFI is all about asking relevant questions, and it should actually go beyond your needs list: It should also include questions to help you determine whether a vendor will make for a long-term, reliable partner to your growing business. For example, what is the vendor’s preferred support structure and communication style?
6) Execute the Demos
One of the final steps in the evaluation process, as already mentioned, is to set up vendor product demonstrations. By this point you should have received the returned RFI from your vendors, as well as researched, compared and created a final shortlist of three vendors.
During demos, don’t forget who your users are. Make sure you include a sample group or representative from all departments that will be using the software. Ensure that all users can easily learn and understand the features and functionality included in the demo. Recruiting software selection should never be an executive decision—it should be a company decision.
And… You’re Off!
By following these steps during your evaluation process, you’re setting your company up for a successful software selection (try saying that quickly three times in a row). Remember, your next recruiting software purchase should be your last.
Have you found other effective techniques for your company’s recent software evaluation? If so, we’d love to hear about them.
Follow Justin on Twitter (@CBHRTechnology) to stay on top of the latest news, trends and best practices in the HR technology & recruiting software industry.
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