When I was growing up, I remember my grandmother having a particular eccentricity that we always teased her about.  She had a room that we referred to as the “Toilet Paper Room” because that’s where she stored toilet paper.  (Yes, a whole room.)  She also had a massive stash of paper grocery bags.  There were things like this that seemed silly to me to stockpile because they were so readily available.  To her, she had a fear of someday running out.  I think many of us have seen this with parents and grandparents who might have grown up around the time of the Great Depression, who for the rest of their lives had a subtle fear of someday not having what they needed.

It’s easy to laugh at this behavior when it comes to hoarding paper bags, but how many of us display the same kind of eccentricities in other areas?  I am thinking specifically of data hoarding, particularly when it comes to candidate data.  I talk with so many customers who are terrified of losing the candidate data that they have carefully gathered and preserved when they migrate to a new applicant tracking system.  Certainly, you don’t want to lose a pool of valuable candidates or have to reconstruct ongoing activities, but how much of your candidate data is really valuable?

Before you plan a massive data migration as part of your recruiting implementation, here are a few things to consider:

1. Is the data valuable?

Is the information in your legacy system what you need today?  For example, if you report on recruiting metrics by division, but your legacy requisitions don’t track divisions, will the data be useful?  If you are concerned about reporting, would it be better to extract the information to a database or source report and use it that way, instead of cluttering up your new system with legacy data?  You may still need the information for reporting, compliance, and audit purposes, but that doesn’t mean you have to import it to your new solution.

2. How much of the data is valuable?

You may determine that the information in your legacy system is still useful to you, but you should carefully evaluate how much data you want to import to your new system.  Candidates who applied for jobs six months ago might be worth importing if you are planning on running compliance reports from the new system.  If you are just trying to build your candidate pool, the good candidates probably aren’t on the job market anymore.

 3. Will you use it?

How often do you mine your candidate database, actively source viable candidates, and have it lead to a quality hire?  Very often I see customers migrate candidate data because they are afraid of not having it, but in reality, they only consider candidates who apply to specific positions anyway.

4. What’s the downside?

Data migration tends to be the most high-risk piece of a recruiting implementation because it is unpredictable.  The system has likely been configured specifically to your organization’s needs, which means the data has to be loaded to your custom requirements.  There is no template or guide that can tell you in advance exactly how long it will take or what will be needed.  Plan on doing lots of manual clean-up to make your old data fit into your new system.  This can be as mundane as reformatting fields, but it can be very time-consuming.

5. Are there risks?

Before you make the decision to migrate your legacy data, consider the risks.  For example, if you are subject to data privacy rules, you may be required to purge candidate data after a certain time period.  Will the new system accommodate this?  Will the candidate data be time-stamped with an original application date, and will the data be purged on the original schedule?  When your candidates submitted their applications, did your consent statement specify the system that would house their information?  You may not actually have the right to move candidate data to a new system, and if you do, you need to make sure that you can maintain the same standards that the candidate agreed to.

6. Is there a better way?

My opinion has always been that candidate data is stale about 3 minutes after the candidate submits an application.  Good candidates will get hired quickly, so there isn’t much value in migrating their applications from several months ago.  Not-so-good candidates might still be on the market, but they’re, well, not so good.  I think a better approach is to reach out to a pool of recent applicants via your legacy system, let them know that you are installing a new solution, and invite them to re-apply.  This is a terrific marketing opportunity for you to highlight any new job prospects, and it lets you know which candidates are still interested.

7. Is it worth it?

Besides the time and effort involved, data migration tends to be expensive.  Make sure the data is valuable to you and will be used.  If you decide to go forward with a data migration project, make sure you carefully scope the work.  Don’t pay to migrate two years of candidate data if you really will only use information from the last six months.

One of the things I missed most when I transitioned from my paper day planner to an online calendar and a smartphone was that day in late December when I put together my calendar for the new year.  It was so clean and tidy!  I added all of the birthdays and anniversaries and events, but there were no scribbled meetings or crossed-out deadlines.  This is your opportunity!  Don’t miss out on your chance for a fresh start because you are afraid of letting go of the past.

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