Time is the enemy of HR (and its employers)

This 6-part piece story looks at several new recruiting and HR technologies and how each radically changes how time is spent acquiring talent.
Written by Brian Sommer, Contributor on

This 6-part piece  story looks at several new recruiting and HR technologies and how each radically changes how time is spent acquiring talent:


Part 1 of 6

HR Processes Are Stuck in First Gear - Still

Most HR functions have been automated. Tedious, labor-intensive activities such as payroll calculations and benefits administration were automated years ago through combinations of tools such as ERP technology, IVR, standalone HR solutions, etc.

For the most part, most HR solutions in use today are still at the first stage of Fubini’s Law. That law states:

  • People initially use technology to do what they do now – but faster.
  • Then they gradually begin to use technology to do new things.
  • The new things change life-styles and work-styles.
  • The new life-styles and work-styles change society
  • … and eventually change technology.

Even when you look at how HR technology providers deliver/develop their solutions, the main focus remains on automating an existing function faster. This is why software vendors are gleefully focused on moving HR transaction systems and analytic applications to in-memory database technology. It is why mobile HR solutions are essentially the same or stripped-down versions of the existing applications they already produce. Because it is now in a mobile footprint, workers can do these functions anywhere not just in the office.

But there is a huge missed opportunity in HR technology space. Few seem to notice that the key design assumption (i.e., the original process design was correct or even relevant anymore) is no longer valid. The old processes fit the old world – and – they don’t fit today’s world at all.

Do you really think that when someone who was designing payroll systems in the 1960s, that they had any idea that mobile devices, social networks, the Internet, etc. would even exist? How could they? Al Gore hadn't even invented the Internet by then. But seriously, new technologies, new global competitive environments, changes in the workforce, etc. should make everyone, software vendors and users, rethink and reimagine how HR should function.

And the first thing that great HR leaders should examine is their concept of time in a more interconnected and competitively ruthless business world.

 (Please continue to the next section.)

Part 2 of 6

Time – The Emerging Enemy of HR

 If your firm’s recruiting process still works much the way it did in 2008, your firm may be in trouble.  With the economy recovering, large numbers of people retiring (in the U.S.) and talent shortages appearing in some key skill sets, hiring the best and brightest will become a competitive necessity/imperative for many firms.  However, the landscape for hiring the best and brightest has materially changed the last few years.

HR Time Economy Software
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The best and brightest prospective hires get found and hired fast. The best and brightest employers are keeping pace. The employers falling behind are losers.


HR Software Economy Recruiting
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The best employers are equally fast and some of these are using some all-new tools that help them:

  • Identify and/or build the largest possible candidate pool
  • Identify who within the pool is the best qualified, most respected, etc.
  • Provide them with the most accurate, and complete, profile information re: potential candidates
  • Know which prospects might be open to a recruiter’s entreaty now
  • Contact the candidate first time and at the right time

What these companies are getting from new technology is the ability to compete at the speed of (today’s) business.  And, that’s breathtaking.

How critical is this? Just look at how much time people waste with old-school employers.

recruiting HR human resources reengineering
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HR Recruiting Waste Reengineering Cost Branding
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And, why does this happen? Because the HR systems, processes and people are still operating in a pre-2008 world. Does your world look like this?

Time is enemy 5
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There are piles and piles of time sinks in modern HR groups and, I suspect that Recruiting is the leader in this.

 (Please continue to the next section.) 

Part 3 of 6

Don’t Believe Me?

If typical, it can take your recruiting people, processes and technologies days or weeks to identify potential job seeking prospects and then get them hired. They need time to:

  • craft a position description
  • write the copy for a job posting or want ad
  • wait for the posting to run
  • let a few more days pass while potential jobseekers submit resumes
  • take a lot more time poring over the resumes and applications submitted
  • select the best candidates
  • schedule times for executives to interview these individuals
  • conduct interviews

 All of these things take time.

Smart, new HR vendors understand this and are reimagining how HR ought to work. Here are three examples:


Identified’s mantra is “Top Talent. Every Time. In No Time.” Their technology scours social media sites, discussion groups and other digital water coolers. Identified is looking for the kind of information that lets them build profiles about potential job seekers. They collect information about where you are, what positions you’ve had, what kind of other professionals you hang out with online, etc.  If you have a Facebook profile, a resume online or are active in certain professional discussion boards, Identified has likely identified you.

At this time, Identified has some 1 billion profiles that employers can peruse. But, what I really like is the intelligence Identified has built into their search capability.  For example, they know that some firms may call an entry level IT person a “consultant” while other firms call this position a “business consultant”, “Associate” or other name. When you do a search it uses its proprietary position nomenclature dictionary to find the widest set of potential candidates your firm should be cultivating relationships with and possibly hiring.

Recruiting HR Time Reengineering
Image Courtesy of Identified


Search results appear as anonymized mini-profiles. Users can continue to refine or filter their searches. As they do so, the software notices which candidates the recruiter is marking for followup and the software re-configures the search results dynamically to showcase more candidates with a similar profile. 

Identified offers this as a multi-tenant cloud solution but the searching is done, I believe, via in-memory analytics and machine learning technologies. Searches take only a second or so to complete.  And, unlike much of the data that might reside in an employer’s ATS (applicant tracking system), this data is some of the most current, and, possibly complete/comprehensive profile data an employer could want.

HR Reengineering Recruiting
Image Courtesy of Identified


The search also knows where prospects live so that recruiters only search for and contact relevant people. This saves recruiter time and improves the probability of a job seeker accepting an employer’s entreaties.  It’s actually quite powerful. Recruiters can use the search to continue to winnow down the prospect pool to a manageable subset of the best and brightest candidates for a position.

Identified’s software will also help the recruiter contact these, often passive, prospective candidates.

The value proposition with Identified is heavily oriented around time. They believe recruiters will need to only spend five minutes or less daily searching for talent – they can spend more time cultivating a relationship with the candidates, filling other open positions, etc.  Moreover, they claim that their contact messages reach 99 percent of the intended readers, with a 95 percent open rate and a 26 percent response rate.  Recruiters can therefore spend less time researching, cold calling, playing telephone tag, contacting referrals, etc. 

(Please continue to the next section.)

Part 4 of 6

 (More of Don't Believe Me?)



Connect6 also scours the Internet looking for the artifacts of job seeker’s work history, social networks, connections, etc. Connect6 counts over 500 million profiles within its searchable database.  

Connect6 offers a mix of applications to its corporate customers. It will:

  • Search – Employers can search by prior employer, school attended, location, desired skills and more
  • Post – Connect6 uses its knowledge of social networks, job boards, discussion groups, etc. to send an employer’s job postings to these sites. This makes Connect6 work more like a two-way process rather than a straight-up search and contact tool.
  • Connect – Connect6 will connect the employer to prospective candidates.  Connect6 will also provide social maps that clarify the connection between the candidate and the firm.
HR Recruiting Reengineering
Screen Image Courtesy of Connect6


The value proposition for Connect6 is around collapsing the amount of time spent doing tasks that take tons of a recruiter’s time but deliver little value.  They make the recruiter more productive (allowing them to fill more positions in less time), more valuable (by filling open requisitions with a better quality of candidate) and freeing up the recruiter’s time to spend with solid candidates. The more time a recruiter spends with a candidate (instead of being stuck staring at a computer screen), the greater the chance they can sell their firm, cement the candidate’s interest in the company, etc.

It’s all about time.


HireVue is a firm that’s been on my radar for the last several years. They’ve had a fairly successful video interviewing tool that is fantastic in the way it saves time and money for HR and operational executives. Their core tool permits job seekers to submit video answers to a consistent set of interview questions. Travel costs are lowered as neither the job seeker nor employer are requiring people to be anywhere except near an Internet access point. 

The software also helps HR and line executives quickly parse the interview results. Instead of waiting to schedule a candidate and all of the company executives to be in one place and one time, screening interviews occur when it’s convenient for everyone involved. Moreover, executives can quickly dispatch a poor fitting candidate in a manner of minutes instead of staying engaged for an entire interview. This results in more effective use of an executive’s time and increases the potential volume of candidates than can be screened.

Recently, HireVue decided to attack another HR time sink: scheduling interviews of pre-screened candidates. Once firms decide they want to schedule a candidate for an in-person interview, huge amounts of energy can be expended by HR and others in trying to get candidates slotted into executives' schedules for interviews. By way of an acquisition of Reschedge, Hirevue has added the ability to very rapidly get people interviewed. They’ve successfully taken non-value added time out of the recruiting process.

According to the Reschedge website, Reschedge is:

“...a first-of-its-kind solution built specifically for interview coordination. It is pre-integrated with popular calendaring systems like Outlook/Exchange and Google, and functions seamlessly across platforms. Utilizing a sophisticated rules-based algorithm that assesses schedules, location availability, interview priority, and sequencing to automatically find available times and meeting locations, Reschedge simplifies the process and makes coordinating interviews easier than ever.”

So, in HireVue's case, they are attacking the time problem in making screening interviews happen quickly and happen efficiently. And, now they are removing time scheduling waste by making schedule co-ordination fast and painless. Modern HR is all about time...

 (Please continue to the next section.)

Part 5 of 6

Time, Time, Time - How the Best & Brightest Want to get Hired

The best and brightest don’t want to get hired the way that so many of your firms attack the process. Many of you have HR processes that are sloppy, full of time wasting, redundant or pointless effort. They’re not fun and they don’t give your employer brand much of anything positive. No, the best and brightest might see your firm (and its HR processes) as something to avoid - not something to embrace.

The best job candidates go fast. They get discovered quickly by great recruiting organizations and they get scooped up by firms with equally fast HR processes and technologies. In the animal kingdom, these job seekers would be cheetahs or roadrunners while your HR organization could be a sloth or slug. You won’t win these candidates. If mediocrity is what you’re aspiring to hire, you may just get it.

I know some of you want to rebut this. You’ll want to point out that you’ve got a great employee here or there in your firm. That could be true but as I used to hear many times back home in Texas “even a blind pig can find an acorn from time to time”.  And, worse, some of your competitors may be knee-deep in great people where you can only point out a handful of them.  Sorry, but I reject the argument that glacial HR processes and technologies will deliver a bounty of top talent.

Even more interesting is this secondary point: the best and brightest expect you to find them. They’re leaving all kinds of breadcrumb trails on the Internet as to what they’re skilled at, who they’ve worked for, what kind of in-depth knowledge they possess, etc. They believe you old-school HR groups who still want a resume, a completed job application, a first-born child and more do so because you’re lazy, unimaginative, behind-the-times and/or cheap. And, when they run into a firm like yours, they know what the all too common outcome will be: you will ignore them after you’ve wasted their time.

“A few years ago, a leading analyst firm made a run at me. One of their analysts that I respected put their in-house recruiter on to me. We did a nice, cordial first telephone screening call and I agreed to e-mail her my CV/resume. Days and days passed. Approximately 2 weeks later I got a phone call from someone in that firm asking if I could come to downtown Chicago to meet with one of their research executives. That meeting took place almost a month after the initial contact. What followed next was amazing. I was asked to return again to Chicago on at least two more occasions with the last meeting occurring over three months from the initial contact. And, in that meeting, I ended up sitting down with an executive who had no idea why I was there or the position that they were supposedly recruiting me for. About a month after that, I ran into the research analyst who initiated this farcical, time wasting and inefficient process. He acknowledged that his firm had a problem with recruiting and apologized profusely for their unprofessionalism. That experience left a very negative impression upon me of that employer. Their employer brand , IMHO, was poor at best.”

And third, the best and brightest want to work with other great people, not mediocre ones. If these people are being recruited by recruiters who move with the speed of modern business, possess modern business technology and are scooping up other great talented individuals, then this is a destination employer they desire.  Why do so many people want to work at Google and not your firm? Are you attracting and getting the kind of people other prospective hires want to associate with? Are your HR processes, timeframes and technologies the problem? Do they need some Re-Imagination?

(Please continue to the next section.)

Part 6 of 6

The Lack of Empathy and Re-Imagination

Consulting firm Booz & Co.’s quarterly magazine, Strategy + Business, is always full of great content. This last summer, they had a particularly relevant article urging business executives not to reengineer but to reimagine. While their comments are focused at a company level, you should substitute “HR” for “Company” in the following quotes.

The article begins with this tidbit:

“What does it mean to become digital? Companies in all industries are building online businesses, enabling new customer experiences, experimenting with “big data,” and seeking advantage in a digitally enabled business environment. They have tried reengineering their practices; they have set up new technological platforms for customer engagement and back-office efficiency. But these efforts have not yet had the impact they should. Instead of reengineering, they need reimaging.”

They are sooooo right on this and HR vendors (and practitioners) need to heed their counsel - it's time to reimagine HR not just reengineer it.

The authors then point out what happens when an all new player (e.g., Identified or Connect6) enters a market, unencumbered with old mindsets, processes and world views, they look at a space quite differently.

“No one likes to buy insurance. The design of Esurance’s business and the technology that enables it are aimed at mitigating its pain points.”

Now, that observation is actually a powerhouse. Esurance is focused on eliminating the pain points that insurance buyers are facing. For the life of me, I almost never see an HR vendor show much empathy toward the job seeker or try to eliminate the pain points that job seekers face. The vendor focus is almost always on the corporate HR buyer. And, as a result, the time that job seekers waste on HR departments and HR technology has rarely been a focus area for vendors. No, the focus of most HR processes and technologies has been to replace aspects of old, shop-worn processes with pieces of automation. The cowpath has been paved and repaved far too many times and no one has wondered if the path is the right path anymore.

“To see and understand your customers’ problems, you must be able to fully empathize with the end-users of your company’s systems.”

Today, we must understand that the real end-users of recruiting systems are actually the jobseekers not the just the recruiting professionals.

(All quotes in this section from: "Don’t Reengineer. Reimagine", Strategy + Business, Summer 2013, Schumacher, MacGibbon and Collins)

This new breed of vendors sees the HR space quite differently. They realize that HR is actually comprised of several constituent groups (not just HR departments) and ignoring one of the largest (i.e., job seekers) is wrong. These new vendors also see new technologies (e.g., social media) as something more than a simple bolt-ons to existing HR technologies and processes. The bolt-on thought process is no longer relevant – reimagination is now the order of the day.

The early poster child for the new reimagined world of HR may be LinkedIn. Their 285 million social profiles, chock full of employment and education history, is triggering wholesale changes in the recruiting processes of many firms. And, in time, it may drive additional changes in HR technologies, too.

In the reimagined world of HR, savvy vendors and HR executives see what a problem time really is. Great job seekers get scooped up by more nimble, faster employers. These job seekers now work for (or will soon work for) companies that get that:

  • A jobseeker’s time is valuable and scarce. If your firm fatigues a jobseeker, the jobseeker will voluntarily abandon the process much like e-commerce buyers abandon virtual shopping carts.
  • Time to Hire is a key metric. If your firm takes weeks or months to complete the Identify/Source, Interview/Offer and Decision process, you’re losing/bleeding great talent.
  • New tools expand the potential jobseeker prospect pool and the broader the pool, the better quality of worker that will be acquired for this employer. People like to work other great people (just as few people like to work with a bunch of low quality colleagues and superiors).   

This is the TIME to reimagine HR.

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