3 Steps for Choosing the Perfect ATS

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Sep 20, 2016
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

While I currently use Jobvite, I’ve also used five other applicant tracking systems in the past — so I like to think I’ve become somewhat of an expert when it comes to ATS vetting. Below are three of the tips I’ve found to be most helpful throughout the process.

Team Up With IT and Procurement

At many organizations, the person who owns the selection process of new tools is a member of the procurement team or another IT-related field. While it’s great to have somebody with negotiation experience and deep technical knowledge involved in your ATS search for compliance, budget, and security purposes, the main point of having an ATS is to make recruiters’ day-to-day lives easier. And odds are, IT and procurement have never (nor will ever) used an ATS; therefore, they don’t have the relevant experience to be the sole decision-maker. Fortunately, you’ll probably find that the IT or procurement team will likely welcome the first-hand experience and insight you have to offer — after all, it’ll likely help them get the job done faster and more effectively. 

Start out this co-owned experience on the right foot by setting up a meeting with your IT and procurement teams. Ask what the overall ATS search involves, what their responsibilities entail, and then explain what you can offer. Come up with a plan for successful collaboration by walking through the whole process and assigning clear ownership at each step (RFP writing, tool research, product demos, etc.) according to your areas of expertise. That way, you’ll be able to quickly and efficiently divide and conquer your tasks.

Simplify Your RFP

One of the classic traps people fall into when searching for a new technology solution is creating a massive, unnecessarily detailed request for proposal to send to the different vendors they’re vetting. Not only do lengthy RFPs tend to be a waste of your time — they’re also confusing to the folks on the receiving end. I stick to a maximum of 10 pages for an RFP. Anything more than that, and you tend to end up including a bunch of technical details and prescriptive suggestions that prevent vendors from understanding what you need and proposing the best solution possible. 

So rather than including a gigantic checklist you want your ATS to fulfill, think about it from a user perspective instead. One thing to help recruiting folks identify their ATS must-haves without going overboard: go about their daily routines and briefly jot down any inefficiencies or roadblocks encountered over a week or so. Then, think about how different ATS features could help address those pain points. Do you need a search ability to help you sort through applications faster? Reporting features to share information with higher-ups? A candidate relationship management tool to help you engage with many different candidates at once?

Once you come up with a list of criteria based on those questions, consolidate it into a brief, digestible format within the RFP — and don’t forget to scan through the entire document afterwards to cut any redundant or unnecessary sections. 

See It in Action

There’s no better way to assess whether or not an ATS will work for your organization than by having it tested out in front of you. It might sound like an obvious suggestion, but you’d be surprised how many people I’ve come across who purchased an ATS after having only viewed a sales deck, only to be disappointed later on.

Start demos by asking vendors to walk you through a day in the life of each user — recruiter, hiring manager, and candidate — in a live demo scenario. Starting from a recruiter’s perspective, search for candidates, review their applications, move them through to the next step/reject them, send an offer letter, among other actions. Then, ask vendors to demonstrate what a day in the life of a hiring manager and of a candidate would look like to get a more comprehensive understanding of the user experience. As they’re guiding you through the product, pay attention to how intuitive the interface is, and of course, how many clicks it takes to complete each step! This efficiency is critical — the tool should enhance the recruiter’s job, not hinder it. Ask how quickly the product can be implemented — in a field as time-sensitive as recruiting, you can’t afford to spend three months getting up to speed.

While this isn’t a foolproof process, it should help weed out problems early on. Finding the right technology solution can be difficult — especially when, as recruiters, that’s not usually part of our day-to-day jobs. Yet, with the benefits in time savings and ease-of-use that the right ATS offers, it’s more than worth it. And when you implement a few of the above tips to help you streamline and improve your search, you might just find that it ends up being easier than you expected. 

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
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