Applicant Tracking Basics - Why Your ATS May Be Failing You

Published on 1/14/2015 by David Webb

Categories: Recruiting Software Blog

Tags: applicantapplicant tracking basicsapplicant tracking systemcandidatehumanize HRtalent

*Be sure to check out the 2 previous articles in this series Why You Need an ATS & What To Consider When Selecting an ATS

Applicant tracking systems have become one of the most important tools to recruiters and HR professionals. Automated processes, improved workflow, ease of communication - the list of perks goes on. Longtime recruiter Liz Ryan plays devil's advocate to the glory and wonder that is the ATS. Have we dehumanized the recruiting and hiring process so much that we are losing the ability to find and attract the right people? Her thoughts:

"Ask any CEO how s/he feels about the availability of talent. It's a global problem, and not only because job descriptions are so often fanciful-bordering-on-delusional. It's hard to find employees who are not only smart and plucky but also good communicators, flexible and reliable. When you're facing a shortage of talent -- not job applicants, mind you, but the proactive and self-directed subset of those applicants who can make a difference for your firm and its customers -- is your first thought "Let me make the job application process as off-putting as possible?" Not if you understand Thing One about human motivation, it's not. Any employer's recruiting priority is to get great people into the talent pipeline and keep them there."

"We can market to talent as thoughtfully and narrowly as we market to customers. Marketers learn in a flash that when you market to the wrong people, it costs your company money in the qualification process. It doesn't work differently in recruiting. We don't have to blast our job openings out to the whole wide world, but we do, and then we complain that we can't read all the resumes that come back to us. We can be smarter than that. We can evolve past Black Hole recruiting to treat each job-seeker like the valued collaborator he or she is. Our customers need us to figure out how, and so do our shareholders, and so do our communities."

"Every hiring manager and every HR or Recruiting person should be cultivating their networks all the time. Recruiting isn't an event, but a process that never stops. We've tried so hard to make particles out of waves in the business world, and the way we recruit new employees is a perfect example. If we can just evolve past the ridiculous way we hire people now -- screening resumes, for instance, on the basis of obviously irrelevant job-spec bullet points -- it can only be good for us."

"We have a lot of work to do to humanize recruiting, and that's not just for the benefit of the people being recruited. It's simply good business to get out of the hyper-mechanical world we so love to inhabit at work, and bring recruiting back into the squishy, juicy, warm and human realm where it belongs."

While I am not a proponent of ditching the Applicant Tracking System for the "way we used to do it," I do think this article provides some very valid points about how dehumanized the process can become if an ATS system is used as a candidate-pusher, rather than its sole intent: a way to compile, track, and store candidate information. Maybe all the bells and whistles can be forgone in order to bring back a little bit of the people part of a people-oriented process. It's up to you to decide what is right for your organization.


Traci Kingery, PHR is an HR Professional and freelance writer based in the Midwest, specializing in immigration and talent management. When she's not improving unemployment, she keeps busy with her husband and four children.

About the Author, David Webb

David is the CEO of BrightMove and is a seasoned technology executive & entrepreneur noted for creating successful businesses. Over his 25+ year career, David has developed multi-platform expertise in the domains of computer science, data analytics & business transformation. Starting in 1995, David worked with his best friend, Jimmy Hurff, to develop one of the world's first Internet job board and resume bank applications. David is the primary architect of BrightMove and has an active role in the product's evolution to this day. From then to now, David has been consistently helping his customers to build great teams, using best practices and world-class technology.

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