Applicant Tracking Systems – A Brief Guide Before You Buy
Firstly, if you’re going to buy a tool expecting it to solve a lot of problems in your HR/Recruitment Team, it won’t. OK, it WILL have the capability to start to solve a lot of the problems, but you’ll need to spend some time understanding what it is you actually need and how you can maximise your budget, so that you’re not paying for features that sound fancy but are ultimately ones you won’t use.
The main reasons to consider purchasing an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)are to save time, and to bring accountability and compliance to your operation, i.e., ensuring all your candidates go through the same process, with an auditable trail, and one in which they all have equal opportunity. But an ATS can do so much more to optimise your hiring process. The problem is, with so much choice in the realm of recruitment software it can be challenging to find the one that fits your needs.
What Is an ATS (Applicant Tracking System)
An applicant tracking system (ATS) helps companies organise candidates for hiring and recruitment purposes. These systems allow businesses to collect information, organise prospects based on experience and skill set, and filter applicants. In short, it’s going to help you manage your recruitment process effectively.
More than 90% of FTSE 200 Fortune 500 Companies are currently using an applicant tracking system. While these systems are excellent for storing candidate information, the best ATS systems can track all communications with candidates. This makes it easy to search and filter CVs and other candidate information, thus decreasing time-to-hire and helping you to get the best candidates for the position.
6 Reasons You Should Consider an ATS
An ATS will help your recruiters to simplify your process by using automation to help to screen for the best, most-qualified candidates. Since many open positions can attract hundreds or even thousands of candidates without the necessary qualifications, this can potentially save you a huge amount of time that would otherwise be spent manually weeding out these candidates.
Consider how manual your current process is. Recruitment is getting harder each year due to a number of factors including Brexit, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and COVID fallout, and these manual processes could be driving inefficiency towards your long-term talent strategy.
- Save time – by automating job board posting and CV submission, you won’t need to manually input data into spreadsheets. With an ATS all of your candidate data is automatically imported to your software platform, which will save you precious time you used to waste in manual work. ATS’s can also save you more time on screening as well.
- Be more efficient – an ATS allows you to easily manage and track incoming applicants, keeping data organised and accessible to all of your team members to review. With an ATS, searching your talent pool for candidates by various categories, like location, skills or education, for example, it makes the whole process easier, quicker and much more efficient. Moreover, an ATS can standardise not only all candidate’s data, but also the recruitment process itself, which allows recruiters to optimise the recruitment cycle, find the best candidates and make better hiring decisions, quicker!
- Be more productive – ATS’s have many features and functionalities that improve the recruiter’s productivity like job posting on multiple job boards and integrated email templates to facilitate communication with candidates. An ATS also promotes collaborative hiring through commenting and sharing features, that allow recruiters to give their feedback to the team about the candidates. This can not only positively impact individual productivity but also that of the team, and it will improve the decision-making process overall.
- Improve quality of hire – by helping you to automatically identify the candidates that best match the job requirements and automatically screen out unqualified applicants, the ATS plays a big part on your quality of hire improvement. Having the ability to better screen and qualify candidates will, ultimately, positively impact your employee retention rate.
- Use Performance Reports – with analytic functionalities you can create reports that allow you to monitor key recruitment metrics and provide useful insights to better manage your recruitment process. Using reports to assess your recruitment performance allows you to easily identify where you are wasting your recruitment spend, and where you should be using it instead to improve your results.
- Provide better Candidate Experience and boost your Employer Brand – the job market has become candidate-centric, meaning that candidate experience is undeniably a vital part of the recruitment process. So, delivering a more modern, more organised and more engaging recruitment process will not only add value to your company but also to your applicants as well. Using an ATS in your recruitment process also helps you to strengthen your employer branding during the candidate journey (through job posts, application forms, career pages, email communications, etc.).
How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?
Candidates are looking for application processes that are easy and user-friendly. The best applicant tracking systems allow people to easily apply for a position via any device without needing to log in. This means that you could benefit from a larger pool of applicants, which can then be ranked automatically based on skills and experience.
The best ATS software uses the latest technology such as natural language processing and artificial intelligence, to screen and sort candidates’ CVs. These systems scan CVs, look for keyword matches, and use other algorithms for data analysis.
Many applicant tracking systems also integrate with job boards, streamlining job postings. Ours does, and as you can imagine, we use a lot of different job boards and channels to attract candidates. The time saving element for your recruitment team alone, could be worth the investment, so job board integration is a must have as far as we’re concerned.
The Benefits of an ATS
There are many benefits of using an ATS, and you can expect to see metrics like time, cost, and candidate quality improve. And many include features like interview scheduling, which makes it easy with automated emails allowing candidates to choose a time that works for both hiring managers and themselves.
An applicant tracking system can also allow recruiters and hiring managers to see all the information and metrics they need with a click of a button. The best systems include robust, user-friendly dashboards and configurable workflows including key performance metrics and industry benchmarks.
Signs You Might Be Ready for An ATS
While companies of all sizes can use applicant tracking systems, they’re particularly useful if you are regularly hiring talent for various positions or if you tend to see a large number of applicants for each position.
You’re likely to see a significant ROI if you’re screening more than 1,000 CVs a year. And if you’ve got a lengthy process, and you’re inadvertently putting barriers in the way, then an ATS can really help with your solution to these problems and the administration of your hiring process.
Applicant tracking systems can significantly reduce time-to-fill. This means that companies that find it difficult to manage the workload associated with large pools of candidates will find the streamlined process much more effective. And the data you can draw out of the ATS can mean you can understand your basic recruitment metrics (ratios, time-to-hire, cost-per-hire etc.) and start to improve them.
Or maybe you’re a business where brand really matters, either locally or nationally. Candidates are likely to tell 8 people within their network of a bad candidate experience, so putting in place a process that leaves rejected candidates as near to brand ambassadors as possible can have a big impact on your bottom line.
Ready To Invest in an ATS? Some Final Thoughts to Consider
I’ve seen a lot of ATS’s, some excellent and some not so good. Some have really good ideas, and they’ve been developed by people with practical experience working in recruitment, but they aren’t user-friendly. Equally I’ve seen some beautiful looking tools, intuitive and easy to use, that just lack that functionality that would make them stand out.
Sales teams for each product will try and convince you that theirs is the ‘one’, so choose wisely. And consider bringing in people that will matter further down the line. You’ll need someone, or some people, to be the ‘Super Users’ to evolve how you use the system and get the most out of it. My advice would be this: at the very least your recruiter. If you’ll be making lots of hires, you’ll need some input from HR too, because the crossover into their systems may become a factor. And if you’re planning to roll this out to hiring managers, and asking them to use the system, you’ll want a senior project sponsor in order to mandate the new way of working.
Other things to Consider:
- User-experience – A lot of research is conducted when it comes to the differences between a positive and not so great candidate experience, and one of the common themes – whatever you read – is being redirected to different environments and having to re-enter personal information. When this happens, users waste time and can feel like the platform is not adapted to their needs. Providing a user-friendly experience lowers the chances a candidate will drop out of the application process, so your ATS needs to enable candidates to instantly apply on the very website where they found the job ad. Being able to apply in as few clicks as possible greatly enhances candidate experience and reduces the chances of you missing out on the best talent for your roles.
- Nurture your talent – Some candidates who don’t make the cut could still be contenders for future openings (often called ‘Silver Medal’ candidates), and you don’t want to lose them once you’ve already invested in them. However, it can be time-consuming to keep talent pools active and maintain contact with past applicants. That’s where a good ATS can come in and help you engage with candidates not only during the hiring process, but also afterwards. You may want your ATS to go beyond tracking applications and keeping candidates informed about their application status. Some systems can also notify past applicants of suitable vacancies arising at a later date via email or text message. At the very least, you will want a system that will allow you to quickly and effectively communicate with your talent pool at a later date. You fought and spent money on identifying that talent, why not have a system that helps you make the most of it once they’ve been through your process.
- Data drive insight – Making sense of the data is a vital aspect of a recruiter’s role these days. Data reports help recruiters monitor performance, reflect on past strategies, justify budget allocations, and optimise future hiring campaigns. Therefore, your ATS should be able to deliver real-time, purposeful, and actionable data. It should produce different types of reports and allow you to export them. Time-to-hire, hiring ratios (such as CVs:Interview), offers and cost-per-hire are important things to track and improve upon. But you can also develop reporting on source, channel, D&I and any other element of the process. Robust reporting and tracking is one of the key benefits of a good ATS – it will give you better insight and help you to make better hiring decisions in the future.
- Collaboration – Depending on the team, department or location of the role you are trying to fill, you may want multiple colleagues to be involved in the hiring process. For this reason, it’s important your ATS allows these different people to feed into the same process to manage it effectively. You’ll want to remove unnecessary stages from a candidate experience perspective, but sometimes a number of people must be involved so it’s important to have a system that allows for colleagues to feed into selection, interviewing and scheduling, as well as taking into account their holiday and sickness.
- Integrating with existing systems – The ATS you choose to work with should be integrated with other recruitment software, complementary platforms, HR systems and software and third-party applications to streamline, automate, and speed up the hiring process. Integrating with leading providers of services such as background-checks for example can save countless hours on these types of admin-intensive tasks. Furthermore, integration with a strong network of distribution channels, such as leading and niche job boards, will help hiring teams reach as wide and diverse an audience of potential hires as possible.
Choosing Your ATS
Your Talent Solutions is technology agnostic, especially when it comes to ATS’s. We have an excellent system but it’s one that meets the needs of our business. During the course of my career, I’ve seen a huge number of ATS’s implemented in the UK and overseas, and some have been better than others. And I’ve also seen Procurement teams purchase systems that don’t reflect the needs of the business. Speak to us about your thoughts, speak to your networks to gather feedback and start to get some demonstrations of the systems available to help you formulate what’s fit-for-purpose and what isn’t going to work as well. Do also consider a Project Team, one where there are different and relevant voices feeding into the decision-making, in particular, the people that will use the system day-to-day. And don’t be afraid to ask for a free trial, some companies will definitely say ‘yes’.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this blog or you’re considering an ATS and wondering where to begin, or if you want to save some money and use ours.