The world of applicant tracking systems (ATS) is a crowded one. With more than 1,100 on the market today, choosing one can be a challenge to your decision-making skills. There are solutions for small companies, medium-sized companies, and large companies, although there are fewer solutions for small companies. Most are web-based, which helps with the flexibility of use, and they run from being free to be very expensive. If you are in the market for one, you may wonder what you need to consider. Here are five things.

Consideration # 1: Understand your current way of recruiting.

Without understanding how you currently do things, how can you know what you want? Just selecting a system because it has all the bell and whistles may not help you accomplish your goals. So you need to fully understand your process first. Charting the entire process out would be a very helpful thing to do. Take a look at these questions:

  • How does your recruiting process currently work?
  • What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish? Speed, communication, access?
  • How many people will need to use the system?
  • What are your technical capabilities?
  • What is your recruitment volume?
  • Who is making the hiring decisions?

Looking at all of these factors and truly understanding what you do now will help you sort through those 1,100 applicant tracking systems.

Consideration # 2: What are you looking for?

Based on the goals you have established, you can begin to narrow down the field of APSs based on the features they offer. Certainly one of your goals will be to stay within your budget, so the cost will be an issue. Other features that are offered by the various systems include:

  • Connection to social media sites
  • Connection to job boards
  • Availability to multiple users
  • Tracking of EEO data
  • Reporting options
  • Ability to create job requisitions
  • Connectivity to your corporate website
  • Ability to produce letters to candidates
  • Ability to use screening questions
  • Measurement of key metric data

These are just some of the features that may be offered by the APSs available. What you’ll want will depend on your current needs and your desired goals.

Consideration # 3: Decide whether you want an “out-of-the box” or scalable system.

Simpler systems may come in the “what you see is what you get” variety. Other systems can be customized to a very large extent. You just have to decide which kind you want based on the factors of budget, time, and internal abilities. It used to be that you had to decide whether you wanted the system to sit on your desktop, but today most systems are web-based, allowing you and other users greater flexibility of use. The level of integration you want will drive what system you use. If you need this to connect to your HRIS for payroll purposes, then smaller and simpler systems may not work.

Consideration # 4: Assess the different vendors.

There are a good number of steps that go into assessing the APS vendors. You’ll want to answer these questions:

  • Who are they, and who they are connected to?
  • What are their staff capabilities?
  • What is their financial standing?
  • How do they plan to grow?
  • Have they implemented their system with other clients? How many times?
  • What have been their customers’ experiences?
  • What is their customer service reputation?
  • How complicated is the implementation process?
  • What is their pricing structure?
  • Will they/can they integrate with your HRIS?
  • Does their system have most of what you are looking for?
  • Is what is missing a deal-breaker?
  • Check out their success stories, but also look at the not-so-successful stories.

While this process tends to benefit those companies that have been around for a while with a larger install basis, this does not mean you have to go with an established company. You can take a risk and try a new player in the field if they interest and excite you, and you think they fit in with your goals and style of doing things. You might get a substantial cost savings if you are willing to go with a newer company, especially if you can be a Beta tester for them.

Consideration # 5: Prepare your RFP.

Once you have understood your current process, decided on your goals, and narrowed down that list of 1,100 to a few that you’re interested in, then you can reach out to them and request that they provide you with a proposal. You will be working with them as they gather the information they need to be able to present you with a workable proposal. And if you can avail yourself of a free trial, do so.

Once you receive the proposals, you will need to make a decision. The deciding factors will be:

  • System capability. Does it really do what they say it does?
  • Are their prices within your budget?
  • Do their abilities support your needs?
  • Do you feel good about them?

With many vendors, you will be establishing a relationship. Make sure you meet the technical people; they will be the ones you are dealing with, not the salespeople. Meet the implementers and the customer support people, and make sure you feel comfortable with them.

The Value of Having an ATS

What is the value of having an ATS? There are a number of reasons to have an ATS, these include:

  • Being able to use and monitor your system from anywhere you have Internet access, be it the office, the remote office, your home office, a Starbucks, or an airplane is a HUGE advantage over operating off a spreadsheet on a desktop computer.
  • The ability to share is important. Having hiring managers involved in the process not only connects employees with managers more quickly, it also lessens the work load of the recruiter.
  • It improves communication. No longer do managers have to send an email to the recruiter saying “Where do we stand on Candidate X?” They can log in and see where the process is.
  • It captures needed data for the various metrics that are used.
  • It improves compliance by capturing required EEO data.
  • It improves efficiency by reducing the amount of paperwork.
  • It allows you to handle a larger volume of candidates.
  • It speeds up the time to hire, thus helping you avoid losing valuable candidates.

Ultimately, the deciding factor in using an ATS is what is the value to you? Decide wisely!

Andreea Hrab

International HR Director for OSF Global Services, Andreea is a veteran recruiter who has seen them all. She developed HR recruiting strategies and retention programs that guarantees the success of the company. She is a people person and she handles very easy new relationships with new employees, but her most interesting challenge is to find the middle way between company’s best interests and employee’s needs. To learn more about Andreea contact her on LinkedIn.

3 Comments

  • Avatar Abby D. says:

    These are good steps to consider for any company that wants to use this type of system. I have to admit that I do not agree with using any kind of ATS because I know that recruiting can’t be done by robots. Also, I have to admit that an ATS can be useful in today’s context. It’s a fact that companies that post jobs online receive a large amount of applicants and many of these resumes are from people who are actively looking for a job. Unfortunately, many of them are applying even though they are not qualified for that job. From this point of view, I find the ATS useful, but it should be used only to exclude those who do not completely match with the job’s requirements.

  • Avatar Karla says:

    Time is a very important resource for companies. If I’m doing the initial recruiting, I will never have enough time to look through the entire group of resumes. A selecting applicant tracking system really takes much of the reading and sorting off my hands. This is how I can focus more on my other tasks.

  • Avatar Sophia Baker says:

    An ATS is a good way to protect your company from lawsuits filed by applicants who may claim discrimination. The system is selecting, in an impartial way, only candidates that have the required qualities. Based on the legal considerations, I find it helpful to use an ATS for my company.

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