If you're on the lookout for a new Applicant Tracking System (ATS) you won't find yourself short of options. Whilst having such choice puts you in full control, narrowing down the selection can often be a painstaking task.
Let's be honest, you haven't got hours of time to spend on product demonstrations nor repeatedly explaining your challenges and requirements to each vendor.
Creating a request for proposal (RFP) prior to approaching vendors can significantly reduce the amount of time spent on sourcing a solution.
New to proposal requests? In this article we'll explain what one is and how you can use an RFP to extract the key information that YOU require from an ATS provider.
What is a Request for Proposal (RFP)?
A request for proposal (RFP) is the name given to a document that is created in-house by the business department who are looking to source and implement a new software solution into the organisation.
Included within the RFP are key questions for vendors to answer in relation to how the software can help them to eradicate their current challenges or software deficiencies.
When structured correctly these questions (once answered) can help project teams to efficiently and methodically assess the compatibility of a product against their department needs. In turn this clarity helps HR and in-house recruiters to make informed decisions on which provider(s) to take forward to the next stage of consideration. For most HR teams; system capabilities, efficiency and cost are the three main bench marking criteria for recruitment software.
Tips to writing a Recruitment RFP
Here are our 5 tips to preparing a recruitment software RFP.
1. Understand and differentiate between what you WANT and what you NEED.
In your mind's eye you probably have a good idea of what the perfect solution looks like. This perception should help you to frame your 'wish list' of ATS features.
In an ideal world you'll be able to identify several providers that meet your expectations however, this isn't always the case. Most Applicant Tracking Systems have been built, designed and excel in different ways.
Before getting to the nitty-gritty your first mission should be to draw up a list of:
What you need: This should be a list of essential system capabilities that are linked to your current recruitment process requirements. You should also include questions around your biggest challenges to achieve an understanding of how their solution can help you to overcome your particular set of challenges.
What you want: These are desirable features that could be of use now, or in the future but are not critical to achieving your overall objective(s). If you find yourself with several providers who meet your needs then being aware of extra capabilities can help you differentiate & identify the best overall solution for you & your team.
Having clarity between the two will help you to understand which topics to prioritise, build questions around and focus upon in your RFP. If for example you're on the market for a new ATS due to recruitment process inefficiency you'll NEED a system that scores highly on usability, customisation and intuitiveness. Questions around these aspects should be prioritised and cover all bases.
At this stage it's a good idea to involve other recruitment stakeholders from within the business to get a broader understanding of what they need the system to do and what capabilities would help them in their role.
For example, a HR Director with a strategic, operational view is likely to give a different answer to a HR Assistant at the coalface of day-to-day recruitment activity. Neither of which should be overlooked. In addition to helping you to create a more inclusive RFP document this early stakeholder involvement should help with the adoption of the new system once implemented.
2. Question Time
Now that you've differentiated between your wants and your needs it's time to flesh out some questions.
If for example you / your team are finding candidate attraction a particular challenge then questions around this topic should be prioritised and emphasised in your RFP.
Example Candidate Attraction Questions:
- Does your ATS have a multi-posting functionality?
- How many job boards does your system post to?
- Does your system have the ability to integrate with additional job boards?
- Can we post to social media channels?
- Does your ATS integrate with our career site?
In addition to questions around your specific requirements we also recommend including questions covering the below five topics to ensure there's no gaps in your RFP.
1. Candidate Experience
Each company has their own unique hiring process that varies in length and complexity. No matter what your recruitment process looks like it's vital that you're able to please candidates at each stage. Quiz vendors on the available features to support and enhance the candidate journey right from applied through to hired.
2. User Experience
User Experience (UX) is how easy the system is to use internally. ATS users don't want to have to memorise a training manual nor do they want to spend hours reading FAQ's.
Good UX is vital to ensuring that your team adopt and utilise the technology to its full capability. The best systems on the market allow users to navigate between vital steps such as job posting, candidate management and recruitment reports within just a few clicks.
Ask vendors open ended questions around usability to understand ease of use, if it sounds complicated, it probably is!
Data protection has become increasingly paramount to businesses in recent years due to the introduction of GDPR regulations. With data leaks carrying the threat of crushing fines it's essential that providers are able to transparently demonstrate their compliance with GDPR. Make sure that you include questions are the processing, storage and use of personal data.
Introducing new software into the business can be a daunting task and having the right level of support prior and post launch can make all the difference to the overall success of the project.
We agree that software support is invaluable which is why each of our customers has a dedicated account manager who are only ever a call away. However, a larger proportion of software providers rely heavily on ticketing systems.
Remember to include questions around the vendors support processes to get an understanding of what to expect. You may want to include questions such as: "What is the average response time to a query?" and "What is the overall success rate of support enquiries". You may also want to put the vendor to the test by giving them a scenario based question to answer. This could be a previous query you've raised with your current provider giving you an existing benchmark to compare against.
What might be the perfect fit right now may not necessarily be ideal in a years time. As the business expands you need a system that's agile enough to grow with you. Take into consideration future growth or complexities that may occur in your recruitment process to ensure that vendors have flexible solution to your growth however that may look. At this point it's a good idea to ask questions about possible integrations and what the providers product road map looks like over the course of year.
3. Nailing your RFP Structure
Now that you have a long list of potential questions it's time to narrow your list down and put them into context.
We would recommend using a mix of 'yes' and 'no' answer questions in addition to open answered questions to provoke an insightful response.
'Yes' and 'no' answered questions allow you to compare and assess core functionality and features and open answered questions allow for vendors to go into further detail around their products capabilities. The analysis of open ended questions is vital when deciding between vendors who meets your core needs.
Here's an example of how you could categorise your questions:
- Vendor information
- Hiring process and integrations
- User and candidate experience
- Implementation and security
Remember to include a mix of broad questions in addition to questions around your unique needs.
Perfecting your questions
When finalising your questions it's important to avoid the excessive use of particular features.
System functions may vary amongst providers and you may miss out on the opportunity to learn about features you don't know exist. Asking questions around 'how' the platform can do something gives vendors the opportunity to describe and explain their products array of features. Here's a few helpful examples:
- Are you able to integrate with different systems, which ones and how?
- Can ATS users share candidate details with hiring managers?
- How does your ATS ensure GDPR compliance?
- How does your ATS automate candidate communication?
It's also worth considering the inclusion of a unique value proposition. This section providers vendors with the opportunity to include a paragraph on what makes their product uniquely different from the others on the market.
A good RFP should ask for all of the necessary information without becoming too in-depth or complicated. Once you've whittled your list down you can then start to explore product demonstrations and/or free trials.
4. Help vendors to understand your need
It's important to provide vendors with enough background information for them to be able to answer your questions and identify the right solution from their offerings.
Including information such as growth plans, current process, what issues your looking to solve and your implementation timeline. Here's how to introduce yourself and your RFP to a vendor:
- Give a broad overview of why you're sending a request for proposal - For example " I am looking to implement a new ATS that does the following:
- Has integrations with job boards
- Improves candidate management
- Allows us to message particular groups of people in our talent pool
- Your timeline: For example "I'm sending an RFP that expands upon these requirements and we would like to make a decision by Q4 of this year. Can you please complete and send the RFP back to myself for consideration no later than the 1st of September".
- Background information: For Example "We are a national care provider operating across 10 locations with a head office in Manchester where recruitment is dealt with centrally. We have regular ongoing recruitment particularly for low skilled roles such as care workers. We expect to recruit around 500 people this year with a further 700 hires in the following year."
- A sentence or two on your requirements: For example " We want to automate time consuming recruitment admin as much as possible, reduce the amount of time spent on processing applications and have better visualisation of our recruitment data".
- The length of document: For example "Please ensure the answers are as short and comprehensive as possible, please provide links to additional resources where possible".
- Your decision process: Let vendors know where they stand. For example: " We have researched and sent this RFP to several leading ATS providers for consideration. From the responses gathered we will be shortlisted our top three solutions at which stage we would like to invite you in to demonstrate your product. We will be in touch no later than the 6th of September to inform you if we would like to progress you to the next stage.
5. Send your request and make your decision
Now you've crafted the perfect RFP it's time to hit send and wait for those responses to roll in!
Whilst you're waiting for responses think about how you will analyse and compare quantitative answers from each vendor. You may want to use a points system to rank responses and easily present findings.
Now you have a handful of outstanding solutions it's time to engage with the vendor. Simply request product demonstrations at your convenience to achieve a deeper understanding of how the platform and features work enabling you to help you to make a better informed decision.
Looking for a new Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?
When it comes to recruitment software we believe that flexibility and agility are key to sustained hiring success. That's why we've created an agile Applicant Tracking System that allows users to post to the job boards and beyond, enables complete workflow flexibility and produces the smartest recruitment analytics on the market.
Built with an open API our Talent Acquisition Platform has the ability to connect to your existing and future HR tools as your business evolves. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Why not take a look at our ATS solutions here or send us your recruitment software RFP today!