The ATS World: Coming Up Short

Feb 5, 2014
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 8.56.59 PMIn the early 2000s, I had just started working in recruiting and didn’t know anything about the industry or its tools. My first week on the job, the company was implementing a new applicant tracking system. Dave, the guy who was leading the implementation, didn’t show up my second day on the job. Soon the announcement was made that Dave had left the company and was moving.

I walked into the CEO’s office and boldly stated, “I don’t know what an ATS is, but if you’ll make me the admin on it, I’ll learn everything there is to know about it, finish the implementation, and have it running as smooth as butter.” For some reason, he believed me. I followed through with my declaration — finished the implementation and knew the system (and the business reasons) inside and out.

Over the next several years, I have implemented numerous ATS’s. I’ve also been a user on many other client systems.  I say all of this to let you know that my knowledge and expertise when it comes to an ATS is deep. I’m not just a casual observer of these systems. I know them.

What I have discovered over the years is that many of these tools shouldn’t even be available (an Excel spreadsheet would be more useful than what some offer), but there are some that get so close to hitting the mark …but then they leave out, forget, or ignore something so simple, so logical, that would make it far more useful and effective.

So here are a few of the things that should be included in every ATS …

  • Give design and admin rights to a power user so we don’t have to come back to you and ask for every tweak that we need made to a workflow, a tab, a field, etc. You slow us down by putting us on your “to-do list.” It literally would take me less than a minute in most cases to change what I need changed and then I’m on with my day.
  • Combine CRM, onboarding, and payroll capabilities to integrate seamlessly with your ATS. Having one system that can handle a client and a candidate through the entire lifecycle would be stellar.
  • Give me the option to create (on my own) multiple workflows within the ATS. Recruiting for an entry-level, hourly employee is just different than recruiting for a VP or a COO. There are different stages of the recruitment process that each must go through. Your-one size-fits-all approach doesn’t fit all.
  • Multiple talent portals would also be great — even for a corporate recruitment team. You could have separate pools of talent for divisions, career levels, etc.
  • Weighted and scored pre-screen questions that can be attached to the application process. I can hear all of you salespeople now — “We have that! We have that!” Most of you don’t. You have the capability to create a generic list of pre-screen questions that all candidates answer regardless of what position they are applying to. That’s not what I need. I need the ability to create a unique set of pre-screen questions for each requisition within the ATS … and I don’t want them stored in a library somewhere eating up space, slowing down the system, and slowing me down as I have to go search through 480 sets of questions for an inside sales requisition to find the exact one that I created previously. I want them contained within the requisition. These also need to be downloadable so they can be sent to a hiring manager.
  • Give us the ability — within each unique requisition — to create screening questions so we can ask each candidate the same questions in the same order and evaluate each equally. The recruiter should be able to fill in answers to these questions as they are speaking with the candidate. These also need to be able to be downloaded and sent to a hiring manager.
  • Gain partnerships with personality and behavioral assessment companies so we can select the core competencies we want to measure and send a quick link to the candidate to complete online. Have their results brought back into the candidate’s profile and have the recruiter notified that this step is complete. The same can be done for background checks.
  • When we are ready to send a candidate to a hiring manager to be considered, provide us with a menu of things that we can include in this presentation (and it needs to be unique each time, not a one-time universal selection). Let us select a resume (without or without contact info included), pre-screen application questions and candidate responses, phone screen questions and responses, personality assessment results, etc. and place it all in a single PDF document and attached to the email. In the body of the email, provide a response section for the hiring manager — Yes, I’d like to interview/No, not interested for this reason ____.
  • Sourcing capabilities from within the ATS. Let us use our subscriptions to job boards, social media boards, and also do deep Internet sourcing on candidates and keywords and Boolean search strings. Have them system source from all of these places at one time, or let us select which of them we want to source from. When we find someone we are interested in, let us click a button and have that person added to the ATS and to a specific job, parsing their info into the appropriate fields. If that info can show up in real time, instead of having to wait for hours before they appear, that would be great as well.
  • Connect your ATS with a GPS tool so when we send interview instructions to a candidate (day, time, etc.), it will also generate a map for them or give them a link so they can get driving instructions on their smart phone from the candidate’s location.

This is not an exhaustive list. I’ve seen some of these in some tools, but I’ve never seen one that nails everything. When I ask my questions about these things, I don’t want a “work-around” solution because they always take more time than they should, and often don’t work the way they should. I’ve also learned that you may have many of these capabilities, but you have to pay extra to get them added to your base model. Make that clear upfront instead of showing us the Mercedes in the demo and then we find out we got the Kia when we started using the tool (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with Kia cars … I would drive one if someone gave me one).

The most important thing to a recruiter is speed and ease of use. Count how many clicks it takes to do what you want to do, then find a way to cut that number of clicks in half. That extra click may not seem like a big deal if you only have to do that process one time. But for recruiters, we do the same things over and over and over. That one click turns into 30-40 clicks by the end of the day, and if you add that time up, I could have screened another candidate in that amount of time while I was clicking and waiting for the page to load.

When selecting a new ATS, know your process first, then find the ATS that can execute that process. Don’t get suckered into thinking, “This one is well known and well respected so I’ll get that one.” The best known and the best respected may not match your needs at all.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.