There is a lot of talk today about the “consumerization of HR software”. Sometimes Newton’s applicant tracking software gets mentioned in such discussions. When we started building recruiting technology, our goal was not to consumerize applicant tracking software. (As a matter of fact, I don’t think the term “consumerization” even existed when we started building Newton). But, the principles were all there and we became (and still are) obsessed with making Newton as different from run-of-the-mill enterprise software as possible. We knew that if we made the experience of choosing and using Newton more like using your favorite websites, and less like applying for a loan, we’d be creating change in the industry and more importantly, we’d be creating value.
People were ready for straightforward HR technology that does the things they need it to do without the typical rigmarole. Check-the-box feature matrixes don’t matter if the features aren’t thoughtful. The buying experience has to be informative and the activation process should follow suit and be straightforward and efficient. Once the platform is up and running, support should be fast and free.
It’s not enough just to write about what ought to happen; you must structure your entire company to design and deliver a consumer-centric HR technology experience.
From day one, Newton’s core values have always been same: build a product that we’d want to use and sell it how we’d want to buy it. Three years after starting Newton Software, our formula is the same and has proven to be a huge competitive advantage. While larger companies with more money and revenue pretend to offer simplicity, it’s evident they not structurally positioned to do so. Most small companies in the Applicant Tracking space aspire to be the big companies and follow the same path. Not us. We march to our own drummer and it’s working. We’ve managed to grow by at least 600% in the past two years and are on pace to do so again this year. Our customers like using our product and enjoy working with our teams. Best of all, the formula we use is simple. Here’s how it works.
Usability is king
Usability is, and always will be, the killer feature. The era of IT or even HR buying technology and mandating its use is over. Today, users expect easy-to-use websites that require little to no training to serve as productivity tools. If this comes at the expense of limiting customization or “me too” features and functionality, so be it. Usability is king. If people don’t use the software, nothing else matters.
Little barrier to acquisition
Hiring great people is hard but a good recruiting process is not rocket science.. That said, applicant tracking software, as with most HR tech products, is too important to merely buy over the internet with a credit card without speaking with someone that knows recruiting. On the other side of the coin, an ATS doesn’t need to be so complicated that it takes a sales person, a sales engineer and 18 hours of discovery calls to evaluate a platform. Valuable HR products are still sold by humans. The process can take a little as an hour with an honest sales person and an at least somewhat informed buyer. We’ve always looked at it this way: if recruiting software requires a sales engineer to present the platform – it’s too complicated.
Simple to get started
The length of an activation cycle directly correlates to the complexity of the product. If a product is easy-to-use and easy to acquire, it will naturally be easy to activate and onboard. Configuring a recruiting product should take days not weeks and should require little if any support from IT. Training users should take minutes not days. With today’s software delivery models, there is no excuse for a protracted or failed activation.
Provide free support
We asked ourselves, “If we bought a product, would paying for support make us happy?”
Everyone hates paying for support, but most companies still sell it, and some people still pay for it. Now this doesn’t make any sense to the old guard enterprise software people but we believe that support should always be free. We’re not talking about 8 or 10 hours per year of free support, we’re talking about providing customers with free support for as long as they use our product. If you build intuitive, easy-to-use recruiting software providing free support is only logical.
Constantly enhance the product
Like your favorite consumer tech products, we’re constantly releasing new versions of Newton. Our customers receive these upgrades for free. On average, we’re releasing new functionality and enhancements every 8 weeks. This year alone, we’ve already made 6 major enhancements to Newton (approval processes, document viewer, enhanced reporting, integrated background checks, a Facebook application, Newton Touch). Customers expect enhancements. We give them more product, more innovation, more advancement and we do so by listening to them and accepting feedback and suggestions. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Innovation is not a one-off fix, a custom report or a tweak. It’s a constant force that plays into the success of a product.
We’re not members of the “in” crowd.
Today, Newton has over 15,000 users. This year the business will grow another 600+%. We didn’t listen to the venture capitalists that told us to give our product away for free and we don’t follow the enterprise software model that predicates that you charge your customers at every turn. We listen to our users, the consumers, the people that need to use our technology to do their jobs with as little friction as possible. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re just building simple, smart, safe applicant tracking software. Along the way, we’re using common sense and some of the same ideas that made the most admired consumer technology companies successful.