What You Should Look for in a Recruiting CRM

A man is laying on top of a stack of papers while using a recruiting CRM.

Choosing a recruiting Candidate Relationship Management system (CRM) is one of the biggest decisions a recruiter will make.


What Does CRM Stand for in Recruitment?

For recruiting agencies, CRM can have two different meanings – both candidate relationship management and customer relationship management. At a recruiting agency with full-desk recruiters, a single person sells and recruits. And even in a split-desk agency, the sales team and recruiting team must work closely together – managing demand pipelines along with candidate pipelines in a single solution.


Choosing a CRM Is About Choosing the Direction of Your Business

Recruiting is fast and fluid, and your CRM tool needs to be too. Candidate Relationship Management is a process at its core. A recruiting CRM should facilitate that process, not dictate it. By extension, flexibility is a critically important component of a recruiting CRM tool.

With the right CRM, you’ll be able to run your entire business from the platform, from sales to placements. And since, on average, recruiting companies switch their primary platform every 5.5 years, you need to partner with a company that is growing and listening.

Your decision is less about picking a product and more about determining what sort of recruiting organization you want to build.

On one end of the spectrum, there’s the strict, assembly-line model. In this model, recruiters are job fillers. Listings come in, recruiters post them, follow a set path to placing candidates, and then move on to the next listing. Typically, recruiters don’t deviate from the path without consulting senior leadership.

With this approach, you’re looking for a recruiting CRM that can streamline your workflow and reporting — which makes every team member more effective.

At the other end of the spectrum is a looser, more collaborative model. In this model, recruiters are relationship builders.

They work with peers, clients, and potential candidates to build talent pools, cultivating relationships that lead naturally to placements. They aren’t hemmed in by process — if they think texting a Kermit the Frog gif to a candidate could secure a lunch meeting, they’ll do it.

With this approach, you’re looking for a recruiting CRM that captures all the amazing work your recruiters are doing, making it accessible and actionable across the organization.

Your agency or in-house recruiting team likely fits somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes. So we recommend that you think about the requirements of your recruiting CRM in concert with the needs of your business and your unique process using a framework we call the 4As.


  • Automation
  • Access
  • Action-taking
  • Analysis


All legitimate recruiting CRMs address the four As on some level. Your task is to figure out how much of each is right for the recruiting organization you aspire to lead.

First, let’s define a few terms.


What Is the Difference Between an ATS and a CRM?

An ATS (Applicant Tracking System) provides visibility into the hiring process, from initial contact, to intake of a candidate, to the acceptance of a job offer. A CRM (Candidate Relationship Management) system tracks people, whether they are active or passive job candidates. The best CRM software also includes an ATS, since both processes are closely related.


CRM Automation

The automation features of recruiting CRMs eliminate the tedium of administrative procedures and the time cost of staying in touch with talent. Partial or full automation can be brought to tasks like sourcing passive candidates at scale, pulling reports, downloading applicant information, parsing resumes, and managing candidate engagement.

Automation = compliance = better reports = better business outcomes.

Sales people and recruiters hate tracking, but love the data and ability to find things they do. Tracking every email you send, every call you make and every text you send is HARD. Automation makes all of these automatic.


Examples of just a handful of the integrations you can set up with Crelate and Zapier. Source: https://zapier.com/apps/crelate/integrations


How much automation and customization is right for your candidates?

Here’s an easy win. Set your CRM to send a relevant, monthly job listing email to all passive candidates.

Individual recruiters may prefer to tailor those listings for certain candidates, especially if they’re highly skilled or otherwise in-demand to the point of scarcity. Or they may want to write a personalized email to certain candidates rather than using a generic blast. They might follow-up with a well-timed text message, or simply use that instead of email altogether. Choose a CRM that plays to your team’s strengths.


Do you want recruiters to be able to manage their own automation?

Do you want recruiters to be able to create their own automations based on their preferred workflow? The technology exists to allow recruiters to do things like:


  • Post a new job listing to Facebook from their CRM
  • Send channel messages in Slack when new jobs are added to their CRM
  • Add opportunities and jobs to a CRM from Google Sheets

The best recruitment CRM isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Look for a CRM with the flexibility to customize features and options for the organization you want to lead.


Do you want to automate communication and task-setting?

It’s natural to communicate directly with team members at important milestones:

“Hey Lulu, it’s Francisco, I’ve set up Janel’s interview for the Marketing Director position.”

“Corey – the Product Manager position is ready to list.”

This is important information, and you want to make sure your team member has it. But when you communicate this information directly, you set an expectation. Will Francisco tell Lulu about all the Marketing Director interview candidates? Will Corey expect an email before listing any future jobs?

Using automation, you can trigger emails when a candidate reaches a certain stage of the hiring workflow. Or when a job order is completed and ready to list. You can rely on your CRM – not your busy staff – to keep the process moving.


CRM Access

One of the biggest benefits of using a CRM is getting all of your …


  • candidates (and for agencies, customers)
  • their resumes and other information, and
  • the messages you’ve sent to them

… in a single place. Say goodbye to the days when the perfect candidate for the position that Julio needs to fill is hiding on a spreadsheet that only Candace ever uses. Or losing out on the context of a conversation that spread out across email, text, and phone meetings over the course of several weeks or even months.

For agencies, a CRM can keep your recruiters on exactly the same page as the biz dev person who’s trying to get the firm hired for a particular search. In a full-desk recruiting situation, where the recruiter is also a salesperson, the information just flows from one process to the next without missing a beat.

A CRM can provide visibility, in a single stream, to all your means of communication with a given contact.


A robust search function with Boolean searching can help you unearth the perfect candidate. 



Is it important for your recruiters to have all the information about a candidate?

Say that rising CEO candidate Malcolm loves his current role and isn’t going to leave — unless an opportunity comes up in Denver. With a CRM, that key information is accessible to anyone, not a forgotten text on one person’s iPhone.

And access doesn’t just mean available — it means easily find-able.

Without a CRM, none of your sourcing or placement efforts meet in a central hub. Every new role kicks off a scramble for candidates. Recruiters must chase down information about candidates within multiple systems and people. Information about the role and expectations of the client that may live in the memory of one recruiter, and can easily be lost or misinterpreted by others.

A robust CRM will have advanced search tools like Boolean search and filters that your recruiters will master — so that qualified candidates are always at their fingertips.


Do your recruiters have the tools to collaborate effectively?

With a CRM, you can truly operationalize collaboration. Working together becomes the default, not an extra step.

Your team can also go beyond candidate-by-candidate searching and engagement. They can work together to build and nurture talent pools of qualified candidates for your key industries and positions rather than starting from scratch every time a new listing arrives.


Can your recruiters access information no matter where they are?

When your recruiter meets the perfect candidate for a tricky job listing, do you want that person’s info captured in your system right away? Or do you want it jotted down on a napkin to enter at the office the next morning.

If your sales team is meeting a prospective client, do you want them to have key documentation a few taps away? Or at the mercy of a wifi connection you can’t control?

Mobile apps let your recruiters bring the office with them wherever they go.

A good CRM can foster a collaborative environment where recruiters combine strengths and work as a team.

But you may prefer a different model — a loose confederation of recruiters working independently, and developing their own contacts.

A good CRM will allow you to determine what information is shared on a team-wide basis, and which is held privately by individual recruiters. What attributes and fields should be universal, required, and tightly controlled. And which should be flexible, at the discretion of each recruiter to fit their unique process.


CRM Action-Taking

By now, every recruiter uses some form of applicant tracking software solution — whether it’s a custom product or a mishmash of spreadsheets and calendar invites.

But tracking is barely an action. It’s more like passive supervision.


When you can assign tasks within your organization, you get more done and encourage more accountability. SOURCE: https://crelate.com/features-applicant-tracking


Would your organization’s leaders prefer doing less day-to-day management?

A good CRM will ask more of individual recruiters. An effective recruiting CRM allows you to drive action for your business as opposed to idly coasting by. The software can compel action with reminders, visual candidate pipelines, and easily accessible forms.

Notifications that go up and down the chain of your organization keep everyone informed. Peers can assign tasks to each other, documenting and saving action items rather than relying on memory.

The CRM can help you:


  • Plan for the future
  • Deliver a pre-planned nudge to a recruiter at the key moment
  • Identify under-worked areas of your talent pipeline
  • Coach and manage individual members of the team.


Can CRM software be enjoyable to use?

Don’t discount the importance of platform design and performance. You wouldn’t be excited to go to work in an office with a pest problem, and you won’t be happy logging into your CRM every morning and dealing with annoying bugs that never seem to get fixed.

Your CRM should be a joy to use — not a chore to check. Good design works the way your brain does – like this drag and drop functionality that lets you move pieces around a visual board, rather than generating movement with clicks.



Could a CRM help you stay in touch with candidates?

You aren’t the only one who needs to take action – candidates do too. But you can’t expect action if you don’t ask for it. A CRM keeps in touch with the talented people you know, sending emails to thousands of contacts while tracking engagement like open rates, click rates, and failed deliveries.


Could a CRM tell you when you need to assist with high-value placements?

The value of having all information in one place – and being able to manipulate that information – gives you the ability to create narrow but critical reports that show where action needs to be taken.

For example, with filtering, you can create a view that shows just two things:


  • Highest projected placement value
  • Estimated close date

By filtering everything out except: “What are our mission-critical tasks and when do they need to be done,” you can see where action is required. Take action right away by sending an email, or set reminders for yourself or a colleague.


CRM Analysis

Having all of your information housed in one place gives you the power to measure nearly anything about your recruiting process, initiatives, and overall program.


  • Which job fair led to the most candidate placements?
  • Which recruiter submits the most candidates? (And were they effective?)
  • How many CTO candidates have we interviewed in the past year?

Figure out which key performance indicators you want to track before you start comparing CRMs. Armed with this knowledge you’ll be able to tell which CRMs have what you need out-of-the-box, and which will require customization.


Do clients or hiring managers need you to anticipate their needs?

Beyond the core use of analytics for process improvement and managing your team, great CRM reports can give you proactive reasons to talk to clients and stakeholders. Say Langhorne Industries hasn’t hired a market researcher in six months. Perhaps they are likely to need such a person soon, or their business needs have changed and they’ll be asking you to fill different roles.

Now you’re anticipating client needs, rather than reacting to them. That’s not only efficient business, it’s a major value-add for clients when you’re asking the right questions and prompting the right discussions.


With a CRM, you can get an instant view of the health of your candidate pipeline and how it got that way. SOURCE: https://crelate.com/


Do you want to go beyond raw numbers and see true efficiency indicators?

Key metrics and ratios such as submittals, interviews, and placements will allow you to track efficiency across an individual recruiter or the whole team. This allows you to see, month-over-month and even week-over-week, who are the top performers and who still needs a boost.

Ratio reports are one example of such an efficiency indicator. Say a senior recruiter, Suzy, sends out 5 offers in a month, but junior recruiter, Bob sends out 15. Is Bob a better recruiter?

You can’t say for sure unless you know the ratio of offers to conversions. If Suzy places 4 candidates from her 5 offers, and Bob places just 2 from his 15 offers – Suzy’s ratio is much higher.

This is where ratio reports will really come into play to drive home the process of what is and is not working. Ratio reports help recruiting leaders see big picture aggregates. For example, you may know that on average it takes 50 candidates, 25 phone screens, 10 interviews and 3 offers to make a placement. With these targets in mind, you’ll know right away when investigating a position, that if you can’t hit these numbers, you’ll need to bolster your pipeline in order to fill the requisition on time.


Do you want to know how a recruiter contributes to your team’s success?

The power of CRM analysis tools also helps you navigate one of the challenges of a collaborative team model. How do you assess individual performance? How do you identify team members who need more training, and those who need a bigger challenge?

If Alyssa meets a software engineer in her soccer league, and Karly places the person in an executive role, you’ll have the granular data that can add up to knowing your team’s overall strengths. If Alyssa consistently sources new candidates from every imaginable angle, while Karly is an expert at evaluation and placement, you can see that trend develop over time – and adjust team roles accordingly.

A good CRM provider will work with you on this adjustment. You decide what’s important to you, the CRM can help you measure it.


Everything Comes Together: A Basic Talent or Customer Acquisition Process With A Modern Recruiting CRM Tool

Who should I engage with?

A CRM tool displays a view, based on data you’ve tracked, showing the right people to contact to achieve your current goal.

What is the next step? / When did I last meet with them?

Based on the history of engagement with the person I’ve now identified – which is stored and easily accessible in your CRM tool – what’s an appropriate mode of follow-up or next-step?

What is their phone number?

Basic, but convenient – details like this are one click away in a CRM tool.

What should I talk about with them?

The rich data you’ve been tracking through the CRM tool shows you what you and this person have talked about in the past, and their preferred method of communication, so you can continue the conversation in a natural way.


What Is the Best Recruiting Software?

A good candidate relationship management (CRM) system is the one that actually gets used by your recruiters. Ideally the only thing they’re spending more time on is talking to candidates and hiring managers.

Their days will start in the CRM (sometimes at the breakfast table) and end there adding notes from the day’s calls and meetings. You’ll want to make sure to choose the CRM that fits your needs, but also the one your team will use.


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