Doug Schade, a recruiter at Winter, Wyman Cos., has plenty of candidates to pick from when he is trying to fill a job. Actually he has too many: thousands for each position in the Waltham staffing firm’s massive database of job applicants.
This pinpoint screening is made possible by software developed by Bullhorn Inc., a Boston firm that pioneered the concept of making candidate and client information accessible online. Nearly every firm in the country uses some form of applicant tracking system, which means the first hurdle job-seekers must negotiate is software like Bullhorn’s, which slices and dices resumes into the key words that hiring managers want — or don’t want to hear.
Founded in 1999 by Art Papas, a Weston native and Tufts graduate, Bullhorn is growing rapidly as job openings increase with the improving economy, particularly for the temporary and contract positions that make up the bulk of staffing firms’ placements. Revenues at Bullhorn have doubled in the past two years, and the company expects revenue to hit $40 million this year. Earlier this summer, the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners in Austin, Texas, acquired Bullhorn for more than $100 million.
Today, some 30,000 recruiters at 2,500 staffing firms around the world use Bullhorn’s applicant screening and tracking system. Winter, Wyman has had the system for almost eight years, using it to sort through tens of thousands of candidates and fill about 2,500 jobs a year.
Steve Kasmouski, president of search divisions at Winter, Wyman, remembers taking notes on 3-by-5 cards and writing follow-up reminders in his day planner. Now, task reminders pop up when he logs in, and skills from applicants’ resumes are automatically transferred into their files.
“You couldn’t do your job today without a system like this because everything moves so quickly, and information is the key for us for building relationships,” Kasmouski said. “I can’t imagine life without it.”
Bullhorn was one of the first companies to offer Internet-based tracking software for recruiters, allowing them to log on to the system from any computer and freeing staffing firms from housing servers on site. Papas, 37, started Bullhorn as an online marketplace where creative types such as designers, artists, and copy writers could find contract work. It didn’t take off, but a friend mentioned that the system operated like an online staffing agency, and he started pitching it to recruiters.
Papas coded the software himself, talking to recruiters as he built the functions they wanted — “almost like being a painter on commission,” he said. It took a few years for businesses to become comfortable housing their data on the Internet, but by 2004, the concept started taking off. Today, about a third of the country’s staffing firms use online tracking systems.
There are two major components to the software, one that tracks candidates and another that tracks job postings. Recruiters use these databases to manage the process from job posting to hire: contacting companies, searching for people with just the right skills, recording notes and correspondence, plugging in follow-up reminders, and tracking employees they’ve placed.
Recruiters can narrow their resume searches by assigning different levels of importance to each key word by designating them as required, desired, or excluded. If an ideal candidate pops up but isn’t interested, recruiters can request comparable applicants and save that search for a similar job down the road.
Knowing that a machine often takes the first pass at a resume should keep job-seekers on their toes, Papas said. If an applicant misspells a word or doesn’t use the exact phrase from a job description, the software may skip right over it. In short, he said: “You don’t exist.”
Candidates should also be aware that all their interactions with recruiters are available at the touch of a button.
Recruiters could say, “You know, I e-mailed this guy five times in the last six months, and he never responded to me,” Papas said. “If you’re rude to them, they’ll remember that. They definitely put a special sticky note in Bullhorn on that.”
Its applicant tracking software, which costs staffing firms about $150 a month per user, also allows Bullhorn to compile data from all its clients, identifying industrywide statistics that companies can use to run their businesses more efficiently. Bullhorn has calculated, for instance, that a recruiter has to recommend about 75 applicants to place a single professional hire.
“You can really run these businesses by the numbers,” said Bullhorn vice president Andrew Hally. “If you hit those ratios, you will make money.”
At FootBridge Energy Services, an engineering and technology staffing firm in Andover, managing partner Todd Springer said the firm uses Bullhorn data to help track what types of jobs his firm is most successful in filling and which Internet job boards have the most qualified candidates.
Bullhorn’s system also makes it easier for recruiters to match candidates to multiple openings, Springer said: “It’s a tremendous benefit to the applicants.”
But Josh Bersin, chief executive of Bersin & Associates, a human resources research and consulting firm in Oakland, Calif., isn’t so sure. He said the applicant tracking software can be clunky for job-seekers trying to fill out online forms and sometimes knocks out qualified applicants.
“It’s really software that’s been designed to make a recruiter’s job better,” he said, “but not a candidate’s.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect name of the programming language jQuery.