Your ATS is like a Stick in the Eye! | HR Fishbowl


This blog is built on the premise that HR, in its relentless pursuit to be more strategic, has over-engineered itself to the detriment of its clients. While this certainly isn’t true in all cases, there are some that deserve a flogging. Generally, the HR community has done a pretty good job of adopting technology into its delivery over the years. It’s given us more power in providing meaningful analytics and  intelligence to the business. And that helps us stay at the table.  There is one technology, however, that I have to hammer on for a minute: Recruitment Management and Applicant Tracking Systems (RMS & ATS).  I understand these systems, I’ve used them, I’ve led teams that rely on them, and I have in fact selected, configured, and implemented them.  I realize they have a place in the recruitment workflow and that they can in fact improve the caliber of hire.  But let me tell you something, dear recruiters: from the candidate’s perspective, these systems suck dirty dish towels.

When I implemented Taleo back in 2004, the number one complaint from my recruiters was that “the candidates are going to hate this; they won’t have the patience to get through the process.” I am astonished to discover that many organizations today still get this wrong. The amount of effort it takes to submit a profile/application/resume to your systems is criminally disrespectful.  To enter your personal contact information again and again, to log in separate fields each and every position held and educational institution attended, to essentially recreate your resume to fit (supposedly) the recruiter’s needs only to lose your work after some technology glitch…it’s silly and stupid and a waste of everyone’s time.  I can hear the proponents already…and here’s what I have to say to them:

  • POINT: By asking the candidate to go through that process, we filter out those who aren’t really interested. COUNTER-POINT: Maybe.  But you’ll also filter out those who may be extremely well positioned for the role, have value on the street, have other options, and don’t have the patience for your process.
  • POINT: Those individual data fields allow us to better filter and search the candidate database. COUNTER-POINT: Get a reliable parsing technology to pull (successfully) that data automatically from an uploaded resume and then search and filter all you want.
  • POINT: We can’t afford said parsing technology. COUNTER-POINT: Then you really can’t afford your ATS.
  • POINT: Once we get a profile, they are in our database for life and we can contact them down the road.  COUNTER-POINT: Nice idea, but it never happens.  You know you rely on “recency” as one of the most important criteria for your sourcing effort.  Profiles go stale, you have others that are front of mind.
  • POINT: The screening questions allow us to filter out unqualified candidates. COUNTER-POINT: Bull-sh%$!  Any one can answer those questions the way you want the ideal candidate to answer them.  You’ll still have to screen their qualifications.
  • POINT: The system helps us track and remain compliant with our EEO requirements. COUNTER-POINT: True.  But you could also have the system do it without having them fill out a complete profile and most of the job boards will do the same thing for you if you choose to use their functionality.
  • POINT: If they don’t like it, they can go look for a job somewhere else. COUNTER-POINT: Exactly…they can and will.

There are of course good arguments for using an ATS, but I’m struggling with whether those arguments outweigh the pain and suffering inflicted on your prospective employees (and your employment brand).  I would argue that a good recruiter (or team) with a good job board and thoughtful sourcing strategies can do everything your ATS can do only better. Try it, your candidates will love it.

Photo Credit: Foundshit

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