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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Contextual search – the future of the recruitment CRM?


Recruitment – tapping into the mine of applicant data

This article was written by Tony Conibear, European Business Development Director at Bond International Software.

Over the past decade, recruiters have been provided with tools to accumulate vast quantities of information on the skills and job suitability of candidates. However, this increase in both the quantity and quality of candidate information has not been matched by the ability of recruiters or the technology they use to efficiently harness it to maximum effect. On the contrary, this data can often become overwhelming and unmanageable.

This mine of information is yet to be tapped to its full potential. This article explains what the future holds for advanced search tools, enabling recruiters to capitalise on the wealth of information now at hand.

CRMs bursting with candidate data

Candidate relationship management (CRM) systems heave with data pertaining to particular individuals such as contact details, CVs, recruiters’ notes and emails. Historically, a CRM system would perhaps hold records of a few hundred candidates, while today it’s more likely to be thousands and expanding rapidly. This is due to tools which allow recruiters to pull in a candidate’s details from all manner of sources – from job boards to social media websites. Sometimes it’s the case, however, that the more information you have, the less knowledge you have. In such instances technology has more of a limiting than liberating effect.

The ability to accurately match a prospective candidate on the database with a job vacancy or specification is arguably the most important function that a CRM system performs. With a few exceptions, recruiters have had to rely on a combination of structured data searches and free text keyword searches to match candidates to particular job descriptions in their CRM. Structured data searches require a user to spend considerable time carefully extracting the candidates’ relevant profile data and populating the relevant fields in the database.

This is extremely time consuming and business owners and managers are reliant on an individual’s attention to detail and competence to do the job correctly. Free text searching is less time consuming, but will return matches to key words without context and therefore can present the user with a search result that is large and unqualified.

The traditional method of harvesting CVs means that the information contained is parsed and a record created that typically populates structured fields like job category and core skills. So any keyword search carried out by a recruiter will pick up on relevant terms found in structured data in the database and return candidates who appear to be a good fit for the role. Parsing has been a big step forward in helping the recruitment consultant generate qualified, structured data to aid searching but ultimately relies on keyword recognition.

Patently, the more familiar a recruiter is with a particular role or sector and the more adept they are at searching, the better the results. It is eminently possible, however, to miss a good candidate if a particular keyword or search term isn’t used. Moreover, perhaps the nugget of information that identifies that candidate as ideal for the role is buried in a piece of unstructured or raw data lying in the CRM that the keyword search can’t locate.

The future of search?

Having given the world of recruiting plenty of tools to find both active and passive candidates, along with systems to store their details – the next challenge for software providers is to equip recruiters with superior search and match technology so they can extract maximum value from the candidate data that resides on their CRM systems. In many ways this has been the missing link up until now. This solution will come from some form of contextual searching capability that is able to search on unstructured or raw data, as well as structured data, and which bases results on understanding what is contained within the text, rather than the filename or the fields associated with them. In short, it understands what the recruiter is looking for and is a far more intelligent form of searching.

It wouldn’t be too bold a statement to say that contextual searching represents the next generation of search for recruiters. The industry is already seeing semantic searching, which bases searches on the meaning of words, being used by some of the major job boards and contextual searching will start to appear in recruitment products in the not too distant future. Undoubtedly, it will save recruiters time when conducting searches, but its real value lies in its ability to return more accurate search and match results. Importantly, where a link may not have been made before between a candidate and job specification during a keyword search, a contextual search will ensure that relevant candidates are not missed and therefore a potential fee isn’t lost for the recruitment agency.

Contextual search – a powerful tool

While recruitment will always be a people business at its heart in which the best consultants make the best placements, contextual search is a powerful new tool in a recruiter’s armoury. After all, the best consultants aren’t necessarily the most proficient at storing data, populating records and maintaining the database. Contextual search does not have the potential risks and downsides associated with traditional keyword searches. If a candidate’s true unique selling point for the role is tucked away in a block of raw text in the database, a contextual search will discover it. Moreover, its intelligent searching leaves the recruiter more time to get on with the business of recruiting.

In the past it has sometimes proven difficult to factor in an ROI from a CRM system because its effectiveness can be limited by the individuals using it. Every recruiter needs a CRM system of some description, and while that won’t change going forward, they will increasingly look for one that can bring a competitive advantage – providing superior search and match capabilities therefore is likely to become a prerequisite.

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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