7 Ways your Applicant Tracking System is making your recruiters and your candidates miserable
“My company’s ATS is the most efficient, effective, and user-friendly recruitment tool. I really love working with it,” said no one ever.
Somehow, we’ve let these systems weasel their way into our companies as an indispensable tool for hiring. We are spending large chunks of our HR budget on system updates, when the sad reality is that most applicant tracking systems are ok at many things, but bad at the specific functions needed in high volume hiring.
Those systems of record are built with compliance as their main purpose. They weren't built to meet the demands of the immediate-response driven market of today. Instead, they are making the lives of recruiters and candidates miserable, and charging a fee in the process. Recruiters have grown so accustomed to the lack of results of the ATS, that they have grown to accept it, just like death and taxes.
Your ATS is a glorified excel sheet
The problem with most ATSs can be traced back to the day they were designed. That “state of the art” system your company purchased was designed more than 10 years ago, back when MySpace was the #1 social media community and Nokia was the #1 phone. Back then, ATS had a simple job: replace excel by storing and tracking data, with some basic collaboration features.
“But we’ve evolved, we’re cutting-edge now” goes the pitch from blue-chip tech companies. Really? How does your ATS expand your talent pool? How does it make your company more accessible than others? How does your application process set you apart from competition? Something that was designed to do one thing will always struggle to become great at doing another. You can throw as many updates at it as you want, but it’s unlikely your current ATS will ever be the tool you need it to be.
If your vendor offers new features that support your core recruitment activity (e.g. marketing, interviewing, scheduling), it is likely you will have to pay a hefty fee for functions that general public software (e.g. Hootsuite, WhatsApp, Calendly, Google Sheet) can do better for a fraction of the cost.
Your ATS is taking too much time from candidates
No matter how much ATS vendors tout their “ease of use”, and their “candidate-centric experience”, they have not made the tough design decisions to back up this claim. Job seekers regularly abandon job applications halfway through the process, due to the dull and time-consuming forms they were forced to go through.
Some argue that these complicated application processes help to weed out candidates who aren’t truly motivated. What about the talent who rightfully value their own time?
Candidates applying to high-volume roles in the BPO and retail industries are looking to get hired fast. And they're most likely applying to 10-15 jobs a day. Why are we making it so hard? For a truly candidate-centric experience, we should take this into account and adapt our process accordingly.
Your ATS forces candidates out of the ecosystem where they live
With all the money you spend on advertising jobs online and via social channels, you’d think the mechanism that converts the generated traffic into qualified leads would be ironed out within your ATS. No such luck. The average ATS does not allow candidates to apply via Facebook, LinkedIn or text directly, and generally asks that candidates apply via the career site, irrespective of their personal preferences. In an age of shorter attention spans, asking candidates to navigate multiple platforms results in poor conversion and an aggravating experience.
If the candidates indeed agree to come to your site, they are then asked to upload a Word or PDF resume. With 87% of the Facebook traffic coming from mobile, that’s where most of your traffic is lost: most people don’t keep a resume on their phone.
Your ATS weeds out exceptional talent
Most ATS don’t let candidates talk about themselves. Even if they try, the systems don’t listen. Context gets thrown out of the window and every carefully crafted sentence on a resume is ripped to shreds and scanned for keywords. Some candidates have figured this out and find that submitting a copy of the job ad itself (rather than a motivation letter), creates a better “match” with the desired skills.
Regularly, your ATS rejects candidates with great passion and intelligence, because their previous job titles aren’t a match. What a loss. The sales person of the century might have applied to your company last year, but you will never know. Your ATS coldly eliminated him or her because of lack of relevant experience. Any deviation from the exact criteria you’ve requested results in elimination, leaving no room for human connections. Forget about hiring the next Steve Jobs. Instead, you’ll hire a guy called Steve because he used to do the same job.
Your ATS is stuck in the age of email
If you’re using one of the better ATSs, it will help your recruiters communicate with a large number of applicants. Unfortunately, the default choice of communication method is boring old email. And while email is great if you're sending targeted messages to consumers, maybe reminding them of items in their cart, it doesn't translate in a recruiting environment. An active job seeker is getting dozens of emails from different ATSs (where they had to make a profile), that for the most part go unopened.
There's a reason why email read rates, open rates and response rates are awful: today’s world works on voice and text communication. Especially Can your ATS initiate a phone call? Does it allow you to live chat with your candidates? How can you even ask it to “track” if it can’t support the main communication channels?
Your ATS turns your recruiters into data entry folks
The prettiest interface in the world cannot mask poor design choices. Imagine having to update an excel file every time you complete a work activity. Called a candidate but he did not pick up: update the system. Candidate asked to reschedule their interview: update the system. Write interview notes from phone interview: update the system. That’s how most of the functions of your ATS work. Recruiters have to log every single action they take, the system of record demands it. To excel, your recruiters should focus their energy on candidates, instead of doing record keeping.
Your ATS sucks… and it’s time to move on
There’s really no getting around it: your ATS sucks. Just ask your recruiters this straightforward question: would they get more hiring done by using an Excel sheet than your budget-hungry ATS? I realize I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already cursed at your ATS in the past.
You are not alone.
I work with some of the largest employers in the world. Most of them are resigned to work with an ATS because of a directive from their global HQ. They usually resort to using their ATS as a quick data entry before the offer letter. ATS acknowledged, CHECK! They are then asked to pay a license fee every year for that inconvenience. Just like an IRS form: tell them what you’re up to and wait for the bill.
They say you can never do away with death and taxes. That may be true, but shouldn’t you be allowed to get rid of useless software? By giving your recruiters more freedom, by letting them be mobile-first, by letting them spend more time talking to candidates than updating a system, you are serving your organization better, which means you will be serving yourself better. Maybe 2021 is the year you take a stance and tell your HQ: Thanks, but no thanks.
About me: I’m the CEO of Talkpush (www.talkpush.com), the leading automated recruitment software. Our recruitment chatbots currently processes over a million candidate every year, more than any in the world, and help to connect employers and candidates in over 10 countries. Are you ready to start engaging with talent at scale? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
More reading? Here are 6 Reasons Why Recruitment Email Marketing is Dead