An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that a lot of companies use to electronically manage their recruitment processes. Whether you are recruiting for one job role at a time or managing hundreds of vacancies for your organisation, an applicant tracking system can massively simplify your process, but what some companies don’t realise is that their applicant tracking system might also be making their job to recruit harder than it needs to be.
Is your applicant tracking system causing these issues?
Certain applicant tracking systems will actually block a number of applications from ever being received by the company advertising the role. This is often due to systems that search and filter applications on keywords in the job advert and the CV itself. On paper this sounds like an efficient way to review applications, but it doesn’t account for ambiguity in terms and skills. For example your advert might be looking for people with “Content Marketing” experience, but would not necessarily match someone who has “Blogging” on their CV despite the fact that this would make them a potentially suitable candidate. If you have this filter function use this as a way to prioritise how you view the CV’s you receive, but don’t discount the ones that don’t show as a match because you could be missing out on some great candidates.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of blocking applications coming through lies another problem: candidates manipulating their applications with the keywords listed in the job advert. Candidates who know how to manipulate their application in this manner may add keywords throughout their CV to ensure their CV appears at the top of the pile, ahead of more suitable candidates who as a result may be missed altogether. This highlights exactly why it’s so important that you keep the human element for hiring, because information needs to be verified with a candidate to avoid booking in unsuitable candidates for face-to-face interviews.
A lot of companies put Diversity as a top priority for their recruitment strategy, yet what they may not realise is that the artificial intelligence (AI) behind their applicant tracking system may be hindering this through bias. This bias is not the same as the human elements that can create unconscious bias in things such as culture, background and personal experience, but ATS algorithms can unintentionally favour certain applicant profiles at the expense of others. An applicant tracking system that shows all candidates in order of date applied and is reviewed by a person (not a machine) will help you avoid this.
No personal touch
An ATS is likely to save you time on recruitment through features such as email automation, but be careful not to lose that personal touch. Automated email responses can seem impersonal and may even lead candidates to believe that a human has not actually reviewed their application at all. Using automated emails for unsuitable applications means that candidates will as a minimum be updated of the status of their application (something that surprisingly does not happen a lot of the time), and if your ATS allows it you’ll be able to personalise the bulk of the message, so it isn’t overly general and robotic. For the candidates that look suitable you may want to consider bypassing the automation and picking up the phone or dropping them a personalised email instead as it will get a much better reaction from the candidate.
The applicant tracking system is "off the shelf"
Every company is unique, and therefore the way that they run their recruitment process and candidate journey is unlikely to be exactly the same as everyone else. An “off the shelf” applicant tracking system might seem like a good option but bear in mind that it may not mirror your process and therefore may not be as efficient as you’d like it to be. Ideally, you’ll want a solution that can be personalised allowing you to map out a candidate journey relevant to your organisation. This will ensure that it’s really easy to move a candidate through the various stages from application to hire without missing anything important.
It can limit how many roles a candidate can apply to
Some systems are designed to allow a single submission for a candidate which technically may not cause any issue, but if you are a company with more than one location or a number of job roles that are similar to each other, a candidate may wish to apply to more than one opportunity. For example, you may have a vacancy for a “Marketing Executive” and a “Content Marketer” – two different but very similar job descriptions. You don’t want to limit the number of vacancies a candidate can apply to because it could cause you to miss out on great talent, and it will impact on the candidate experience.
It can lead to incomplete applications
As tempting as it is to use an applicant tracking system that obtains a high level of information from the candidate when they apply, you must consider how this affects the candidate experience. If the user experience is clunky, over-complicated and takes ages to complete you’ll either start the candidate journey off on a low note, or risk incomplete applications occurring (which can cause you to miss out on great people). Over-complicated and lengthy application forms are dying out, instead consider a system that allows a candidate to submit their CV in a couple of short minutes, or even by attaching their LinkedIn profile! If you need more information down the line it is easier to obtain when the candidate is already in the process instead of asking for everything up front.
Not agency compatible
The majority of companies will engage a recruitment agency at some point to fulfil their hiring needs, so if your ATS is not compatible for agency use it can complicate the process. Systems that allow agencies to submit candidates for specific roles through a unique login will help eliminate any “candidate ownership” disputes because it will clearly log the date, time and source of all candidates, and in most cases will also prevent an agency sending you a candidate that is already within your system.
The applicant tracking system is not GDPR compliant
Applicant tracking systems receive and store data so if you want to ensure you are complying with GDPR (and avoiding a fine of up to 20 million Euros) then you need to ensure your ATS is compatible. You’ll need a simple way to delete data, either upon request of a candidate or when the timescale passes that you can no longer hold the data under “legitimate interest”. Consult your companies Data Compliance Team to find out what your policy is as each organisation may be slightly different. If you receive a subject access request from a candidate you’ll also need a simple way to retrieve and send the historic data to a candidate, so ensure your system allows this.