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Why your ATS may be killing your recruiting efforts

Sharon Florentine | Feb. 2, 2016
Applicant tracking systems get a bad rap for a reason -- many are clunky, hard to use and difficult to calibrate. But that doesn't mean you should ditch them entirely. Here’s how to improve your ATS.

Testing and tweaking

What if you're stuck with a traditional, or legacy ATS? There are steps you can take to make the system work more effectively and efficiently, and to smooth the process for candidates, says Capterra's Medved. It all starts with seeing things from the candidate's perspective, identifying hiccups, bugs and frustrations, and working to eliminate those.

Start by ensuring applicants understand upfront what the application process is like, what steps they need to take, how long they'll need to enter information and how quickly they'll get a response, he says. This can be a short paragraph within the job description or on your careers site -- optimized for mobile, of course. If you have the option to add a hotline for problems or questions that will connect applicants to a live person, so much the better, or even a live chat feature that can help if they run into problems with the process or with the software, he says.

"Now, understand that this type of service is going to get some pushback from leadership - after all, one of the business cases for an ATS is that it will automate the application process and alleviate pressure on HR to answer phones or emails about open positions. But you want to remember that, if your candidates are your 'customers,' that level of 'customer satisfaction' may be key to keeping them engaged in the process," Medved says.

Put yourself in the candidate's shoes

You also should have current employees approach the system from the candidate side by filling out an application and going through the process as if they were applying for a job, he says. This can easily highlight flaws in the process, software bugs or annoyances that could deter people from applying. Test for all sorts of variables: different browsers, different hardware, mobile devices, etc., he says. Another place to look is with an ATS's keyword filtering settings, Medved says. Grab the resumes of a few of your top performers and run them through the system -- you might be surprised by how many are rejected.

"You have to find where in the process your ATS may be hindering you. Does it make it overly long? Are you asking people to fill out personal and professional data twice? When they 'click to submit', does the system just erase everything? Is it rejecting ideal candidates for spurious reasons, like formatting? You might be losing ideal, wonderful candidates for reasons that are irrelevant to whether or not they can perform well in a role, and this is not acceptable in the current talent war," Medved says.

Once you've tested, then you can start tweaking your system to ensure you're filtering candidates correctly, fixing bugs and working on customization, according to Medved.


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