5 Questions to Ask Before Buying an ATS

By Erik Lee

It is no surprise that the workforce landscape is constantly shifting. According to the Hay Group’s 2013 study and reports from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 37 million people, approximately 23.2% of the workplace, will be in transition within the next 4 years. In addition, millennials will make up half the workplace by 2020. With countless other statistic and reports confirming the evolution of the workforce, companies will have to adapt to the transforming face of working America. While much has been said about the potential implications, a far more basic component has not received the attention it deserves: the job application process.

Work-life balance, vacation time, and corporate perks are all critical aspects of modern employment; but, such conversation falls on deaf ears if there aren’t any employees. Most members of the current generation (everyone from generation X to Y, and everything in between) are familiar with the online application process. No longer the fax or the phone, websites have become the primary go-to sources of contact between a potential employee and her employer. In short, the career section of the website is the portal into the company. Casting aside the company’s prestige, history, and latest news, the job posting tab is now a measurement of the company’s strength for the potential candidate. According to Josh Bersin, a Deloitte principal, the recruiting process has the power to influence “areas of employment branding, campaign management, candidate relationship management, assessment, and interview automation.”

Considering the context in which people are applying to jobs, companies are now looking to automate their recruiting processes. An ATS is one system where an external member (the candidate) has an opportunity to connect with an internal source (recruiter). As a window into the company, an ATS serves as a promotion channel for the organization. In like manner, the candidate has the opportunity to impress upon the recruiter through the same channel. The ATS works as a company campaign tool and a candidate profile platform. 

Here are the top 5 questions to consider before evaluating Applicant Tracking Systems:

1) Is it easy to use? The primary job of an ATS is to make both users’ (the applicant and the recruiter) lives easier. Given that the average number of post-recession applications for an opening at a tech company is over 500, it is critical that the recruiter is enabled to sift through the database methodically. For far too long, business applications have relied on an “industrial-based” user-interface. You didn’t need to take a class to use Facebook; you don’t need one for an ATS. 

2) Is it social? There are more than 277 million users on LinkedIn, 255 million users on Twitter, and more than 1 billion users on Facebook. Job applicants are looking for social, mobile, and engaging ways to apply to their dream jobs. By utilizing an already existing database full of potential talent, social-ready ATS systems can identify the next superstar. Be where your future employees are. 

3) Can it help you maintain compliance? If your organization needs to be compliant with EEOC or OFCCP, you are required to maintain a log of applicants. With an increasing attention paid to workplace diversity, the ATS must comply with HR legal practices. To process applications headache-free, make sure your ATS meets those requirements. 

4) How strong is the reporting function? Ferrari and Honda are both car makers—but only a few would consider them to have similarities beyond that. Many ATS will carry reporting functions: ask what they can report on, and whether or not it is configurable. It’s not a box you can check off; it requires an in-depth analysis of their full potential. 

5) Can it expand? For many, adopting a recruiting solution is the first step to streamlining the entire employee process. As companies grow and expand, employees’ needs will correspondingly become complex. A modular system allows for an “add-as-you-need” paradigm—enabling the company to implement additional solutions as needed. 

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Erik Lee is an HCM consultant and an avid HR industry student looking for creative ways to assist his Southern California midsize businesses empower their HR departments. He believes that the employees are the companies’ most important assets, and strives to enable the departments by helping them take advantage of the latest developments in HR technology. Erik is a UCLA grad (go Bruins!) and looks forward to connecting with readers via his Twitter account @eriktlee

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