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Greenhouse is reasonably sure that it knows something about the right way to recruit, right down to how they set their software defaults to match their vision.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a vendor talk about how it decides what to set as defaults. This became the topic of my conversations with Greenhouse’s management during their analyst day.

Greenhouse is reasonably sure that it knows something about the ‘right way to recruit.’ Their view, which features detailed planning, tight feedback loops and an emphasis on effectiveness sounds like a dreamy vision of the ultimate recruiting tool. At least for me and other people who believe that meticulous planning is absolutely necessary for success.

I can tell you, though, that not everyone sees it that way.

One of the great parts of my job is that I get to watch companies grow and develop. I get to see them early on and then I usually get to hear an update pretty regularly. It’s hard to describe how much the successful operations learn about their niche.

These days, I can only see niche players. Even in the huge enterprise segment, no one has a dominant market share. The marketplace is full of little players who have found little niches. There are some whose markets are much larger than others.

There doesn’t really seem to be one right way of doing any of the HR functions.

Some companies have to start with the idea that they can solve all of the problems by coming up with the one true method. You see this in analytics, assessment, recruiting, learning, on-boarding, performance management, talent acquisition, payroll, scheduling, workforce management, HRIS and the other 30 HR silos. It is as if they can’t see the market they think they are serving.

Successful companies get over this phase. It’s part of what happens as they mature. The good part about the phase is that early focus provides enduring differentiation. People remember the thing you told them was most important for a long time.

The downside is that a focus on the rightness of a process is a market limiter. Only a certain group want to follow a specific recipe for success. They are not the people who want a top quality solution perfectly tailored to their circumstances. They are never artisans.

The group who want to install a perfect tool that solves all problems are really aiming for a minimum acceptable level of quality. If you need extraordinary performance, you have to accept quirkiness. If you want a repeatable, verifiable, highly effective solution, you need perfectly repeatable processes. That always produces sameness.

From my perspective, Greenhouse continues to evolve in an extremely positive direction. What interests me most is that the executive team seems to be really deep in a conversation about what matters in recruiting. They are in one of the phases of development where the learning curve is steep and the insights constant.

If you’ve come this far, Greenhouse sets its defaults to what it believes is the best way of recruiting. The pre-configured state of the tool is biased towards their view of the most effective competitive practices. Unless their implementation process actually steps clients through every possible decision, that is the way it will be.

I’ve been watching the market for a long time. I’ve never heard a company say that they do this. (I’m sure most do, for a variety of reasons.) I’ve never heard it articulated as a part of a strategy conversation with a group of analysts.

That’s the second thing. This level of transparency and openness to debate is pretty unusual. Greenhouse will have a couple of thousand customers this year. Many companies move to tightly scripted conversations with the market by then.

They are really trying to find the best way to recruit. I’m not yet sure that that’s a very large niche. In non-enterprise markets, iconic software is built to deliver the ‘best’ experience. The market leaders in the enterprise space traditionally have been agnostic about preferred workflows and outcomes.

At its core Greenhouse is a brain trust of people who believe that by making things visible and trackable, it’s possible to deeply improve recruiting. They proved to me that they are deep students of the topic and are building a tool that has large scale potential. They are starting to make some interesting waves.


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HR Tech Weekly: Episode #71: Stacey Harris and John Sumser

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