Buying Strategies

5 Secret Ways to Vet HR Vendors

February 15, 2021
Brett Ungashick

Sharing a few tips and tricks we've learned as we've spent an entire year getting to know the HR software landscape

Any time an HR team is kicking off a search for a new solution - whether that’s something big like an HRIS, or something ancillary like a new wellness program - one of the biggest challenges is narrowing the field.

In the past decade, there’s been an explosion of new HR services and hundreds of companies have sprung up to offer those services.

The challenge is no longer finding someone who can fill your needs - it’s identifying the best two or three options from the immense pool of choices.

At OutSail, identifying the highest quality vendors in each space is something that we’re constantly doing for our HR partners. In doing so, we’ve learned a lot of research strategies that save us from meeting with vendors that aren’t worth the time. Below are a few of those strategies:

Start with G2 Crowd’s Categories

G2 Crowd is essentially Yelp for business software and services. If you’re in the market for a new solution, you can search the category -  “Benefits Admin”, “Time Management”, “Corporate Wellness” - and refine the rankings based on your company size.

I always recommend taking G2 Crowd’s rankings with a grain of salt. Just because one service is ranked 1st, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best option for you. That being said, their rankings are generally accurate and can help you weed out low quality vendors from the start.

Now that you’ve identified the top 5 or 10 choices, it’s time to move onto the next step:

Get some more color by visiting LinkedIn

I actually recommend visiting a LinkedIn company page, before visiting a company’s website. Every company’s website is designed to get you to fill out their demo request form. Because of this, the information is kept intentionally vague. However, I’ve found that visiting a company’s LinkedIn page will get you more straightforward information.

Pay special attention to a few things on a company’s LinkedIn page. The first is the employee size. If a company is extremely large, you’ll want to make a note to ask about their customer support standards. If a company is extremely small, you’ll want to dig in on their functionality and integrations. Additionally, the growth trajectory can be an important indicator of how much success the company is having. If it’s up and to the right, they might be doing something right!

At this point, you should be able to weed a few options out. But don’t be afraid to add a few new ones by using the LinkedIn “People Also Viewed” panel on the right side.

Cross check startups in Crunchbase

Going with a startup can seem like a risky choice, but oftentimes the rewards can be tremendous. Startups come about because their founders have identified new ways to solve problems that the older, established vendors have ignored. Additionally, many startups will go above and beyond to support their early clients, including rolling out new features based on your feedback.

To avoid the downside of going with the wrong startup (one without funding or direction), it’s really helpful to visit Crunchbase and make sure the company you’re looking at has received funding at regular intervals (every two years or so) in increasing amounts. This means that investors believe in this product, and it’s probably safe for you too do so, as well.

Use a vendor you trust to help you vet

Who is more plugged into the quality of software vendors than software vendors, themselves? One way to identify top vendors is by visiting the website of a vendor that you trust and seeing who they’ve formed partnerships with.

For example, we can all agree that Greenhouse is a top-notch ATS. So if you want to see what other vendors, Greenhouse thinks are top-notch, go to their partnership page and browse around. Do this with a couple vendors you trust and, all of a sudden, you’ll see the same options rising to the top.

Take the blink test

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a famous book, called Blink, that showed how powerful our subconscious brain is at distinguishing the wheat from the chaff. We all spend hours a day online, and without noticing it, our brains have all gotten very good at identifying junk websites from quality ones.

Go to the websites of some vendors that you’re considering and see if they pass the blink test. In the blink of an eye, do you feel you more excited about learning about their product, or less excited? Does it seem like this company cares about their appearance? About attracting new clients? If not, maybe you should trust your gut and keep moving on.

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Brett Ungashick
Brett is the founder of OutSail. He spent the early part of his career selling HR software before switching sides and going to work for the people buying the software.

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