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Onrec Online Recruitment Magazine Feature: Choosing a new Applicant Tracking System

By Lauren Mackelden, Features Editor, Onrec Online Recruitment Magazine

The competition for top talent is fierce, hiring costs are squeezed, and finding and employing highly-skilled candidates can be very difficult, reports Matt Singer, VP of Marketing at Jobvite. “To counter this, recruiters need to adopt an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that can automate processes and make things more efficient. This, in turn, will enable them to source the ideal candidate, quicker, and cheaper. A new ATS can help companies cut costs in a multitude of ways.” For instance, Singer says that with the right ATS in place, businesses can improve time-to-hire by 27%, saving somewhere in the region of £450 per hire. Furthermore, he claims that recruiters can also see an 18% increase in the number of hires from referrals over the industry average. This leads to large savings, as referrals cost less to acquire, perform better and have higher retention rates. An added bonus is that 64% of UK recruiters say they find their best quality candidates through referrals, according to Jobvite’s 2015 UK Social Recruitment Survey — so Singer believes you really don’t have anything to lose.

With the talent war underway alongside an increasingly complex recruitment market, a bare bones ATS may not fit the bill. Singer suggests that with this in mind, it is worthwhile considering platforms that offer functions like recruitment marketing, candidate CRM, and the ability to engage with passive candidates with branded campaigns. All of these elements can be the difference between hiring or losing that perfect person. “Equally as important, your ATS should power an attractive career site that provides compelling content--showcasing your brand and company culture. This can help your business engage with prospective candidates, essentially persuading the right candidates to apply.” The ATS is the backbone of a recruiter’s arsenal and this is not going to change any time soon, according to Singer. “The future is bright, especially in the UK — where, according to Jobvite’s 2015 UK Social Recruitment Survey, only 27% of recruiters are utilising this technology.”

What do you really need?

Before jumping into the vendor selection process, Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer at iCIMS, says it’s most important to first address the specific recruiting needs and challenges facing your organization. “What are your goals? Are you trying to transition from manual and disparate office systems to a unified, shared software environment? Do you have a high volume of roles to fill with varying levels of skill and are looking to fuel your talent pipeline? Or, on the flip side, does your organization have challenges with expediting the screening processes for a large and growing pool of applicants for certain positions? Perhaps you are looking to simply strengthen your talent pipeline and find more candidates quickly, easily, and within budget? You must first be clear on defining the areas of your current hiring processes that are causing your organization the most ‘pain’ in order to identify the right technology solution to address your needs.” Based on research performed by Aberdeen Group, Vitale says they know that companies that use a full talent acquisition suite improved their time to hire by almost three times (6.8% vs. 2.3%), year-over-year, compared to those that have disparate recruiting and hiring functions. Vitale advises that when seeking a full suite of talent acquisition solutions that are built upon a solid applicant tracking system, you’ll want to look for these basic, but key, components: proven integrations, recruitment marketing tools, an exceptional customer service experience, and the ability to leverage social, mobile, and video technologies to support the most progressive hiring strategies.

Going forward

As we try to map the future of applicant tracking technology, at iCIMS they believe they’ll continue to see machine learning and behavioral analytics help the software get “smarter” the more it’s used across recruiting functions. Vitale suggests that ATS solution providers are now including a system of metrics that will allow hiring managers to determine how well the software is screening resumes and make changes based on the data, giving businesses more control over the way in which the software separates and eliminates resumes from consideration. The automation behind making candidate recommendations from the database and matching applicants to relevant jobs will definitely be a valuable aspect as well. Vitale predicts we’ll also see mobile, social, and video tools continue to transform the recruiter and job seeker user experience, providing more innovative ways to share jobs, find talent, and even conduct interviews.

Key points when choosing software

Zoho Recruit report that from speaking with a number of recruiters throughout the year, no matter how long they've been in the industry or how large their company is, the majority aren't happy with their current ATS. They say it doesn't have to be like this. There are many options in the market to fit a wide range of needs, and budgets. So let’s see how they break down a few key points when comparing software:

Find a solution that fits your budget

“When shopping for a new ATS, you have to be aware of your budget and whether or not you're getting real value from a higher-priced solution. Simply put, do you really need all of those extra bells and whistles? For example, you can spend an average of $23,760 a year for your team with many popular recruiting software solutions on the market. In comparison, Zoho Recruit's Enterprise Edition would cost you only $12,000 a year, an annual savings of almost 50 percent. Additionally, you should ask questions and find out how each ATS is priced. Is it a monthly fee based on the number of users, number of employees, or number of job openings, resumes and applications? It's imperative to know these details before making any decision because it impacts your bottom line.

This season's must-have features

Along with price, individual recruiters or staffing agencies should also consider features essential to their recruiting style and work day. You have to be able to automate tasks with custom workflows to handle daily to-dos like sending emails or assigning candidates to recruiters. This frees up valuable time for other activities. Additionally, your ATS should simplify candidate sourcing by letting you publish job openings to job boards as well as your company's career page. This is how you build your pipeline and fill more openings. Your ATS should also move candidates through the hiring process. This means it needs to go beyond sourcing candidates. It should allow you to associate them to job openings, forward them to clients for review, schedule interviews, and eventually hire. For staffing agencies, the ability to create different roles within your organization—Recruiter Admin, Recruiter, Interviewer, Guest—is a must. This is how you manage your team, assign tasks to individual recruiters, and give individuals access to specific records or data based on predetermined criteria.

An estimated 95 percent of applicant tracking systems are cloud-based. There's a reason for this. Cloud software has become increasingly popular because of its cost-effectiveness and convenience, but you should ask questions about data security before making any purchases so you are comfortable with where your data is stored.”

Mobile friendly is essential

One final essential is that your ATS can go where you go. Zoho emphasizes that in 2016, it has to be mobile and accessible across multiple devices wherever you are working. This is the future of recruiting and they predict ATSs that do not offer a mobile app will be left behind in the coming year. Mark Kieve at Amris agrees, saying that clients now expect that Applicant Tracking Systems are mobile friendly and can fully integrate with other solutions on the market including referral platforms, video interviewing and often HR systems. Kieve confirms that the Amris ATS is designed to fully function on mobile devices and allow recruiters to send text messages to candidates as well as the option to self book interviews. In addition, employer branding remains strong as the system can be integrated and designed to fit with any company website. “I am pleased to announce that Amris is continuing to further develop and enhance technology that recruiters are using daily” said Mark Kieve. “For example, Zao’s employee social referral platform is fully integrated with Amris and provides an even stronger tool for sharing jobs on mobile devices through social networks, boosting referral hires.” Kieve continues: “A new ATS will help you stay competitive in the recruitment world and ensure that those hard to find candidates enjoy a great and fair recruitment experience and are easily managed in an easily searchable talent pool. An ATS from an experienced provider with a good reputation in the marketplace will help you stay up to date with recruitment best practices.”

Finally, Kieve reminds us that with an increasing amount of information becoming available online, it’s important to take up supplier references in 2016. He recommends that a reference from a trusted source is one of the best ways to understand the quality of the product and level of service you will receive. “It’s also crucial to verify that the company and the technology is proven, replacing a new system after only a few months is very difficult.”