The CTO’s Perspective: Email’s Vital Importance to Staffing & Recruiting Firms

A decade of innovation The topic of email and how it works to keep business flowing for staffing and recruiting professionals is an obsession here at Bullhorn. We are laser focused on helping recruiters maximize their effectiveness, while constantly assessing how Bullhorn compares to alternatives. It sounds obvious to say that email and communication are important. I mean, of course they are important. So what? Email is of vital importance to the staffing industry because on the other end of that email is either a candidate or a client. Each and every day, the use of email is a critical lubricant in the chain of revenue generation.

If your email doesn’t work, you don’t make money – it’s that simple. Bullhorn pioneered integrating email directly with ATS/CRM and was, in fact, one of the first webmail clients. With more than 10 years in the email business, we have been innovators in this area, while developing extensive domain expertise. We had webmail before there was Gmail. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about email. We know how to scale it and design technology to work with email from a staffing perspective – we know what’s important about email, how to simplify the workflows around it, and how to make sure to preserve its value for a staffing business. As we further explore email and its direct impact on staffing and recruiting firms, consider the following points that ring true for me and match Bullhorn’s product philosophy:

  1. Email is the property of staffing firms.
  2. With client and candidate activity so critical, data should be captured automatically.
  3. Email history contains valuable context about your firm’s interactions with its partners and candidates.

The limits of Outlook as an ATS Bullhorn’s biggest competitor is Outlook itself. Many firms, especially smaller ones, use Outlook as their ATS and CRM system. Each recruiter/sales person has a fantastically complex Outlook folder structure, complete with various workflows to keep track of business. The fact is, a single recruiter can be very efficient since they are in complete command of their data. Outlook is designed to be a personal email management tool. It works great to manage messages and contacts for an individual, but trying to use it in a team environment as a shared database of knowledge just doesn’t work. You simply can’t run a business where everyone has their own database and workflow, right? No business should tolerate this. Larger firms have established process and have lots of software to manage data and business workflow. I’m willing to bet the problem is that all of their best data is stuck in Outlook. That’s right…even at large firms with disciplined IT and process, recruiters and sales people squirrel data into Outlook – important data that is totally invisible to the firm.

Email and the associated information it contains around contacts and business is the property of the firm and one of its most valuable assets. But when firms continue to use Outlook as their ATS, they are leaving that most valuable asset in a completely vulnerable state. So why would anyone do this? They shouldn’t, and with our updated support for Outlook, Exchange, and other email systems, they don’t have to. Plugins don’t actually plug any holes. Many of our competitors have looked at the passion recruiters have for using Outlook and the need to integrate their ATS with Outlook by creating an “Outlook Plugin” – desktop software that is downloaded and installed into Outlook. Typically, you get functions to share data with Outlook, contacts, calendar items, email, etc. The more sophisticated variants of plugins also employ syncing technology. However, there are many weaknesses in this approach:

  • The firm’s data is at risk. Plugins allow users to grant the business access to important data that would otherwise never leave Outlook. Not only does the user have to install desktop software, but in most cases, the user has to take complex manual steps either to configure the plugin correctly to transfer data or, worse, move data from Outlook to the backend system for each item.
  • Business owners have limited access to proprietary data. Plugins can prevent the business owner from getting access to their proprietary data – the data that is their property.
  • Recruiters are given less flexibility. Plugins limit recruiters from working anywhere by tying them to their PCs. This lack of flexibility subsequently limits their productivity and potential business opportunities at the same time.
  • They are overly complex and hard to use. Outlook is not a simple application. Overloading it with additional screens, columns in the inbox, and dialog boxes can be overwhelming to a staff that is under pressure to perform.

I consider myself a fairly savvy user of technology. However, once I become familiar with the way an application functions, it can be very disconcerting to have anything change, especially software that I use every single day. If that’s true for me – someone who has immersed himself in the inner workings of technology and routinely installs new programs – imagine how a stressed-out recruiter would react to the myriad of new buttons that suddenly appear in a once familiar app? Why would anyone want to force users to change an app they know well and are comfortable with, unless it was absolutely necessary? It’s not necessary, so why do it? Activity Tracking The core business value from our approach is what we term “automatic activity tracking.” All activity with any contact in the database is recorded in the database automatically, while the system provides simple ways to review or report on that data. This covers appointments (interviews), email, and notes as well as the associated contacts for each of these items.

Bullhorn’s automatic activity tracking does not require any manual intervention from end-users or any desktop software installation or configuration. It ensures that the business keeps the data it rightfully owns. There are no specific workflows that need to be followed to record activity in the database – no ongoing effort at all. It just happens as if by magic, automatically, behind-the-scenes. I think you get it. If you use a mail system like Exchange, a simple-one time configuration on the mail server ensures that all business-critical correspondence with your firm will be recorded in Bullhorn, from any device or client. Activity Center We’ve provided robust activity tracking via Bullhorn Mail for years. It’s one of the reasons customers love Bullhorn so much.

We’ve also enabled users to work with Outlook, Exchange, or any email system they want while still having the speed and power of the Bullhorn ATS. Most recently, we updated our support for users who want to use Bullhorn with Outlook/Exchange or other email systems. We’re now providing the same elegant simplicity and power of activity tracking to enable the Bullhorn ATS and CRM to deeply integrate with and work alongside Outlook, or any other mail client and any other mail server. Staffing and recruiting firms with mail systems like Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes/Domino or even Gmail now have deep integration with the Bullhorn ATS and CRM. But the secret sauce is in how we do it: everything is tracked automatically. We wanted to ensure that the fundamental rights that an organization has to keep their email contacts and communications are preserved automatically, so every communication and activity gets captured without any extra effort from the user. No special buttons to press or decision to be made – it all just happens. Use your mail system and apps like Outlook just as you always have. Use Bullhorn for managing jobs and clients, and finding, tracking and placing candidates.

A key ingredient in the secret sauce is the flexibility: you can access your email anywhere so you can work even when you’re on the go – and all of your data is still tracked automatically. This means that the recruiter’s previous responsibility to figure out how to choose to track messages with clients and candidates is eliminated. With ~40% turnover in the industry, this means that if you are an owner or executive at a staffing firm, you no longer need to worry if a recruiter leaves. All of their information stays, so their replacement can pick up exactly where the former employee left off. Your client and candidate relationships don’t vanish if someone leaves.

They stay with you where they rightfully belong. Now you are probably saying, “How do you do that without an Outlook plugin?” We provide a rich new capability in Bullhorn called the Activity Center, which makes it easy to identify new contacts or candidates that need to be processed into Bullhorn. There is no Outlook retraining since we don’t add any new gadgets into Outlook. We provide cutting edge tools in our web client to take almost all of the effort out of managing data. The best way to understand how this works is to watch this video. In it, you’ll see how a recruiter can use Outlook (or any email client) and Bullhorn side by side. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments section below. Related Information: Press Release – “Bullhorn Rolls Out Breakthrough Advances in Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Email Integration”

This Bullhorn Blog post was written by Geoff Greene.

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