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Why it’s time to dump your outdated applicant tracking system

Sharon Florentine | Aug. 17, 2016
Still using that clunky, outdated ATS? It's time to consider a next-generation solution that focuses on candidate experience instead.

Organizations that are successfully winning the war for talent and consistently making great hires aren't using an outdated, clunky, inefficient and ineffective applicant tracking system (ATS) Instead, they're turning to software that approaches the practice of recruiting in the same way that CRM software approaches marketing and sales -- but instead of inquiring, marketing and selling a product or a service, you're "selling" your company and a potential career and emphasizing candidate experience.

Talent management, human capital management, talent acquisition, candidate relationship management - whatever you want to call it -- today's systems focus on three distinct areas sorely lacking in the first-generation ATS, says Jerome Ternynck, CEO of SmartRecruiters: marketing, collaboration and management.

"Back in the late 1990s, these first-generation ATS solutions were just about digitizing and automating candidate information. But if you ask organizations how those solutions help them find and engage candidates, especially passive candidates, they just give you a blank stare," says Ternynck.

Old school

The major issue is that traditional ATS systems weren't designed to be used by the majority of people involved in the hiring process, like hiring managers and candidates. Even recruiters struggle to get the needed functionality out of these tools, he says.

"You need to find, engage and nurture great talent, which is the marketing piece of the equation. That includes managing your careers site, advertising for available roles and tracking the ROI of those, managing programs and internal campaigns, as well as external leads. Then, you need to use the system to foster collaboration between all stakeholders and manage your progress from creating a job description to opening a role, to approvals, to hiring and onboarding all the way through. Finally, managing your data, processes and progress from end to end so you have one point of contact -- a single-pane view of all your candidates, information and data points," Ternynck says.

And all of these focal points do wonders to enhance the candidate experience from the get-go, which makes it more likely they'll eventually come to work for your organization, says Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at recruiting and collaborative ATS software company Lever, and completely avoids the pitfalls of legacy ATS.

"From the candidate side, it's a completely new world. Now they feel that they are someone the company truly cares about; they are heard, they are responded to. By giving the candidate a better experience, organizations see greater response rates and better conversion rates," she says.

Into the abyss

The shortcomings of traditional ATS are evident just from their name: They're focused only on active applicants, ignoring passive candidates and referrals; legacy ATS is only concerned with tracking basic information about active candidates and doesn't include database storage and analysis capability; and they don't allow much wiggle room for recruiters, hiring managers outside the impersonal process of their basic systems, according to Srinivasan.


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