We are in the midst of switching over to a new association management system (AMS) to manage our business. It’s been 10+ years since we were last down this path. Things have changed. Not only have our business, and our business needs, changed: the AMS world has changed significantly as well. I know the same is true in the ATS world. If you are considering an upgrade to your existing recruitment database, here are some basic “data” things to think about. These are all items that have changed for us and need to be done differently moving forward.
- Address – If your existing recruitment database does not contain three lines for street address, look for a product that offers this either as a native feature or by configuration. International addresses (outside the US) often use three lines. Our current solution only allows for two lines. Worse, there is a character max in each field. This means forcing three lines of text into two, which sometimes get truncated.
- Phone Number – Make sure your phone number field includes the area code. You do not want it in a separate field, because if you ever have to change to a new provider, it’s no fun to merge those fields together. Especially if *sometimes* the area code field actually gets populated with the country code.
- Country Code – Do yourself a favor and ensure that you have a field to capture the person’s country code. This is VITAL if you are working internationally, or you will be forever looking up country codes. An international phone picker is a great option if you can find one that works with your system: the user selects their country BEFORE entering their phone number, and the country code is automatically selected. This is a good example.
- Time Zone – If you can capture the user’s time zone, it makes it so much easier to schedule calls and interviews. Use a time zone picker that calculates daylight saving if possible.
- Lists, Dropdowns and Field Values – The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” remains as true as ever for databases. They are only as good as the data you put in. If you cannot easily find and/or extract the data, you’ve wasted your money. Reducing options is a good way to make your database more searchable. Try to use dropdown lists that populate, or a defined list of values for the field. What you don’t want is many different ways to populate a single field. Think about how you can validate the data that is entered to ensure it’s correct. For example, don’t allow text to be entered into a number field. If “other” is an option in a list, make sure to add another field to explain “other.” Spend as much time as you need figuring this out in advance because it will be more expensive to fix it than it will be to build it correctly the first time. We spent hours reviewing fields and still have a couple of tweaks we’ll have to make post-launch.
- Mobile Phone / Carrier – If you’re collecting mobile phone numbers, make sure you also ask who the carrier is. Many bulk text platforms are carrier-dependent, so you don’t want to pick a provider that doesn’t work with a significant chunk of your database.
- Disconnected Forms – If you are collecting data via forms, make sure those forms are integrated into your ATS and are auto-populating your database. We thought we did a great job converting all of our paper forms to electronic versions years ago … but the electronic documents are still not attached to our main database, so form data either has to be re-entered somewhere or ignored. If possible, tie your forms to actions and automations. You don’t just want someone on your team to get an email that a form has been submitted. The form data needs to populate a record in the database AND ALSO trigger some other actions. At minimum, an email auto-response should be generated. This is another place to really think about your workflows and how they can be streamlined and improved.
- Data Consent (GDPR) – A couple of years ago we all went crazy trying to figure out how to become GDPR-compliant. Even if you are not working with clients or candidates in the UK, you’d be smart to adopt similar levels of privacy protections. Canada and Australia both have strict privacy laws. I expect to see that expand around the world as spam complaints continue to increase. Every recruitment database should have some privacy protections to allow candidates to easily “opt out” of automations or other unwanted attention.
As your recruitment database project goes, you will have plenty of unique (and possibly complex) needs to sort out. Don’t forget the basics. They can be easily overlooked, and it’s likely your current structure needs some updating.