How Google and Microsoft are positioning themselves in the recruiting space

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Tech behemoths Google and Microsoft unveiled offerings late last month intended to grow their footprints in the $200 billion market for job recruiting and hiring software — as well as the human resource information systems arena in general. But the vendors’ new products take different approaches and reflect different strategies for HRIS.

Microsoft’s announcement was the latest outgrowth of its $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, which closed at the end of last year, and is part of a much larger HRIS initiative aimed at the enterprise.

Google’s rollout of its new Hire app, on the other hand, was more narrowly focused on the job recruitment market, targeting small and mid-sized businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees.

“Both companies are seeking to augment and become the epicenter of the job hunting and HRIS market,” says Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of consulting firm Leader Networks and a Columbia University faculty member. “This will really set the pace for the future.”

While Microsoft and Google are not the only leading tech companies with ambitions to become major players in the human resources technology market (SAP and Oracle, for example, already have significant presences in HRIS), the timing of the two announcements set up a potential clash between the two Brobdingnagians.

See also: 10 HR tech companies to watch

What they’re offering

Microsoft’s announcement of LinkedIn for Windows 10 is a first step toward more tightly integrating LinkedIn’s professional network with Microsoft’s signature operating system. An add-on that is available as part of the OS, the desktop app features real-time message alerts, including updates from LinkedIn connections, industry news and details about who has been viewing the user’s LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn’s network comprises more than 500 million users in some 200 countries and provides access to more than 10 million active job listings, in addition to numerous business-related articles and posts.

Microsoft plans to integrate LinkedIn into its Office family of products, such as Word, Outlook and Access, and to use data gleaned from LinkedIn’s user profiles to customize and enrich the office worker’s experience. (For more on this see How Microsoft’s LinkedIn acquisition will change the way organizations work.) LinkedIn data is seen as a potential gold mine for recruiters and HR administrators seeking to fine tune and better manage their workforce.

From a functional standpoint, Google’s rollout of Hire is less far-reaching. Intended to help small and mid-size businesses keep track of and manage their job candidates, the app will work only with Google’s G Suite of enterprise applications, including Calendar and Gmail.

Hire will complement Google for Jobs, the search engine feature for people seeking new positions that Google rolled out in May. Ironically, that effort to personalize its offerings and add value for its legions of search engine users was undertaken in partnership with Facebook and — you guessed it —LinkedIn.

Google has not disclosed how much the Hire app will cost, but says the price will be based on how many workers a company employs. It is currently available.

How the competitors stack up

LinkedIn, DiMauro points out, currently has the biggest share of the corporate recruiting market. But given the tight job market and the potential size of the opportunity for tech companies, she says that LinkedIn’s customer base “is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Microsoft and LinkedIn are building a sort of data warehouse on organizations and skill sets,” DiMauro says. Large Fortune 50 companies, she explains, are using LinkedIn data and analytics to identify potential skill gaps in their workforce and which universities are best positioned to provide job candidates with those skills.

“That approach is very different than Google’s,” DiMauro continues, “which is more focused on collecting consumer data and using it to create very robust, 360-degree views of potential job candidates.” By keeping Hire so simple, she says, “Google appears to be targeting the younger generation, which doesn’t have the patience for the complexity of a LinkedIn.”

But, Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, a technology consulting and research firm, says “Google is late to the party” and that for Microsoft’s more than 1.2 billion Office users, “Hire’s tie-in to G Suite isn’t very interesting. Google will have difficulties making its environment the center of the user’s life.”

Google, however, seems aware of these limitations and is attempting to compensate with a more targeted offering. Unlike LinkedIn for Windows, which is the first phase of Microsoft’s grand design to redefine how professionals work, Hire wasn’t developed with the enterprise in mind. Instead, its sole aim is to help SMBs manage their hiring process, according to Dmitri Krakovsky, Google’s vice president of enterprise apps and platform.

Hurwitz, meanwhile, notes that compared to Microsoft’s more methodical process, Google’s approach to developing software has been helter-skelter. “They experiment to see if something sticks,” she says, “and if it doesn’t, all of a sudden it will disappear.” To really make a dent in the HRIS market, “they’re going to have to be a lot more strategic about their software development process.”

Nevertheless, the entrants of these two technology innovators should quicken the pace of recruitment software innovation and lead to more and better options for employers looking to attract talent in today’s top job market.

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