Best Practices for Achieving Talent Success Maturity

Field Guide to Fully Automating Your Recruiting Process

  • Who it’s for: 
    HR managers, recruiters
  • What you’ll get: 
    A framework for approaching automation in recruiting
  • Why you need it: 
    Spend less time on administrative work and more time engaging A-players
  • When it applies in the talent success process: 
    Throughout the recruiting life cycle


Every recruiter would love to have more time and money to spend on finding and hiring more and better candidates. One of the best ways to deploy limited resources for greater impact is to employ automation technology in as many steps of your recruiting process as possible. Today’s tools are less costly, more capable, more user-friendly, and easier to implement than their predecessors, and are no longer the sole province of major organizations with six-figure budgets and large IT teams. While the reduction in time spent on tedious manual tasks is the most obvious benefit, there are several other important ones that also deserve attention:

  • Increased consistency: Automating a process or task means it will get done the same way every time, ensuring that best practices are followed and removing opportunities for human error.
  • Improved compliance: Automation ensures that processes are documented and followed according to the rules you define.
  • Increased speed: Automation helps to make decisions sooner in processes, and ensures that processes move forward as soon as they’re ready, rather than waiting for a person to do their weekly batch work.
  • Better scalability: Teams with better automation have more flexibility to respond to increased demands without waiting for additional recruiters to be hired and trained. And because they are cost-effective, automation tools are easier to keep when teams are being downsized.
  • Higher candidate satisfaction: Future Workplace’s 2016 candidate experience study found that 60 percent of candidates rated “timely follow-up on an application status” as more important than a well-designed career site or mobile-supported online experience. Automation can help you to communicate faster and more thoughtfully with candidates.

This article looks at eight different process areas where automation can be applied to improve your ability to recruit more A-players while saving time and money.

1. Job Posting

From LinkedIn and Indeed to Monster and Facebook, the variety of places to advertise openings continues to grow. Modern recruiting platforms will include integrations with these, your corporate website, and possibly many more sources, so new openings are automatically distributed across the free and paid sources you use. These tools will also typically include tracking functionality. That way, at the other end of the process, you’ll be able to see which sources are the best at bringing potential A-players to your doorstep.

2. Knockout and Screening Questions

While deciding to hire a specific person is often tricky, in many cases the decision to not move forward with a specific candidate is quite simple. If a candidate fails to meet certain minimum standards for the role or the company as a whole, then the less time you spend with them, the better. For instance, many companies will stipulate that they only hire candidates who are authorized to work in the U.S. and are willing to submit to a background check. By asking candidates to acknowledge these requirements upfront, you will filter out candidates who you could not have hired, and protect yourself from any claims of failing to disclose these requirements to the candidate.

Application questions can also be used for screening to sort candidates into general tiers of qualification based on job-specific questions. These often include areas such as education, experience in similar roles, and professional licenses or certifications. This makes it easier to quickly identify the best-qualified applicants and move forward quickly, and can also be used to route promising but underqualified candidates into roles more appropriate for their qualifications.

For an in-depth look at enhancing your initial screening processes, read Screening Made Easier.

3. Assessment Tests

Research consistently shows that well-designed assessments are often a far better predictor of on-the-job performance than the typical unstructured job interview. Because these tests can typically be completed independently by candidates, it’s often possible to assess a much larger pool of applicants, possibly all applicants, than would be reviewed in-depth through a phone interview in a traditional process. This can reduce the number of interviews and increase the speed with which you’re able to move forward with the best-qualified applicants.

Many HR leaders are wary of testing tools because, if used incorrectly, they can create additional liability for the company. However, cases such as Griggs v. Duke Power did not generally forbid testing, they simply reinforced that testing must be valid in accordance with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. In fact, numerous companies have found that shifting their screening from a resume-centric, experience-based approach to one more focused on job-specific skills measured by testing actually resulted in an increased number of diverse hires. Used correctly, tests are free of the biases and preferences that many managers and interviewers bring to the process, consciously or not.

With thousands of assessment products on the market covering everything from broad aptitude characteristics to highly specific technical skills, there is a good chance that there are assessment products that could fit your organization’s hiring process.

4. Automated Emails

In a job market where the top candidates are pursued by multiple companies, ensuring your communications are prompt, professional, consistent, and informative shows candidates you’re serious about hiring A-players. Improved communications is, for most companies, probably their single largest and easiest opportunity to dramatically improve the perception of their employer brand among candidates.

You can save time and ensure consistency among hiring managers by using email templates to automatically send messages to candidates at important points in the process, such as:

  • Acknowledgement of application receipt
  • Regrets to unqualified applicants
  • Follow-up after phone screens and interviews
  • Notification when a position has been filled

Keeping Candidates in the Loop looks at this subject in more detail and includes ready-to-use templates for a variety of common communication scenarios.

5. Interview Scheduling

For many recruiters, scheduling and coordinating phone screens and in-office interviews is one of the most tedious aspects of their job. It’s also one of the areas where the hiring process can get bogged down when hiring managers or interviewers fail to respond or update calendars and it takes half a dozen emails among three to five people to get something scheduled. A variety of tools are now available to automatically coordinate calendar availability and allow candidates to select a time slot themselves. In addition to drastically reducing the back and forth, these tools also show candidates that you’re a technologically adept organization.

Automated scheduling also frequently integrates with interview feedback tools, so interviewers are given direction on the areas to go over with candidates, and capture feedback in a structured form.

6. Offer Letters: From Approval to Signature

Once the recruiting team has decided to make an offer to a candidate, it’s in everybody’s best interest to get an offer letter in their hands as quickly as possible. Better talent acquisition systems support this in three ways:

  • Offer templates: Recruiters can select from a customizable template library and automatically merge in job title, start date, compensation, and more. This saves time and ensures consistency and accuracy.
  • Approval workflow automation: Once created, an offer can be routed through a series of approvers who electronically sign off on it. Reminders can be automatically sent when approvers don’t respond quickly enough. Recruiters spend less time chasing paper and more time recruiting.
  • Online offer signing: Once approved, offer letters can be automatically sent to candidates, who can then review and accept the offer. In a tight race, the company that gets to the candidate first often wins. And even if the candidate rejects the offer, the sooner you know that, the more choices you have in responding.

7. Background Screening

Most companies today are performing some type of criminal background screening at some point in their hiring process, most commonly after the candidate accepts a conditional offer of employment. Better talent acquisition systems will support this process through integration, typically with one or more third-party screening vendors. Integration can make ordering a background check a one-click or fully automated process for the recruiter, and reduce the amount of data the candidate needs to enter, speeding up the process and improving the candidate experience.

8. Work Opportunity Tax Credits

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit that rewards organizations that hire candidates from groups that experience difficulty finding employment. Qualifying groups include ex-felons; recipients of benefits such as TANF, SNAP, and SSI; and unemployed veterans, and may include other groups in the future. The Department of Labor website includes a section that explains the qualified groups and benefits to employers here. Credits can amount to as much as 40 percent of an employee’s first-year wages, and in 2010, businesses received credits of approximately $1 billion in value. If your company hires a significant number of people from within any of the qualified groups, the opportunity for savings could be significant.

In order to maximize your ability to capture these credits, there are two steps you can take. The first is to have new hires complete a survey to identify those who potentially qualify for credits. This typically follows the questions on IRS Form 8850, which is filed with the applicable state workforce agency as the first step in claiming the credit. The second step is to work with an integrated tax credit screening partner that can act as your agent to screen and file the necessary paperwork on your behalf to reduce the administrative work necessary to claim these credits. Many of these screening vendors work on a contingency-fee model where the employer pays only a share of credits actually received, with a rate of 35 percent being a common starting point.