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Ghost Requisitions

(July 08, 2003) - Most Applicant Tracking Systems providers use the rhetoric of supply management. Recruiting / Staffing really is the human form of the supply chain. But, it seems that the analogy is not really mined in depth.

The purchasing process (the core of supply management) routinely involves 'pre-sourcing'. In the normal course of doing business, the purchasing department investigates new sources, potential suppliers for proposed new product lines, unsolicited proposals to replace existing suppliers, outsourcing and a range of "plan B" scenarios. They do this because figuring out product cost and turnaround times is central to the strategic planning of new or modified endeavors. The purchasing process is usually designed to be relatively responsive to a broad array of "what-if scenarios". The software systems support this as a normal course of doing business.

Recruiting and Staffing are littered with similar situations. For some reason, however, most ATS products assume that you have to have an open Requisition to get the process running.

A great recruiter knows that a critical position is going to be filled somewhere in the future. The very nature of her strong relationship with Hiring Manager X means that she is privy to the coming wave of hiring requirements. If she is at all clever, she starts to build a network of contacts well in advance of the new order. In order to meet the requirement when it emerges, she accomplishes a range of staging operations. Although the process is almost identical to requisition driven recruiting, she accomplishes her work well in advance.

In a world devoid of automation, she uses a "Ghost Requisition" to organize her work. It doesn't exist in the system (like unsolicited proposals in the purchasing department) but exists in the reality of her day to day work.

In a world that includes automation, using a "Ghost Requisition" forces her to abandon the ATS process. If she wants to make the reporting system conform to the reality of her work, she must spend time fudging the toolset. If she's good and she's busy, she doesn't bother.

Much of what is passed off as 'workflow' software is really a straightjacket. Recruiting is a variety of disciplines for a variety of types of circumstances. There simply is no 'one best way' to organize the workflow and integrate it with the rest of reality. By ignoring "Ghost Requisitions" and other rational departures from the standard workflow, ATS systems seem to be designed to be ignored.

While it is very powerful to convert the Recruiting team to a more productive work process, there will always be workarounds in specific cases.

The strategic planning variable is the most obvious case but there are others. Nepotism is a fact of life in many companies. Relatives and friends will rarely be processed like normal workflow. The big boss will always want to dictate this or that hire. Bulk recruiting reuses the same requisition number and the same candidate pool.

Each 'workaround' that is unsupported by the system will produce a subset of the process that is not effectively managed by the system. From what we can see, the biggest problem in user acceptance of new tools has to do with this problem of "Ghost Requisitions".

John Sumser

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