When professionals in hiring, recruiting and HR talk about their experiences with applicant tracking systems (ATS), the frustration can be palpable. “Our applicant screening isn’t giving us any qualified candidates,” employers say. Would-be candidates often report not even receiving a rejection notice after applying. Leigh Buchanan of Inc.com came out with a recent article describing the use of ATS to screen applicants as “like trying to do calligraphy while wearing Mickey Mouse gloves.” Yet for all the reported issues, few people seem ready to do without applicant tracking.
(Unfortunately, in real life our tools can’t do all the work for us. Courtesy of joemathieu.com)
As with any program, there are limitations to hiring software. The essence of good hiring always has and will be human judgment, interaction and the meld of personalities that lead to fruitful partnership. Candidate tracking software is referred to as a “tool” for a reason. You can’t just plug it in and expect it to produce high-quality results— any tool requires responsible handling to perform properly.
Getting the most out of your applicant tracking means selecting the right package for your needs, testing and thinking through the parsing and searching, and ensuring on your end that you have not been lazy in implementing your framework. If you are thorough from the outset the right tool can simplify your entire hiring process and improve efficiently, which leads to a huge difference in the quality of your hires. Here’s how:
1. You will get more motivated candidates. A smart employee will know that he or she is usually submitting a resume to a computer program, and can “game the system” by incorporating key language from the job description. This takes time, effort and some creativity. Thus the applicants who show up as a strong match are likely motivated enough to have personalized their resumes to your job description. How worried would you really be about missing an equally qualified candidate who didn’t care enough to take that extra time? (And if your searches aren’t retrieving good prospects in general, that’s probably a sign that you need to fix your criteria or get a new candidate tracking software.)
2. More applicants means more good applicants. Of course quantity doesn’t directly translate to quality, but receiving 200 applications versus twenty increases your chances of finding the “perfect candidate” tenfold. Online job listings exponentially increase the number of applicants for most jobs. If you reached two or three good prospects before, now you could reach five or ten times that number. It takes human judgment to find the true best prospects, but a good screening process saves hundreds of hours and lets you hit the ground running to finish the process.
3. Leverage networking and databases to get better information and find passive candidates. Good applicant tracking programs should allow job sharing, candidate referral, and internal database search. This allows you to find and reach out to high-quality “passive” candidates that otherwise may not have applied at all. Social recruiting features allow you to tap your company’s and employees’ social networks to reach a broader audience of potential candidates.
4. Manage your candidate experience for long-term gains across the board. Automated communication, sometimes seen as an obstacle to effective interaction, also makes it physically possible to manage 1,000 applicants without personally contacting them all. Simple status updates and notifications let candidates know where they stand. People appreciate and remember this simple act of communication, and will think better of your company for it. This is how a positive image and potential brand ambassadors are created, attracting great people interested in working for your company.
An ATS may not be the most agile tool in existence, but the good ones are invaluable workhorses that can skyrocket value and productivity for hiring and HR. With proper use and the right system, you will only increase your pool of great potential employees. And that’s when you take off the gloves and start the calligraphy.
This blog post is co-authored by Ghazenfer Mansoor and Suzanne Vaughan.
Ghazenfer Mansoor is the founder of Hireworx, the web-based recruitment software designed to simplify the hiring process. Suzanne Vaughan is a blogger, writer, and social media manager at Hireworx.
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