Ready to see what Career Fair Plus can do for your events?


Career Services Technology: Advancing from Customer Relationship Management to Employer Relationship Management

By Career Fair Plus

Jump to:



Several factors are converging to create a unique opportunity for career service leaders to champion employer relations and student engagement in career planning:

  1. Rapid technological advancements are opening new job markets and requiring skills that didn’t exist a few years ago.
  2. Remote work requires students to prepare for flexible career paths.
  3. Growing emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) empowers career services to promote underrepresented students equally.
  4. Parents, guardians, and students, increasingly more conscious of earning back skyrocketing tuition and unmanageable student debt, expect career services to essentially ensure jobs after graduation.
  5. Increasingly, school administrations want frequent reports on how career services engage with employers.

Career service professionals need to develop and implement strategies to drive student success, protect institutional reputations, and support long-term fundraising. Strong employer relations are key to achieving all three goals.

And the right tools are crucial to managing these relationships effectively. This paper examines how and why software impacts these employer relationships and why career services teams need platforms designed for their specific tasks instead of generalized sales management applications.


“I can say with confidence that career services is a field on the rise.” 

~David Kozhuk1
Founder and CEO, Employer Development and Relations 


The Employer Relations-Career Services Ecosystem

Employers spend time and money building their brands on university and college campuses. They devote resources to funding sponsorships, hosting small events, volunteering, organizing lectures, and championing other marketing efforts.

Career services teams inspire these branding activities by building and nurturing productive employer relationships. They generate student interest and participation with the knowledge about each company gained from ongoing conversations with recruiters and hiring managers.

Customer relationship management software is the typical bridge between career services teams and employers. These platforms organize contacts, collect data, and track departmental ROI--but for B2B or B2C sales activities. Unfortunately, the applications ignore much of what career services staff does and, therefore, what they need their software to do.

Employer relations are fundamental to successful student job search outcomes. Therefore, career services staff need relationship management software that prioritizes this fact and facilitates recruiter engagement as the primary vehicle for delivering students to their career goals.

Enter Career Forge | Employer Relationship Management (ERM), a comprehensive technology focused on career services teams building employer interactions that unlock job search results that CMS solutions can’t.


Advancing from CRM to ERM

Customer Relationship Management Platforms (CRMs)

CRMs collect and track information to facilitate moving people from “lead” to “customer” by focusing on closing the deal as quickly as possible. These platforms are built with sales and customer-centric language to capture standardized data about customers, not the unique elements of interacting with employers and recruiters.

A robust CRM can offer a wide range of functionalities, including:

  • Deal tracking and management
  • Lead tracking and management
  • Customer segmentation and targeting
  • Marketing automation
  • Sales forecasting and reporting
  • Contact management
  • Social media integration

Conversely, the complexity of most CRMs can confuse users, waste time, and reduce productivity, not to mention stress budgets with after-purchase expenses, including:

  • Integration costs: connecting a CRM to existing systems and workflows, like email marketing software, can be complicated and time-consuming. This is especially true if you need an IT expert or implementation consultant to complete the setup.
  • Customization costs: revising code, adding different graphics, changing workflows, etc., are not cheap. In fact, it might feel like you’re paying twice: once to purchase the CRM as sold and a second time to rebuild it to meet your needs.
  • Training costs: depending on the complexity of the platform and your team’s technical skills, you may need to invest in extensive training programs or hire a certified trainer.
  • Add-on costs: you might have to buy additional tools and features to fully leverage CRM capabilities, like marketing automation or social media integration.

CRMs manage and analyze customer relationships in the context of the sales processes. In contrast, Career Forge | ERM is the industry’s first Employer Relationship Management platform. The technology is purpose-built for career services teams to build and manage employer relationships.

The software facilitates stronger relationships with employers, leading to more job postings, high-value interviews, and ultimately, increased and better outcomes for students.

We’ll explore Career Forge | ERM after reviewing four leading CRMs.


“Most employer relations staff are stuck using spreadsheets because using an off-the-shelf CRM is overwhelming.” 

~David Nicol
CEO, Career Fair Plus


The Usual CRM Players


Company overview

Salesforce2 is a market-leading, cloud-based CRM platform with 7,400+ employees. Founded in 1999, the company offers a comprehensive set of tools for managing customer relationships, from lead generation to deal closing. The platform is primarily aimed at larger businesses but sells solutions for small and medium-sized organizations, too.

The Customer 360 product suite unifies sales, service, marketing, commerce, and IT teams with centralized customer information. Salesforce has multiple subsidiaries, including Tableau Software and Salesforce Marketing Cloud. The company is publicly traded with a market capitalization of over $300 billion, reinforcing its position as one of the largest CRM providers globally.

Feature list

Salesforce's feature set includes lead and opportunity management, sales forecasting, workflow automation, email integration, and mobile apps. It also offers a marketplace of third-party integrations and apps.


Several pricing plans exist for small businesses, sales companies, service providers, marketing firms, and commerce organizations. Each sector has Starter, Professional, Enterprise, and Unlimited pricing plans ranging from $25/user/month to 2 $300/user/month (billed annually). The advanced enterprise plans offer custom pricing; additional features and services are available for an additional cost.

Customer support model

Customer support options identified on their website are:

  • Standard Success (a.k.a., Do it Myself)
  • Premiere Success (a.k.a., Show Me How)
  • Signature Success (a.k.a., Do it with Me)
  • Professional Services

Costs vary by plan. All licenses include standard support; Premier Support is 30% of net licensing fees. Potential customers must contact Salesforce directly for Signature Support and Professional Services costs.

Implementation/configuration process

Salesforce has a reputation for being complex and difficult to set up, requiring a significant amount of time and sometimes added costs. The process typically includes discovering customer needs, configuring the CRM, migrating data, integrating systems, training users, and providing post-implementation support for career services department success ranging from tens of thousands of $s to hundreds of thousands.

Notable advantages and disadvantages based on user feedback

Extensive customization and integration capabilities make the platform highly adaptable to various business needs. However, the software’s complexity can be overwhelming, particularly for small organizations with limited resources. Finally, Salesforce pricing is often too much for most employer relations groups.



Company overview

HubSpot3, per their website, “ a CRM platform with all the software, integrations, and resources you need to connect marketing, sales, content management, and customer service.” Founded in 2006, HubSpot provides CRM solutions for businesses of all sizes. In 2022, HubSpot reported 7,433 employees and total assets worth 2.54 billion USD.

The publicly traded company headquartered in Cambridge, MA, boasts 3.1M+ social media followers and more than 167,000 customers worldwide.

Feature list

Hubspot's feature set includes relevant functions in their Marketing, Sales, Service, CMS, and Operations hubs. Customers can automate lead generation, marketing, and data quality. HubSpot also offers a range of customer service tools, including support tickets, customer feedback, and a knowledge base.


For Individuals & Teams, prices range from Free basic tools to $800/month to manage 2,000 marketing contacts. Businesses & Enterprises can choose the same $800/month (+ mandatory $3,000 Professional onboarding fee) just mentioned or $3,600/month (+ mandatory $6,000 Enterprise onboarding fee) to manage up to 10,000 marketing contacts.

Customer support model

Hubspot offers a range of customer support options, including phone, email, and chat support. It also has an extensive knowledge base, community forums, and training resources. However, access to these resources depends on their pricing level. For example, customers using free HubSpot tools are limited to community support; enterprise accounts can access the community forum, email, chat, and phone support.

Implementation/configuration process

Hubspot is known for its ease of use and quick implementation process. The simple, navigable layout lets customers start in a matter of minutes and eventually customize it to fit specific needs.

Notable advantages and disadvantages based on user feedback

Hubspot's most notable advantage is its all-in-one platform that allows users to centralize all aspects of their customer relationship management, especially lead tracking and conversions. However, costs increase fast, forcing many users to abandon HubSport for more affordable platforms. Additionally, for career services, the abundance of bells and whistles makes it hard to determine which plan is best for employer relations.



Company overview

Nutshell4 is a private, cloud-based CRM software for small and mid-sized businesses. The Ann Arbor, MI-based company, founded in 2009, positions itself as "built for growing businesses."

Feature list

Nutshell's feature set includes sales automation, contact & pipeline management, reporting, email, forms, collaboration, integrations with popular productivity tools, and marketing functions.


Customers can choose one of two no-contracts, no-hidden-fees pricing plans: Nutshell at $16/user/month or Nutshell Pro at $42/user/month. In addition, Nutshell Marketing is an add-on with monthly rates on contacts.

Customer support model

Free live support is available to all its customers via phone, chat, and email, even during free trials.

Implementation/configuration process

Nutshell promotes fast implementation, highlighting “No IT department required” on its website. Users can customize their dashboards to optimize straightforward and intuitive contact management.

Notable advantages and disadvantages based on user feedback

Feedback suggests a toss-up between Nutshell's no-IT-required implementation and the unlimited CRM contacts, data storage, and no-user caps as Nutshell's biggest advantages. Regarding disadvantages, some users say the platform can be slow and lacks some advanced features other CRMs offer. And for career services, the CRM can be too hard to tailor to employer relations and sales processes.


In the 2022 State of Student Success and Engagement in Higher Education survey of 7,500 students, administrators, and faculty, 82% of respondents defined student success as work/career readiness5


Less Annoying CRM

Company overview

Less Annoying CRM (LACRM) is a cloud-based CRM that US News and World Report ranked as Best CRM three years in a row. The company dedicated to powerful CRM software for small businesses was founded in 2009 in San Francisco, CA, and calls St. Louis, MO home. The platform gives small businesses options for customer relationship management tools other than Excel spreadsheets or complicated CRMs.

Feature list

Less Annoying CRM's feature set includes centralized contact, calendar, task, lead, and pipeline management. In addition, multiple users can take advantage of the 100% web-based design for easy customization and mobile access without installing or synching an app.


Less Annoying CRM offers an all-inclusive, direct pricing plan of $15/user/month. That's it: no contracts or hidden fees. No additional costs either: support, updates, cybersecurity, and two different kinds of backups are free. In addition, the 30-day free trial delivers full access to every feature and service.

Customer support model

Live phone and email support come with every subscription, as does open access to the Help Center and API documentation.

Implementation/configuration process

LACRM is purpose-built for fast, DIY setup and use. "Powerful customization without needing an IT degree," according to their website.

Notable advantages and disadvantages based on user feedback

Customer testimonials tout the overall simplicity, including easy integration with popular productivity tools, no confusing buzzwords, stress-free navigation, and fixed vs. scaled pricing. Designed for small businesses with 1-50 users, the software might not meet the needs of larger organizations or those with more complex sales processes. Another disadvantage is the lack of sophisticated tools that employer relations teams need, like drip campaigns.


Career Forge | ERM changes everything! The long-overdue platform's features directly match what career services professionals need, especially those of us specializing in employer relations. 

I've worked in employer relations (ER) for 20+ years, confronting the ever-present challenges of tracking employer outreach. Yet, despite participating in multiple CRM demos and trials, I couldn't find management software built for ER professionals, our individual tasks, or specific goals. Instead, the CRM platforms are stuffed with irrelevant features and functions we have to navigate--and pay for!--even though we don't need them.

Career Forge | ERM eliminates all that wasted time and money. And in these days of ROI, the simplified, accurate tracking and reporting might be my favorite part of the solution!” 

~Sue E. Brien
Assistant Director, Employer Development and Relations 
Duke Engineering Master’s Program



The Long-awaited Solution: Career Forge | ERM

Maintaining employer and recruiter relationships is a human-first activity. Which is why career services teams need a human-centric software solution to facilitate personal interactions, streamline communication, and build engagement. Using Career Forge | ERM, your career services team can:

  • Access crucial employer information fast
  • Build human and data-driven relationships
  • Never miss a touchpoint
  • Monitor employer engagement against specific goals
  • Guarantee seamless data handoffs during staff transitions

With software built for employer relations instead of salespeople, your team creates better recruiter-student connections faster and more cost-effectively.


Company overview

Career Forge | ERM is one of two technologies from privately held Career Soft, LLC. Founded by four former recruiters in 2012 and based in Orlando, FL, the company introduced Career Fair Plus (CF+) as a stand-alone enterprise recruiting platform to empower in-person recruiting events with automation and analytics. More than a decade later, CF+ is a premier platform that universities, colleges, and employers in all sectors rely on to host virtual, in-person, and hybrid career fairs and recruiting events.

Years of supporting career services and their student-focused missions revealed the costly risks the departments take, forcing CRMs to meet their software requirements. From lost productivity to missed engagement opportunities, sales-oriented software doesn’t accommodate the early talent ecosystem. Career Forge | ERM does.

Feature list

The software shifts the paradigm from CRM to ERM by focusing on employer relations teams instead of sales teams. Career Forge | ERM recognizes these teams as the fundamental starting point and necessary link between students and employers in the early talent network. With intentionally-built employer relations features, career services teams, and specialists can immediately:

  • Automate outreach
  • Streamline workflows
  • Simplify communication
  • Track employer engagement levels and satisfaction
  • Evaluate recruiting activities
  • Assess partnership outcomes
  • Generate actionable insights
  • Report accurate data to stakeholders

$44/user/month if billed annually or $49/user/month if billed monthly. Both pricing options have a $499 onboarding fee and include open access to all features and unlimited customer support.

Customer support model

If you know Chick-fil-A, hearing that our customers describe us as the Chick-fil-A of recruiting software companies tells you everything about our support. Our career services teams, recruiters, and students have a buffet of customer support options:

  • Live and recorded training webinars
  • Direct email
  • Live chat
  • Online success centers

After all, building the industry’s only technology human enough to facilitate better relationships between career services teams, students, and recruiters means offering live, responsive, patient, and empathetic support.

Implementation/configuration process

Upgrading from sales-focused CRMs to Career Forge | ERM is seamless because real people lead and support you. Onboarding goes like this:

  1. You send us your data (it’s secure!)
  2. We upload it for you
  3. You preview your private Career Center space in the ERM
  4. We adjust (if necessary) and invite your admin(s) to join
  5. You choose your subscription level (we can help you decide)
  6. We train you
  7. You make awesome employer connections!

The Career Forge software engineer and customer success teams behind the screen know what’s missing from CRM technology. That’s why we’re simplifying your professional life by filling the gaps currently complicating and making employer engagement work hard.

Notable advantages and disadvantages based on user feedback

Career Forge | ERM is the anti-monopoly platform disrupting the assumption that career services have to force CRMs to meet their employer relationship management needs. The ERM helps career services teams identify trends and make strategic decisions. Using a feature-rich software platform built intentionally for them improves recruitment. Students get time and power back from a relevant user experience; career services work on a more equitable business model.

Making a business case for early adoption is challenging. Career services teams have to prove transition costs, even minimal, are more valuable than the costs of using a mismatched, inefficient CRM.


Illinois Institute of Technology set enrollment records after focusing recruitment strategy around career preparedness6


Starting Lines, Finish lines, and Bottom Lines

Career services teams forcing an off-the-shelf CRM to manage their employer relations are starting at a disadvantage. Those platforms track customer interactions through the sales cycle. Yes, customization is an option, but only with enough money and time to reconfigure the program to manage employer relationships.

Career services teams need employer relationship management software to cross the finish line faster and on budget. Until now, however, no such product existed.

The bottom line is simple: CRMs are for sales teams; Career Forge | ERM is for employer relations teams.

Salesforce, HubSpot, Nutshell, and Less Annoying CRM are all cloud-based CRM platforms designed to help businesses manage and grow sales funnels.

  • Salesforce is a market leader and offers a comprehensive feature set. Still, it can be expensive and has a steep learning curve.
  • HubSpot is a popular all-in-one marketing and sales platform, but its CRM features can be less robust than dedicated ERM software.
  • Nutshell offers a user-friendly interface and responsive customer service, but some users find it lacking in advanced features.
  • Less Annoying CRM is a simple and affordable platform that is easy to use but may not meet the needs of larger businesses or those with complex sales processes.

As a result of trying to offer a seemingly infinite selection of sales workflows, CRMs often require an expensive consultant to get you up and running.

Career Forge | ERM is already built for you.

It's Your Turn! Join the Career Forge | ERM Waitlist Now








Tags: career services, virtual recruiting, customizable platform, enterprise recruiting software, software, talent acquisition

Your Portable Guide to Hosting Virtual Recruiting Events

Your new eBook goes beyond defining virtual career fairs to reveal:

  • Who hosts virtual career events by industry and type of program.
  • Why virtual recruiting events are advantageous.
  • How to plan a stress-free virtual career fair or recruiting event.