Last week I had the pleasure of spending some time with SmartRecruiters in their San Francisco Headquarters. I was there for their most recent Smartup, a series of monthly panel discussions on HR and Recruiting Innovation. I got much more than I bargained for.

Before the panel started I was given an impromptu briefing by SmartRecruiters Founder and CEO, Jerome Ternyck. Like most briefings, I was brought up to speed on their growth and progress as a company since last we met. I also received the standard glimpse to some new Third Party Agency Management capabilities being announced today.

SmartRecruiters’ progress, and these new capabilities, are anything but standard.

I’ve been following SmartRecruiters since 2010. They launched as a free ATS, and did a great job releasing an initially functional product and marketing it well. Leaping into the market with thousands of users and a great deal of buzz, they caught my attention. With Jerome’s background and understanding of Talent Management and HR Technology, it was clear that the product would continue to improve. What was less clear, at the time, was whether there was a sustainable and scalable business that would deliver on more than just the promise of being free. Based on what I see now, the answer is clearly a resounding “Yes”.

SmartRecruiters remains free to their customers. Since launching in 2010 they have amassed more than 35,000 of them. Here’s an interesting data point – SmartRecruiters is doing a LOT of migrations of their customers’ data from other ATSes. Customers that were paying for systems before are now moving to the SmartRecruiters free platform. We’re not just talking about the SMB, either. Firms with more than 10,000 employees have left Enterprise-level implementations of their ATSes and Talent Management Systems and moved to this free platform, leaving behind the customizations and depth that comes along with an Enterprise solution.

Why?

In my opinion, there are two primary reasons:

1. SmartRecruiters free pricing model has allowed their customers to shift a significant spend on license fees into other services (Background Checks, Skills and Competency Assessments, Job Posting/Advertising, etc.). Today’s announcement of a marketplace to manage and control Third Party Agency Spend is just another example of SmartRecruiters execution on that strategy. But, its not just about diverting dollars to services that help you hire better – ITS ABOUT CONTROL. COST CONTROL and QUALITY CONTROL. It’s not about control of process just for process’ sake. SmartRecruiters is committed to a simple-to-use interface that is driven by user and candidate experience. CUSTOMER experience.

They have refused to implement the kind of process-driven workflow hierarchy that renders other systems cumbersome and unusable. This allows SmartRecruiters’ customers to achieve something most Talent Management system customers could never think of: Engaging the Line Managers to use the system – and they actually use it. With everyone using the system, and all of the hiring spend, including Agency fees, being managed via the system the visibility and real-time measurement of effectiveness of any source, any campaign, and any spend is at a level not normally achieved by those paying for their systems.

2. There is a movement afoot in the world of Enterprise Software that is taking interface design to its simplest level. Trading off the kind of process for process’ sake workflow referenced above for usability and portability. Its early, and its hard to tell whether its a trend or becoming our new reality, but one thing is certain – the world is moving to a more customer-driven, and in our world also candidate-driven, design model. I wrote about it here. SmartRecruiters is one of the first ATSes I’ve seen that incorporates this approach.

So, what about this new Agency Management Release?

SmartRecruiters customer can now:

  • View terms for all recruiters, and negotiate and contract directly online
    with the benefit of the marketplace transparency.
  • submit a job to the marketplace and let recruiters bid for that business
  • manage all their 3rd party recruiters from one platform
  • invite their preferred suppliers or discover new ones that have been vetted by their peers
  • see the best performing recruiters ranked based on areas of expertise, key
    success metrics, such as CV to interview rate, average time to source, and hiring
    percentage, as well as, customer reviews.

These features are a huge win for SmartRecruiters’ customers. Third party recruiters are often viewed as “only as good as their last placement”. A significant amount of time and energy goes into discovering the current “best” recruiters, and then establishing working contract terms with them. SmartRecruiters has addressed these issues, and created a marketplace with transparency to performance and cost. The best recruiters will just get better in this environment, and SmartRecruiters customers in need of third-party agency help are closer to passive, harder to find, quality talent with just a few clicks.

If I were managing Talent Acquisition, or Recruiting for ANY size firm I would be taking a close look at the SmartRecruiters platform.

If I were a legacy Talent Management or ATS vendor, I’d be taking SmartRecruiters very seriously as a current and future competitor.

Disclosure: THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST