Improving Your Applicant Tracking System

Improving Your Applicant Tracking System
August 29, 2011

You’ve done the research, gone through the process of publishing an RFP, evaluated vendors, selected a final vendor, and then negotiated the final price for your new Applicant Tracking System (ATS). You’re about to find out that that’s only half the battle.

In today’s economy, finding applicants isn’t much of a challenge. The challenge is finding the right applicants.

True, many of the Premier ATS’ have the ability to sort and rank the candidates based on certain keywords or phrases in their resume using various algorithms.  Yes, it’s exciting seeing that there’s a large response to your advertisement. After all, that’s one of the promises that were most likely made to you when you invested in the system: a high volume of applicant flow with the ability to distinguish between the high performers and the low performers.

But if you look at your ATS as a repository of potential job applicants, some of which you might go back to later down the road, do you really want to fill your ATS with those people who might as well disqualify themselves before even applying? To put it another way, as a hiring manager, VP of HR, or as a recruiter, wouldn’t it make more sense to get fewer applicants that are more qualified, rather than more applicants that aren’t?

I recently asked this very question to a SVP of Human Resources at a company with more than 20,000 employees. He admitted that he would much prefer less applicants than more; his recruiter had a look that said, silently, “what do you mean less?”.

Hiring is a numbers game, but as in most numbers games, you want the odds to be in your favor. In today’s economy, with a large number of people out of work, some people, leveraging the ease of many top search engines, will submit their resumes to you, whether they’re qualified for the position or not.

The same SVP of Human Resources told me that they had someone recently apply for a job at the Corporate Office as a financial analyst. Their background? They worked as a long-haul truck driver for the last twenty years, before being laid off. The candidate had no background in finance but had been a loyal and devoted driver in the transportation industry (and quite good at it by the awards he received). He was an excellent worker, but simply wasn’t the right fit for what the company needed.

Years ago, I worked closely with an HR department. One of the best stories they told me was about a person who had applied to be the Director of Traffic. On his cover letter, he explained that he would be great at the position due to his “interest in police enforcement”.

Different kind of traffic job.

How to Use Brainshark to Improve your ATS

I recently held a workshop with an organization down South and their biggest need was hiring for corporate positions.

The suggestion was made to use Brainshark on their website as a precursor to their ATS systems collecting information and an application. By “Brainsharking” the position, a company shows what the position involves, why people are successful at it, and what the minimum requirements are to apply. At the end of the Brainshark, I suggest to also show a one-minute “day in the life” Brainshark to the prospective candidates, so that they could better understand the culture and the position to aid their decision process.

The last slide should be one thanking them for their interest in the position, and telling them that if they feel they are qualified, to please click a link to begin the process with the ATS.

If the aforementioned firm had gone through a process such as this, the poor fellow who wanted to direct traffic would have found out easily that he should look elsewhere. It would also have allowed the organization to "pre-ATS" and avoid reading yet another unqualified application/resume.

In the hiring game, it’s key to get to the best people possible as fast as you can before the competition gets to them. Even with the best ATS, there are ways to repeat words over and over again to improve your sort/rank (although this door is quickly closing), so you need to be innovative about how you narrow your search.

These ideas may or may not work for you, but if you effectively produce information on your open positions around the efforts of your ATS, you can work the system in your favor, and do it without polluting your applicant pipeline.