Applicant Tracking System: Almost Everything About It

Applicant tracking system is a software that is integrated with your recruitment funnel to automate it. Using this, you can measure, monitor, and improve your recruitment metrics and have a better shot at sourcing your next star employee.

Let us try something. When I say “resume”, what do you think? Did you think about a headache? Did you groan? Did you think about the time you waste in going through the resumes? And then Steve from engineering asks you why he doesn’t have a data scientist in the team yet.

HRs like you are so busy and tangled in sourcing and screening candidates for the ever-growing need of the business that you do not stop to think if these efforts are fruitful or not. Technology and automation have taken new leaps in the past few years. And they have also impacted the way companies screen candidates.

Introducing the Applicant Tracking System; a software that screens resumes in the directory and only sends those to the inbox that are relevant to your job listing. But why should you care about using human resource software when there is no apparent need for it? Glad you asked.

Storytime

It was a gentle summer morning and Megan just had her coffee. She stretched her legs and reclined the chair when the computer chimed. She raised her brow and turned her neck to see the screen. And then it chimed again. And again. And soon enough her system lagged due to the continuous emails she was getting with candidates’ CVs and resumes.

“Ugh, how on earth am I going to screen all these candidates and find the best ones suited for the needs”, she complained to herself. After cursing her life, she pulled her chair closer to the computer and cracked her knuckles for a difficult day.

I am sure that you also feel like Megan on most days whenever you post a new job opening on the company website. How about another story?

Susan just came back from lunch when the computer chimed. She smiled to herself and settled into the chair. She doesn’t have to worry about irrelevant applications making their way to her inbox because she has something that Megan doesn’t; an Applicant Tracking System.

What is an applicant tracking system?

Now comes the moment of truth, the reckoning, the text definition you have been waiting for. If you still haven’t figured out what ATS does for you, maybe this will help.

“An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment and hiring needs.”

Wikipedia

What is ATS system? Experts say it is a human resource software. Recruiters say it is a way to make life easier. Business owners say that it is a way to save thousands of dollars and hours annually. And vendors say that is an almost-automated database of job applicants.

It doesn’t matter what you say it is. What does matter is that companies of all ages, sizes, domains, expertise, service, yadda yadda are using ATS to sort, communicate with, and search job applicants; a large number of job applicants. And yes, it is an add-on to make recruitment and hiring better.

In fact, 99% of the Fortune 500 companies use ATS in their recruitment funnel. Why? Am I being wise enough to throw out the human from the human resource function? Umm, not really. See, people who think this are the ones who limit their HR functions to just hiring and firing of employees.

So, most of the time when you are submitting your CV to a career page, you are most likely interacting with an ATS.

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Applicant tracking system makes searching easier

So, you have a job vacancy. You have a fully functional website with a dedicated and flashy career page at the top. Wow, congratulations.

But before you go all berzerk and get ready to smash the “download resume” button of your email and receive the “exhausted hosting resources” email at least 100 times, there is one thing you should take care of – to not do either of these things.

There is a much more civilized way of finding your next best candidate and I am going to take you on a discovery voyage of how an applicant tracking system is the best investment that you are going to make in your recruitment process; not better than using a full-stack recruitment automation platform.

So, how exactly do you use ATS in your recruitment funnel? What are its benefits? And why do businesses use this software? Let’s start tackling these questions one by one and begin with an amazing quote by Robert Half, Founder of Robert Half International, a global human resource consulting firm.

“Time spent on hiring is time well spent.”

Robert Half

1. Why recruiters use ATS?

Imagine a big brand like Apple or Nike. Can you estimate how many applications they receive in their system for every job? Thousands of applications, if not millions. So, where do the candidates who didn’t make the cut go with their applications? To other small and large enterprises and recruitment firms.

And if you are a recruiter, how many applications do you think you will be flooded with? Maybe hundreds. Or even thousands in some cases. Do you have the time and resources to do the entire process manually? Would you download each and every application and view the candidate profile? You wouldn’t.

Why? Because the internet has made things easy. Applying for jobs is very easy now. As a result, everyone taps the “submit application” button thinking “why not?” or “it is worth a try”. I have done this, my friends have done this, and friends of my friends have also done this. And as a recruiter, you must have gotten such applications.

With good applicant tracking systems, you can store all the resumes in one place. Also, you can be sure that no resume reaches your inbox without passing through automatic screening. Hence, you get only relevant profiles to choose from. This makes your job easier and your life better.

2. How do you find star employees using ATS?

“In the next three weeks, I want only 20 applicants and everyone should be an amazing writer as Amish Tripathi for my history magazine.”

If your boss says this to you, what do you do? You can either look for ways to find Amish-like writers (or a star employee) or you can continue doing the things the same way and blame it on the candidates at the end of the day declaring that there is an undersupply of good writers in the job seeker market. Btw, if you search for “content writer” on LinkedIn, there are close to 110,000 results. I highly doubt that not even 50% of them are good enough.

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

Jim Collins, Lecturer and Author of Good to Great

Most of the businesses are shooting in the dark trying to match people to jobs and jobs to people. That is not how you find star employees. With ATS, you can program the algorithm to only pass those profiles which contain the keywords you want. Maybe “content leader”, “history freak”, “content creator”, etc. The system will pass the relevant profiles so you have a better chance of finding the right candidate than having none at all.

3. ATS replaces spreadsheets

When I was a kid, maintaining a spreadsheet for every single thing was the only way. That was 10 years ago. But what do I see? Most businesses are still there. C’mon man, the world is juggling the Internet of Things, AI, Machine Learning, Big Data, and what not and you are still hung up on spreadsheets? Not cool.

Technology is the door to working quicker and smarter. And an applicant tracking system is the key to that door. The ATS records from where the candidate landed on your job, if the candidate filled the job application completely, and if the candidate is even relevant to your job posting or not.

Do all these processes ring a bell? Yes, they are columns of your HR spreadsheet. But it is time to Shft+Del the file and move it digitally to an ATS where you see all the information on the dashboard in front of your eyes and is also available to the entire team (yes, no more shouting across the room and constant nagging by the manager).

Isn’t that the dream? I know it is and the ATS is fulfilling it. Now you can dream about sipping martinis at the beach knowing that the software is taking care of screening and filtering the resumes for you.

4. ATS helps to improve your recruitment metrics

Umm, why do I feel that you are raising your brows and wondering what on earth are recruitment metrics? Do not worry – I have an amazing resource to help you understand that; read this blog on what are recruitment metrics. Read that and come back here to understand how ATS is useful in improving your recruitment metrics.

Done? Okay, perfect. Now imagine that you are not using ATS. How are you going to measure all the recruitment metrics that I talked about? That’s what I thought. Whenever we are talking about metrics, data is the element we play with. And to improve data, you need a platform to capture data. That platform is ATS.

ATS measures how much average time applicants are taking to fill the job application completely. The ATS also tells you how many applicants start the process and drop it off in the middle. By capturing the source of the applicant, you can measure which medium is sending off the poorest candidates and should be improved. Furthermore, the ATS tells you the lifespan of the hiring cycle you are following.

I can go on and on but you get the picture, right? To know more about the recruitment metrics and their role, read “The Ultimate Guide to Recruitment Metrics to Make Better Hiring Decision”.

Should you spend your precious money on purchasing an ATS?

Well, this one is a tricky question because, honestly, the answer really depends on you. If you are ready to take a step ahead and automate & streamline the traditional recruitment process your business is running (while you are offering consultation services to other businesses to prepare for the future?), then the applicant tracking system is the right investment for you.

Either way, I am going to give you a quick overview of the benefits of ATS, whether you are a  corporate HR or a recruitment agency.

  • Post jobs directly from ATS. Isn’t that amazing? Good ATS also allows you to create a custom career site within the software for better and faster processing.
  • Parse resumes. The system automatically scans and parses the resume to match their relevance against your job posting. Hence, you don’t get any “what’s the loss in applying” kind of applications.
  • Generate reports. I hate generating reports and my bosses love asking me to prepare reports. You feel my pain? Then you will also appreciate the relief that applicant tracking systems give us by automating the reporting process.
  • Keep your budget. A lot of ATS are subscription-based which you can customize (add and remove modules) depending on your need. Why would you want to pay for a module you don’t have any need for? ATS lets you use your recruitment budget optimally.

Despite all these amazing benefits of an ATS, there can still be some misconceptions and myths that you have in your mind. Read this blog to know the 7 most common myths about ATS that are complete nonsense.

Conclusion

It can be hard to find the right applicant tracking system for your business. And it can be even hard to make your boss understand why you need one. But I sympathize with you and I have tried my best to lay down almost everything about an applicant tracking system.

So, make sure that you take this with you when you have “the talk” and rehearse the points I have talked about. You can even use the story that I told above, I don’t mind. As long as you are using technology and automation to make recruitment fun, better, and faster, I am satisfied.