ATS = Applicant Tracking System or Always The Same?

Posted by | May 27, 2010 | Recruiting, Technology

As an Employer, an Applicant Tracking System is probably a necessity. Or at least that’s what corporate and organizational executives lead you to believe. Nonetheless, it’s in place and you have to live with it. But how smooth is your application process? 9 times out of 10, it probably frustrates job seekers and leaves them feeling like they’re applying to a “black hole” rather than a company with actual people. It’s a brick wall, with no way around, no way to attract the attention of hiring managers other than a sterile profile. Boring, lame, confusing, complicated – these are all typical terms used by applicants when forced to interface with an Applicant Tracking System. Have you walked through your company’s applicant process to see what it entails? Often it seems like an interrogation. For applicants, doing this once is painful enough – doing it multiple times over and over because each company’s ATS is different? Ridiculous. Frustrating.

What are we doing to change this? Is this all we can expect in the future or will there be a more humanistic approach? An ATS is an automated way to collect data. It’s very impersonal and leaves little room for creativity or expression, which should be evaluated factors in hiring your next employee. Why wait until you’ve brought someone in for an interview to find out they don’t have any?

Obviously, no application process will satisfy the OFCCP police, employers and the job seekers 100%. What can we do within this industry and this process to add some human back into Human Resources? I’m curious about your thoughts on this.

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4 Responses to “ATS = Applicant Tracking System or Always The Same?”

  1. Comment made by Gary L. Melling on May 28th 2010 at 2:53 am:

    Hi Robin,
    Thanks for posting your thoughts on this and setting up this discussion. My company sells a variety of web-based applications, programs and professional services; two of which include online job applicant screening and yes, an ATS. I think what makes us different however is not so much the technology but how we coach clients in what they do with the savings in efficiency they generate by using our systems…. That said, you really should take advantage of our 30-Day Free Trial of the Job Applicant Screening tool at …sorry I couldn’t help the opportunity for some shameless promotion!
    Seriously, I think that your point is an excellent one. At the risk of sounding somewhat philosophical and reflective, it seems that with each passing day we lose more and more of the common courtesies we once took for granted. I’m old enough to remember actually writing a letter to a friend in a different part of the country (yes, with a pen and by hand), putting it in an envelope, putting a stamp on it, walking to the post office and waiting a week for it to get to its’ destination…. and then waiting another week (or so) for the process to be reversed and to get my response….yes, we had telephones, but there was an indescribable intimacy and connection that came with actually writing a letter…. while I do appreciate the speed that technology affords us I also recognize the mortal wound things like “common courtesy” have suffered… and frankly there is no need for it.
    We advocate to our clients, who all obtain measurable and sustainable savings in time and money (e.g., shortening the recruiting cycle time by 30 – 40%) use the new found time and money to re-deploy resources (and that includes people) to re-visit and re-invent the relationship they have with their customers and use that experience to become employers of choice, companies of choice, to in effect use the opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market place. Yes, some will take the quick win and instead of re-investing they will go through workforce reductions to squeeze every drop of short-term and short-sighted gain out of the situation… further evidence that they don’t get it…. but in my opinion more and more organizations are becoming at least aware that the re-investment strategy could have a huge upside. Some are being made aware of this through newer technologies such as social media, some because they are actually attracted to the possibilities, others because they are curious and still others that are doing it because they are afraid of being left out.
    To tie this back to your posting, in short, if more organizations, public and private were able to truly understand what strategic advantage means and how to achieve it by making it real…. i.e., in the context of their organization, in their vertical, in their market, they would hopefully conclude that it is a process, a journey… and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a long one, but it should be a smart one. By so doing they would be able to take new found resources resulting from a new application, a new process, a new acquisition, etc., and re-purpose them into strategic weapons. In this case it would be by getting back to applicants with a phone call…. Yes a real person actually picking up the phone and calling an unsuccessful job applicant to give them a status report, to thank the applicant for their time and interest, for their effort in submitting a resume, cover letter, etc. I don’t buy the argument that we are all just too busy… too busy for what? Too busy to invest in our company, our brand, to become an employer of choice, a preferred partner?
    I agree with the point you raised in setting up this discussion, I also wanted to let you know that there are a few of us out here that do more than just slam in an ATS – I wish there were more of us…. Can you imagine a business climate where competing vendors were actually differentiated by the value they produced, the ethics with which they delivered and the genuine kindness and mindfulness they exercised with their clients?…. boggles the mind, it does!


  2. Comment made by Rayanne Thorn on May 29th 2010 at 12:48 am:

    Interesting question, Robin. And frankly, I am surprised by the lack of comments here. OFCCP seems to be a hot topic and getting, rightfully so, hotter every day…, I think the more employers understand their responsibility to OFCCP, the more they will learn to rely on the way they can save information in their ATS and how to use it to its fullest capabilities and functionalities; we know they are not being used fully.

    When job boards and/or ATSs or CRMs will funnel applicants/candidates better than recruiters will actually have time to respond to the qualified respondents. The time waste comes into play when the majority of applications received are from seriously unqualified candidates. The time waste is ridiculous to comb through the data aka resumes in order to determine who to take to the next step in the hiring process.

    And while no ATS can replace human interaction, it isn't always possible for an employer to square their shoulders and contact each and every applicant UNLESS they have a strong application system/process in place and are actually utilizing it.

    Thanks for putting this out there…

  3. Comment made by sara on Jun 1st 2010 at 9:09 pm:

    Well, all I can say is that we are really very pleased with the software from HealthcareSource that we have been using. It saves us money, time and talent…which is worth it's weight in gold. ;o) They have a new white paper download you might like at

    Thanks for the article!

  4. Comment made by sara on Jun 2nd 2010 at 2:09 am:

    Well, all I can say is that we are really very pleased with the software from HealthcareSource that we have been using. It saves us money, time and talent…which is worth it's weight in gold. ;o) They have a new white paper download you might like at

    Thanks for the article!

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