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11 June 2013

Travel Agents & Recruiters: The Impact of Federated Search

Posted by JamesT

 

Do you remember the first time you used an ATM? That moment when you realized that you no longer had to wait in a long line to deposit a check, or had to rely on banker’s hours? How about the first time you used a GPS, when suddenly, you knew that wrong turns, bad directions and getting lost became, in an instant, a thing of the past? Or how about the first time you fast forwarded through a commercial on your DVR?

These technological breakthroughs may seem kind of, well, boring by today’s standards, but each of these technologies accomplished the rare feat of true innovation: completely shattering the old way of doing things for something far more efficient and effective.

As we wrote last week, federated search is a similar game changing technology. And like the consumer technologies described above, federated search has already profoundly impacted business as usual in many industries outside of HR and recruiting. Take travel, for instance.

Remember when you first started travelling for business or pleasure? Well, if you’re of a certain age (read: those of us who aren’t millennials), you can probably recall what a time and effort intensive process just getting a plane ticket used to be. You’d have to physically walk into a travel agency and talk to an actual travel agent.

Because back then, travel agents were really the only people with the amazing ability to enter the cryptic codes, search strings and function keys necessary to navigate the ticketing tape. It was magical, and kind of bizarre, but we knew, after all, they were professionally trained for this, and we could never, ever do it ourselves. So, we paid a lot of money to travel agencies in fees and made sure we never changed itineraries because doing so was pretty much prohibitively expensive.

In college, one of the earliest projects I worked on was planning on online travel guide that could enable everyone to navigate and control their own travel plans. Easier said than done, turns out. Back then – not so long ago – the internet was mostly a text based medium accessed by dial-up modems requiring a dedicated phone line and a whole lot of patience. But after emerging from its infancy, the internet changed everything – and even made technologies like CD-ROMs and Zip drives a flash in the proverbial pan.

As the internet moved from the margins to the mainstream and more and more consumers became comfortable with the idea of e-commerce not simply as a novel convenience but an essential necessity, sites emerged to meet public demand in all industries. And just as Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs were changing the way we navigated our careers, sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and, more recently, Kayak.com were changing the way that we navigated the world.

These sites put the power of planning travel directly into the hands of the consumer. Travel agents became something of an anachronism, or at least, an extremely niche profession with prospects similar to teaching penmanship. Those travel agents who, against all odds, are still around have survived because they are able to add real value to consumers by building established, trusting relationships leveraging outstanding expertise and customer service.

Recruiting is undergoing a similar evolution. For years, the only way to conduct targeted sourcing for candidates online involved building cumbersome Boolean strings that were NOT effective OR efficient – and the results remained, even for the most skilled Boolean experts, something of a *wildcard. Even today, there’s still a cottage industry dedicated to tips and tricks for using Boolean search to scour candidate databases – and it remains a skill that, for some reason, we still consider sourcing.

But even though we continue to add unnecessary (italics AND “quotation marks OR parenthesis”), we all know, as consumers, there’s a better way. Because when we’re searching pretty much any database other than candidates, we do so with no (Boolean) strings attached.

When we originally rolled out Talemetry Match, a product that’s since evolved into Talemetry Source & CRM, one of the most common recruiting requirements we continually heard requested was that our semantic solution still had to support Boolean searching. So, we went back in and added Boolean search capabilities. Guess what? Turns out, even after adding that “essential” functionality into the Talemetry suite, only a minute fraction of our end users ever touch the Boolean search option.

Some individual recruiters initially uploaded their most ‘valuable’ and secretive strings right after implementation, but quickly found, like you did the first time you booked a flight online, that using semantic or guided search was a lot easier, quicker, more scaleable and more sustainable for future searches. And in the rare instance where recruiters still want to use Boolean, like travel agents still rely on Sabre or another obsolete system, no problem – that is, if they remember to save those searches for developing passive candidate pipelines and ensuring reporting compliance.

But for the vast majority of sourcers, semantic and federated search capabilities quickly forced the realization that their real value wasn’t in building search strings, but building the relationships necessary to identify and develop the right candidate for the right role. Even with semantic and federated search technologies gaining prominence for consumers, it simply wasn’t being widely applied to recruiting. Even when it was, it’s only been the last couple of years where HR technology has evolved to be intuitive and quick enough for adoption by the majority of employers.

Of course, today, like so many HR technologies, these capabilities have evolved to match consumer expectations with enterprise instances. We’ve developed sleek, end-user friendly interfaces, responsive, device agnostic design, massive big data engines which can mine millions of resumes in milliseconds, API access to internal candidate databases as well as paid external databases like job boards, built-in candidate engagement tools and open social networks – and continue to add more functionality and capabilities seamlessly through SaaS.

The result for recruiting is that, just like being a travel agent, the difference between success and failure for sourcers today is no longer in their ability to apply proprietary technology through cryptic codes and esoteric experience, but rather, in the quality of relationships they’re able to build with candidates and hiring managers alike.

Sourcing isn’t simply about finding candidates with just the right experience, but also establishing and building relationships with candidates and connecting via email, phone, or through a full candidate nurturing campaign to ensure the right organizational and culture fit and then being able to build a compelling employer value proposition which really resonates with top talent – and, ultimately, making better hires in less time for less cost. And that’s good for everyone.

If you haven't had the chance to move from the legacy, on-premise travel agency model to the SaaS based self-service of a Kayak.com, let's talk. It's probably time to stop searching and Meet Talemetry.

Topics: candidate sourcing, federated search, recruiting trends, CRM, talent generation, talemetry, Talent Networks & Sourcing, hr technology

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