Talent Acquisition Leaders and their ATS: No Love Connection

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Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are the tools that everyone loves to hate. Recruiters complain about them and candidates don't know how to use them. For system administrators, there's always a new upgrade, yet, the headaches never seem to get any better.

Some of the most common complaints from talent acquisition professionals are the lack of adoption by stakeholders (HR, hiring managers, leaders), the inability of the ATS to provide insightful report data, and its cumbersome user experience.

For candidates, the complaints are often about the cumbersome application experience and the length of time needed to complete them.

In the RPO business, we are expected to perform no matter what ATS platform an organization uses – or if they use one at all. During an RPO transition, many of these key ATS issues can be identified and even eliminated within a few days. Based on my experience, many of the headaches created by the ATS are self-imposed. It's not necessarily the product's fault; however, it's likely linked to how the ATS was implemented. If you hate your ATS, I have great news – it can be fixed!

Below are some best practices for implementing an ATS as well as tips for fixing the system you already have deployed.

Client Services Go A Long Way

How often does a talent acquisition executive implement a new ATS across their organization –once maybe twice in their career? An ATS usually supports unlimited customization, but many talent acquisition executives aren't taking advantage of that.

Failing to customize your ATS is like trying to drive a Ferrari when you don't know how to drive stick. If not carefully implemented, the end result can be an over-engineered system that overwhelms your recruitment team or candidates with the process.

When setting up your ATS, remember that experts are key. Have an expert on your team who can design workflows and who has field experience. Consult with this team member on best practices during the implementation process. Experts can help your organization navigate through small, yet impactful decisions. For example, they can help you keep candidate requirements top-of-mind. Job-application workflow is critical and candidates care about the length of the apply process. This is especially true with passive job seekers. A strong client services team from a consulting firm, RPO, or ATS provider can provide insight into how this matter will directly affect your business.

Write Workflows With The End In Mind

When implementing an ATS, it's important to consider the end goal. Is it to gather a massive amount of information about a candidate before calling them, or is it to get the most qualified candidates to finish the apply process? What kind of reports do you need to create from the ATS data?

With an ATS you can design customized workflows and reports. However, when you create too many categories – for example, campus hiring, evergreen requisitions, and executive staffing – it can become difficult to report and organize the data, especially if you haven't planned ahead with your reports in mind. In the detail below, we've identified one workflow to facilitate the transactional hiring process, and another to manage the opt-in process of a talent community. Each serves a distinct purpose and allows the appropriate parties with relevant information.

Don't Get Greedy. Setting up your ATS requirements too rigid and marking specific fields as “required” might compromise finding the perfect candidate and deter the apply process from completion.

On the candidate experience side, while it's possible to request the candidate answer a 50-question survey during the apply process, the information isn't necessary for the recruiter to decide if they should call them. All the recruiter usually needs is a resume. The fewer questions and requirements you ask of a candidate during the apply process, the more likely the candidate is to complete the process.

Take Advantage Of All The Tools

ATSs have become more sophisticated over the years and there are a number of tools available that aren't always implemented. For example, most of the top ATSs now offer "social registration," which allows candidates to login using their Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social credentials. Not only does this save time in keeping track of passwords, but it also can parse many of the required fields such as name, title, and even employer history.

"Beyond that, many ATS providers offer parsing services to extract information. For reporting purposes, ATSs like to have candidate data extracted into text fields vs. the free text available in resumes. If your organization must have this data in a more structured format, simply ask if your ATS can extract this data from resumes automatically so that candidates don't have to do it. This can go a long way in converting to completed applications.

All-in-all, proper configuration of the ATS can have a big impact on the apply process. With careful streamlining, a clunky ATS can achieve more than ever expected.

Are you frustrated with your ATS? What have been your experiences?


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