This post is for anyone who wants to understand what it takes to be counted among the best HR tech on the market.
Whether you are actively looking for your company’s next software solution or simply want to learn the best way to approach the task, this article is for you. If you are an HR vendor and want to know what it takes to be featured on this site, read on!
There are thousands of software vendors in the HR/Recruiting ecosystem, and it's our mission to find the best for you. Every company we recommend is extraordinary, but we don’t want you to just take our word for it. We want to show you how it’s done!
Keep reading, and we’ll teach you (almost) everything we know about how to buy HR tech.
Our Criteria: Who Makes the Cut
We take research seriously. We consult with HR professionals, vendors, and industry experts. We cut through the noise to bring you a carefully-curated list of vendors and other essential information to help you find the right software platform for your business.
Here’s how we chose who makes the cut:
Product: We believe in understanding a software tool comprehensively— and how it compares to similar ones— before recommending it. We start by getting to know the product. We meet with a senior executive (CEO or Head of Product) whenever possible for a demo and Q&A. We also test the product ourselves to ensure it has a solid UI, intuitive workflows, and the features to make it a best-in-class offering.
User feedback: We go straight to the source and compile feedback on user experience. Real-world input supports our commitment to diligence in our software evaluation methods and the products we recommend. Keeping up with the everyday experience of HR pros also puts new vendors on our radar and keeps us close to our community so we can better connect the right products to the right people.
Financial metrics: We are certified finance nerds, so we use all the data we can get our hands on to make vendor selections for our guides. We evaluate the bottom line of each product because we know making a software purchase can put your reputation on the line. We comb through data for concrete statistics like retention rates, growth, profitability, and scalability.
Best for a use case: Software is never a one-size-fits-all product. We include solutions across the spectrum so our readers can find the best fit. Sometimes the best solution is free or cheap; in others, it’s top-of-the-line.
Steps From Top of Funnel to Featured Product
Yes, or a Hard Pass?
Though few of the vendors we research make it to our site, our discovery process begins with genuine curiosity. At the “top of the funnel” are the companies we find in our online research, hear about by word of mouth, and or those recommended by a trusted source. A significant portion of this collection is companies that reach out to us,
Our initial screening process involves a minimum viability question: "Is this solution worth our time to research, or are there obvious reasons not to feature them?"
Those shopping for software can ask themselves the same question of minimum viability. Can you afford this platform? Does it do what you need? Will it work with your existing technology?
Select by Scale
A company’s scale can be determined by assessing a handful of easy-to-find stats, including the number of customers, revenue, web traffic, and the number of employees. It’s an important component of our selection criteria, and we recommend the same for potential buyers. You don’t need to be an expert software evaluator to assess scale – this information is easy to find! All it takes is basic internet research and (at most) an email or two.
This factor is so significant to our selection criteria that most of the vendors eliminated in the “obvious reasons” step above are excluded for reasons of scale. We “hard pass” on companies that don’t address the needs of most of our readers because we want our best-of lists packed with solutions that are within reach of our audience. But this isn’t the only good fit we are considering.
We consider scale because it’s a reliable proxy for product/market fit, which strongly indicates a company's potential for success. Think of it like this: if you have a good product, people will buy it. That’s a great start! But you must scale proportionally to provide what’s necessary to support the needs of your customers and the continued development of your product.
Below is a visual example of a scale problem. The company represented by this diminishing graph shows substantial attrition over time. To our eyes, this is a clear sign they have scale issues and are not a company we’d choose to work with.
Research the Retention
Customer loyalty usually indicates a quality product. These stats can be hard to find, but it’s well worth the effort. Whenever possible, we also compare retention statistics between competing companies and determine why people are staying or leaving if possible.
Take note that retention is usually a sign of satisfaction, but sometimes there are other, less wholesome reasons for customers to stay put. Binding contracts and proprietary technology can also lead to longevity that only looks like loyalty.
Apply the Rule of 40
The financial stability of a company usually indicates a well-supported, quality product that is easy to sell. To quickly assess a vendor, we use the Rule of 40.
This guideline is used to estimate the financial health of a company. The sum of its annual revenue growth rate and profitability margin should be greater than 40%. Another way to look at it:
Growth + net margin should be > 40%
With the Rule of 40, the high net margin (40%) is critical. Even if a company experienced significant growth (200%, for example) but lost a significant portion (say 60%), the net margin is still above 40%. Conversely, a company with modest growth can pass the rule if its net margin is high.
Say NO to Bad UI:
We reject tools with bad UX/UI for two reasons. The first and most obvious are problems with the ease of use. A “good” user interface that provides clear and intuitive visual cues, efficient and logical navigation, and swiftly-rendered responsiveness correlates with a well-built product and vice versa. We basically live in our software, and bad UI is analogous to a poorly designed house full of light switches in impractical places and door knobs that turn the wrong way. It is a frequently cited reason for the abandonment and adoption of software.
The second reason is what can be inferred about the internal works of a software platform surrounded by lousy UI. You’d be right to doubt the logical and practical abilities of the house designer mentioned above, and the same goes for architects, designers, and product decision-makers of software with bad UI.
Another logical inference is to presume that an outdated UI represents its creators' inability to move along with the times. When you consider what that might mean for other aspects of their product and operations, it should also become clear why we avoid these tools.
User interface design issues are similar to the issues with scale mentioned above. Both are red flags and indicate systemic problems. We recommend that buyers stay clear of both!
Doing the Demo:
Note the location of this step near the bottom of the list. This is no accident: it indicates the amount of work needed before you schedule the demo because this is arguably the most important part of the selection process.
When a vendor demos a product for us, we come prepared with heaps of hard questions. We recommend you do the same. Learn the product’s standard options and the extra bells and whistles. Learn about innovations in the field and ask about their product roadmap. You should also have a crystal clear idea of your company's needs and how much you’re willing to spend.
It’s wise to be aware of any edge the competition’s product may have over the vendor. If you frame this edge as a concession you might be willing to make, it can make for good leverage in a negotiation.
Remember that it’s not uncommon for a salesperson to pitch a potential customer with glossed-over sticking points and handfuls of half-truths. The only way to prepare for this… is to prepare for this! Our Buyer Guides offer great product-specific questions for demos (along with other useful information.) Check out the library of software types we’ve covered.
Get Recommendations (With a Grain of Salt)
Why did we list recommendations last? Because we are independent thinkers. Opinions or outside interests, commercial or otherwise, won’t sway us. We pride ourselves on our editorial process, and, by and large, recommendations do not meet our standard of proof.
We must maintain healthy skepticism to preserve our objectivity, and the same is true for potential buyers. To make a good, clear-headed decision about your next HR tech purchase, you must be aware that bad information makes itself abundantly available, often by obscuring access to good information.
Does this level of skepticism stop us from considering the advice of a trusted source? Not at all!
The professional network represented by our staff is formidable. We are positioned to have an expert council available to us at a moment’s notice, whether we’re looking for a hot take on a new product or a long talk about the state of the industry. We offer our readers insight directly from this network: conclusions drawn from experience, integrity supported by expertise, and certainty by authority. Our goal is to provide our readers with the best information available.
Trust is central to this business.
Ultimately, we are HR people, which means we’re here to help. So we’ll maintain our stance on the sunnier side of the divide between skepticism and cynicism, and we hope to see you there!
Notes for Vendors
Here are a few odds and ends for vendors hoping to be featured on our site. Read on to boost your chances and potentially save a ton of (everyone’s) time!
Above all else, we are committed to our mission, readers, and the HR community.
These are non-negotiable elements of our company culture and expressions of our integrity.
We Have Biases We’re Aware Of (And the Awareness That There Are Others We Are Not)
We favor growth-stage companies based in the U.S.
While we do not exclude international, early-stage, mature, or even enterprise-scale companies, we strive to focus our attention on the products that will best serve our readers, who are primarily growth-state companies based in the U.S. We also favor vendors with management teams that speak the same business language as our readers. We want to hear about ROI, analytics, and automation because our readers do.
That being said, we don’t minimize the significance of our readers in India and the U.K. or our awareness of the non-English speaking world. We take pride in our international perspective.
In fact, our team is global in every sense of the word. The geographic range of our employees spans every continent except Oceania and Antarctica. This is eflected in how we view the past, present, and future of this industry.
We Like Teams Like Ours
We’re a small company with a clear mission: reduce the noise, amplify the signal, find the best, share the facts, and repeat.
We are biased toward companies with a similar clarity of purpose. Because we are HR tech experts, we love working with teams and products that make us think, “Yes! This is exactly how I would have built this!”
We avoid companies that serve a niche based on geography, industry, or product. Some companies are great at providing employee feedback surveys after 360-degree reviews for restaurants in Germany, and we’d love to work with them! But we simply can’t… yet.
Instead, our content is designed for the majority of our audience, most of whom are people looking for things like a list of the best ATSs, or trying to figure out whether recruiting chatbots should be a focus.
Help Us Keep Our Minds Open!
Some of our biases lead to better outcomes, and some probably don't. And there are definitely more we aren't even aware of, so please help us in our commitment to growth.
Tips For a Demo with Select Software Reviews
We strongly prefer highly organized companies and are very protective of our time.
- Be ridiculously well prepared. You’ll be paired with a staff writer – an HR tech expert that knows a LOT about the market, so bring your A-game, and stay on schedule.
- Let’s go fast! We can do demos much faster than average because we know these products inside and out.
- Just the facts, please. If you make a claim, we’ll ask for proof. Remember: we’re experts in this space, not consumers. Talk to us about ROI in a way that a CFO would appreciate.
We may be curt and will probably ask unconventional (and possibly uncomfortable) questions during the demo. Our apologies in advance! We are committed to kindness but very protective of our time and highly loyal to our readers.
If you want to advertise, that's great, but let's talk about it after we decide whether or not to feature you. We truly do not want to be biased here, and no amount of money will sway our objectivity.
If you want to be featured, please start the vendor assessment process here.
Remember, above all else, we are committed to our mission, readers, and the HR community.
A Final Tip for HR Folks
If you're an HR pro reading this, our advice is to read more! Check out this article offering expert advice on buying HR tech or this article about getting employee buy-in for new software. We also offer a free course on calculating ROI. The HR tech learning curve is steep and long, so get started right away!