ATS Survey Results: Why You Must Defend Your Desktop

This is an experiential and interactive article. Another first, but that’s not the real point. Stay with me on this, if you can. We’ll be having a live discussion of this article next week. But you have to take the survey to attend. On Friday, March 19, 2004, at 4 p.m. EST (1 p.m. PST) we’ll be having the first of many conferences discussing the results of my mini-massive ATS features and satisfaction survey. Go to our ATS survey page to obtain the phone number. If you’ve already taken the survey, you’ll still need to go there to find the phone number. Now, once you get to the sign-on page, you’ll then have to fill in a questionnaire to see if you’re qualified to attend the survey. Then we’ll ask you to submit your resume by cutting and pasting and inputting data into twenty other data fields. Someone will review this application and get back to you to see if you’re still interested. By then, of course, the survey will be over. This is obviously an idiotic way to treat people. But it’s one thing our survey revealed: we make it too hard for candidates to apply. If just the idea of this application process aggravated you, imagine how a strong candidate feels when applying for a position with your company. Instead, why not just click here and find the phone number for the conference call. While you’re there, take the survey. I suspect many of you opted-out already before you even read down to this part. Too bad. It’s an important survey and it’s going to be a great conference call. Moral: Are your ads compelling enough to keep good candidates interested throughout the application process? If not, make the application process super easy and make your ads more compelling. This is one of the key items revealed in our survey on ATS design requirements. You’ve just experienced a little of this negative process yourself. Now for some more positive results. Key Findings: The Critical “80 Percenters” These are the critical “must have” features of applicant tracking systems that 80 percent of the respondents indicated were very necessary or vital necessities.

  • Recruiter friendly. The results: 92% want it but only 30% have it. Ease of use is a critical feature. Corporate recruiters have too much to do. Applicant tracking systems should make the recruiter’s job easier, not harder. While this category covers a lot of features (managing and accessing data; intuitive; simple updating), it was very clear from the survey that most tracking systems fall short in this area If you’re a corporate user, you might want to ask your ATS vendor what they’re doing to improve this area. If you’re considering a new system, make sure you test drive it thoroughly. Be super cynical. Use lots of real data to make sure it’s recruiter friendly. The good news: There are five ATSs that are very good and getting better. You’ll discover who they are at our conference call.
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  • Candidate friendly. The results: 82% want it, but only 31% have it. In my opinion, this is the most important feature of them all. I write often about the importance of job branding, great advertising, networking, and the need for a proactive employee referral program. However, the impact of these great sourcing strategies is instantly negated by an ATS that makes it too difficult for a candidate to apply. If you demand just one change in your system, make it super easy for candidates to apply.
  • Searching resumes. The results: 88% want it, but only 30% have it. Too much time is spent looking at the resumes of unqualified candidates. The ATS vendors that are best here have a great built-in resume search engine that accurately sorts resumes. This way, any resume that doesn’t make the minimum ranking is never even opened. This is a tremendous time saver. Combine this with the ability for the candidate to just paste a resume or submit it as an attachment and you’ve made everyone happy.
  • System speed. The results: 93% want it, but only 42% have it. This is a shocking statistic. If you have to wait for screens to update, you’re losing hours of precious time each week. This is intolerable. System speed has somehow been ignored by some of the biggest vendors out there. Make sure you check this one out thoroughly before you purchase any new system. If you’re currently facing this problem, scream. Then delay signing any extensions until this problem that shouldn’t exist doesn’t exist.
  • Corresponding with candidates and clients. The results: 87% want it, but only 37% have it. Sending emails, setting up meetings, forwarding resumes, and receiving feedback is pretty much what recruiters do all day ó after they’ve plowed through too many resumes. More time is spent on the correspondence piece than any other. Wouldn’t it be great to make it easy, fast, and intuitive? Few ATSs now do. Ask your current vendor how much of its new feature development effort is devoted to this issue. If you push hard, in a year you’ll start seeing some major improvements.
  • Managing and updating records. The results: 82% want it, but only 31% have it. A few systems I’ve seen actually do this part quite well. But most, unfortunately, still use very cumbersome techniques to update a candidate’s status. I’d put this feature under the “time management” heading. I’m not sure how many minutes are spent daily updating records every day, but imagine if this could be reduced by 50% or more. Increasing productivity is a primary purpose on any IT system. Unfortunately, many of the ATS vendors overlooked this part, and now we’re paying the price.
  • Sourcing channel management. The results: 89% want it, but only 21% have it. To me this is one of those make-or-break tasks. Many of the features noted above relate to process improvement. While important, they are only tactical in nature. Those that relate to improving candidate quality have a strategic impact. That’s why sourcing channel management is becoming the next big emphasis in ATS design. This has to do with tracking incoming resumes for quality, monitoring them by source, and expanding and improving each channel as needed to ensure that more of the best candidates are being seen. This is how a company can ensure the best candidate quality at the lowest possible cost and shortest time.

There were three other important features not mentioned above that 40% of the respondents thought their systems lacked. One was the ability to easily schedule interviews with hiring managers. This is a very time-consuming task that is frequently done outside of the system. Reviewing resumes is another time-consuming task. The ability to see all resumes in exactly the same format with the keywords highlighted makes a recruiter’s job much easier. Great integrated tools was another desired feature lacking in most systems. This has to do with the quality of the tool (e.g., how well an upfront candidate questioning test screens candidates), its ease of use, and the number of integrated tools available (e.g., interviewing questions, backend assessment, etc.). We found five ATSs that appeared frequently at the top of the list. Since we don’t have a large enough sample yet, we’ll wait until the survey is completed before revealing their names. We also found two vendors who consistently came out on the bottom of the stack. Again, this just could have been some aggravated users ó but my sense is that a few vendors have grown top heavy and are not responding to their clients’ needs. There will be much to say on this critical point as more results come in. Applicant tracking systems are now a critical part of the recruiting process. A few ATS vendors are on the right path. Others are improving rapidly. Unfortunately, some don’t stand up too well to their own hype. There are many variables to consider when selecting or upgrading an important system like this. Based on our survey results and my personal experience, those that focus on meeting the needs of recruiters and top candidates are the ones to choose. If the system you’re now using fails on these two fronts, don’t delay making changes. Your company’s ability to hire top people is in jeopardy. So make sure you take the survey and attend our live conference call on Friday March 19th, 2004 at 4 p.m. EST (1 p.m. PST). Space is limited due to our conference line, so get online 15 minutes early. While you’re waiting, write up your ATS wish list. While it’s been a long wait, from what I’ve seen there are some ATS vendors who will soon be able to deliver exactly what you want.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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