The benefits of a deep database of quality candidates range from the immediately apparent to the deceptively subtle. For starters, candidates from an existing database are a recruiting firm’s top source of placements. If your database is stocked with accurate information about high-quality candidates, you’ll be well-positioned to make more placements more efficiently in less time.

But the ripple effect of a well-maintained database goes far beyond making placements. It enables your recruiters to better communicate with candidates, spend less time on tasks that don’t add value, and more time on relationships. As a result, you’ll have happier candidates, more satisfied clients, and more successful and effective recruiters.

Use these tips to turn your database into a lean, mean, candidate placement machine. You’ll learn how to create a sustainable process to manage your database, tips to maintain and grow your database, and useful methods to make the most out of your treasure trove of candidate data.

Preparing your database:

Set your firm up for success

How large is your database? Whether it consists of a single candidate or a million, it’s never too late to revisit your framework. Before you do anything else, make sure your database is built on a solid foundation.

1. It All Starts With Your ATS

Technically, your candidate database could be stored anywhere—from a piece of paper to a Gmail contact list to a spreadsheet. But if you want to scale your business, you need a long-term solution. Spreadsheets are vulnerable to error and require an enormous amount of manual data entry. They’re also incompatible with your other tools.

There’s simply no way around it—if you want a database that will grow with your business, you need to use an applicant tracking system.

2. It’s Important to Import

Making the move from a spreadsheet to an ATS? Use your ATS’ bulk upload or bulk import feature to transfer thousands of candidates into your new database.

Don’t forget: Exercise caution when you use this feature. One error in how you set up your spreadsheets could cause you headaches later on.

3. Tune Up Your Training

Invest the time to train new team members on your ATS and how to manage your candidate database. Carefully monitor their early progress. Set aside the time now and you’ll save countless hours of damage control down the road.

How to Take Action: Ask your ATS provider if they offer training for new team members. Supplement this with your own internal training to give your recruiters the complete picture of why managing your database is so important and how they can help.

4. Quality In, Quality Out

Develop a process on how to screen candidate resumes and bucket them in your system. This applies to candidates who apply to your posted jobs and to those you pull into your ATS through third-party tools (e.g., aggregators and job boards).

Invest the time to train new team members on your ATS and how to manage your candidate database. Carefully monitor their early progress. Set aside the time now and you’ll save countless hours of damage control down the road.

Make time to save time: Create a filter for pre-screened candidates. Use this when you need to find quality candidates quickly.

5. Go Mobile

If you want your recruiters to make the most out of your candidate database, make it mobile. If your recruiters can access your database on-the-go, they can update information immediately—not just when they’re at their desk.

Don’t forget: Make sure your database has security precautions before going mobile. Personal devices are vulnerable to attack and could compromise your data.

6. Always Be Automating

Do your recruiters enter their data manually? Do they always remember to enter every detail? Data entry eats up time and often paints an incomplete picture. Automate as much candidate information as possible for a faster and more accurate database.

How to take action: Use an ATS with a parsing engine to extract information—no matter where you find it—to pre-populate fields in candidate, contact, and job records.

Growing Your Database:

How to add candidates without sacrificing your quality

Growing your database with an incoming supply of qualified candidates is critical to your firm’s growth. But database growth without an emphasis on quality can spell disaster for your recruiting process, and slow down your ability to make placements. Use these tips to grow your database without forfeiting its effectiveness.

7. Quality Over Quantity

To grow your candidate database quickly, you may want to integrate it with third parties like job boards or social networks. While this is a sound practice, don’t add a massive amount of candidates too quickly or from one source.

Make time to save time: Screen every candidate you add to your database. A big pool of candidates won’t help you if it isn’t composed of active, engaged candidates.

8. Buyer Beware

Research any third party before you use their services to grow your customer database. Seek out customer-review platforms to avoid costly mistakes that could take months or years to clean up.

Don’t forget: Check your ATS’ official partners to see who can help you with your sourcing needs. These partners are more likely to be trustworthy and optimized for your database.

9. Great to Integrate


Integrate your ATS with the job boards your firm uses. It streamlines the entire application process for the job seeker and automates manual tasks for your recruiters.

Did you know? Clients who integrate their job boards with their ATS see an 85 percent reduction in candidates who drop off after the application process.

10. Link Up With A LinkedIn Integration

Use a LinkedIn integration to streamline your recruiter’s workflow, reduce clicks, and provide a continuously up-to-date view of your candidates’ information. An ATS with this function should allow you to view a candidate’s up-to-date LinkedIn profile directly from your applicant tracking system. Beware of systems that scrape LinkedIn, which results in outdated or inaccurate data. Make sure the system is listed as an official ATS partner on LinkedIn’s website.

Make time to save time: LinkedIn integrations make it easy to avoid adding duplicate candidates into your system. If your recruiter finds a potential candidate on LinkedIn, they can instantly see if he or she’s already in your ATS.

Maintaining Your Database:

How to keep things running smoothly

Managing your database is an ongoing process you can bolster with the right technology and some recruiter foresight. The more you do in advance, the less maintenance you’ll need to do later. Use these tips to keep your database going strong.

11. Take Advantage Of Technology

Investigate third-party tools that will help you structure incoming data. These tools can help you parse resumes into customized taxonomies (e.g., skills, industries, professions, qualifications, languages). It’ll make searching easier and more efficient.

Case Study


Resolvit has provided world-class staffing and consulting services for IT leadership for over a decade. Their success made them an industry leader. It also meant they were saddled with a vast network of contacts to manage.

They recognized a need for a tool that would improve their database organization and sourcing capabilities. They invested in a sourcing tool that integrated with their ATS. This enabled them to remove duplicate entries and clean up their database with unprecedented speed, saving valuable recruiter time in the process.

The result: Resolvit’s 12 recruiters and 3 sourcers each gained an hour of their day back. As a result, their recruiting team gained 75 hours a week they are now able to devote to important tasks and a streamlined, efficient database to use for placements.


12. Make Maintenance Matter


Database maintenance is its own reward, but your recruiters may not always see it that way. Give them extra motivation to keep your database accurate. Build it into your performance reviews or provide incentives for clean database management.

How to take action: Make your recruiters’ performance metrics publicly available to everyone on your team. Friendly competition will motivate your recruiters to keep your data accurate.

13. Don’t Sleep On Skills

Add skills to your candidates’ records instead of relying solely on keywords. For many jobs, specific skills (e.g., Java, C++, Ruby) are core requirements, so make it easier for you and your team to find these candidates down the road.

Make time to save time: If skills are in your database, it’ll reduce your dependency on complex or boolean searches. You’ll also avoid those rare candidates who know how to game the system by stuffing keywords into their resume (sometimes invisibly).

14. Polish Your Data Before You Need It


Have you ever found the perfect candidate for a placement only to realize you’re missing crucial information in their profile? Implement procedures to ensure candidates aren’t added into your database without the appropriate information on file.

Did you know? Forty-five percent of firms access their recruiting data only when there’s an urgent need for talent.Audit and update your data regularly so you don’t waste time when you need it most.

15. Find and Replace Holes In Your Candidate Database

You may have great candidates whose records lack critical information, like an email address. Perform database searches to find any candidate records without crucial information. Assign recruiters or interns to reach out to these candidates to fill in the holes.

How to take action: Run a search in your ATS that excludes all candidates with an @ sign in their email address. This will help you identify candidates in your database without a valid email address.

Managing Your Database With Bullhorn

Job Board Data Capture

Forget copy and paste. Easily capture candidate information from job boards and immediately add it to Bullhorn. Using Bullhorn Sidebar, you’ll have the option to update or add candidates without leaving the job board.

Save Time and Reduce Errors

Increase your efficiency and reduce clicks by leveraging Bullhorn’s parsing engine to extract information – no matter where you find it –to pre-populate fields on Bullhorn candidate, contact, and job records.

Find the Right Candidates

With Bullhorn’s “fast find” search bar, Boolean logic, advanced keyword search, and more, you can quickly build qualified shortlists. Customize and configure list views and save your favorite searches for even more time savings.

16. Deal With Duplicates

Do you have a process for managing duplicates? If your recruiters let those duplicates flow freely into your system, it could get messy in a hurry. When you find a duplicate, merge or purge the outdated data

Don’t forget: Ask your ATS provider how they deal with duplicates. Most applicant tracking systems have the functionality built-in to alert you about any possible duplicates by matching emails or first and last names.

17. All Hands On Deck

Database maintenance isn’t a glamorous duty, but it’s an important one. If you have an intern or an otherwise available employee, have them perform the critical tasks in this section. This will allow you to make full use of the candidates at your disposal.

Don’t forget: Use an ATS with strong data backup just in case someone accidentally deletes valuable or important information.

18. Archive Truly Inactive Candidates

Do you have permanently inactive candidates in your database? Don’t delete them because you’ll lose all the notes and history attached to the candidate. Instead, file the candidate away using your ATS’ archive function. This prevents the candidate from clogging up your searches without permanently erasing potentially valuable information.

Don’t forget: Hide archived candidates from your search results to make sure you only encounter qualified, active candidates.

Leveraging Your Database:

How to make the most of your candidates

You might have a terrific database stocked with qualified candidates, but are you maximizing the number of placements you get out of it? Terrific candidates are often hidden or obscured. They might have been miscategorized or slipped through the cracks. Use these tips to find great candidates right in front of you!

19. Monitor Recruiter Activity

Do your recruiters know what they need to do to succeed? Establish criteria for how you expect your recruiters to vet new records entering the database. Set volume or percentage goals for candidate screening, categorizing, and cleansing.

How to take action: Report out on the percentage or volume of candidates who’ve been properly screened/categorized/tagged and draw comparisons across your team. Set a baseline and continually increase your expectations.

20. Engage With Inactive “Active” Candidates

Do you have candidates in your database marked as active but who haven’t had a submission or note for years? They’re not serving much use in your database in their current state. Double-check that these candidates aren’t actually placed or otherwise unavailable (e.g., retired). Reach out to these candidates if you find a great opportunity for them in the future.

How to take action: Use your ATS’ search feature to organize candidates who haven’t had an activity since a set date (e.g., January 2018).

21. Research Redeployment Opportunities

Are you making full use of all of the candidates in your database? You likely have candidates ready for work who are listed as in a placement. To find candidates ripe for redeployment, run a search for profiles marked as placed with an expired contract. Reach out to these desirable candidates in waiting.

Don’t forget: Always engage with candidates in your database. Set regular times to follow up with them so they think of you when they’re ready for their next career move.

22. Keep Communication Open With Unsuccessful Candidates

Run a search in your ATS for candidates who’ve applied for a job that’s already been filled by a different candidate. This allows you to prevent candidates waiting in vain and helps you find a better job match for them right now. Your candidates will appreciate your communication and commitment, and you’ll be able to be more efficient with your quality candidates.

Did you know? Poor communication is the number one complaint from candidates about the application process. Set expectations from the beginning and be transparent to avoid hard feelings down the road.

Salvaging Your Database

How to repair and restore a database on the brink

Has your database gotten out of hand? If your candidate database is unruly or infested with bad data, how can you salvage it? Check out these tips to get your database back into fighting shape.

23. Single Out Sketchy Sources

If you already bought a large list of candidates scraped from the web, invest the time to verify the information you received. This can be a big project—taking weeks or months—but if you never clean up this data, it can slow down your recruiters for years.

Make time to save time: Before you scrape candidates from the web, look for real customer referrals. Learn from the mistakes of others to avoid a similar fate.

24. De-Clog your Candidate Database

Are you overloaded with unresponsive candidates or inaccurate data? Find and remove data that may be clogging up your database without adding any value to your recruiters. Run searches on candidates who’ve been inactive for years or candidate records with critical fields left blank. Amend or archive these records.

Don’t Forget: Whenever possible, archive records—don’t delete them. You never know when the information might be useful.

25. Call For Backup If You Need It

If your database has gotten away from you, think about hiring outside help. Depending on the condition and size of your database, you may need an intern, an outsourced freelancer, or the services of a business specializing in database cleanup.

Don’t forget: Think of this as an ongoing effort, not a one-time project. Use the techniques from your database cleanup project to implement better policies going forward. If you retain your old habits, your new changes won’t last long.

Key Takeaways

A top-notch candidate database isn’t built in a day and it doesn’t have to be. Steady, consistent progress will provide you with incredible dividends. Which steps should you take first to make meaningful improvements to your database?

Answer the questions below to discover what your firm needs to focus on.

Is your database free of inactive candidates and inaccurate information?

Do you have the technology in place to maintain and grow your database?

Do you have a procedure in place to keep your database up-to-date?

Are your recruiters incentivized to keep your database accurate and equipped to leverage it to its full extent?

If you’re not yet able to satisfy all of these requirements, continue to use these tips as needed until your database runs like the fine-tuned machine your firm needs it to be. It’s not always a quick process, but it’s  an incredibly worthwhile onefor the success of your firm.

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