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7 Ways to Improve Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

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So much of your recruiting success depends on your Applicant Tracking System (ATS)—so why rely on an outdated system? Improving the quality, consistency, and efficiency of your ATS will help you source and hire great candidates in the long run. Read on to learn seven key ways to improve your ATS and set up your hiring team for success.

1. Get Input From Your Hiring Experts

No one knows what your ATS needs more than the people using it every day.

In a saturated job market, a single job posting can receive hundreds of resumes. Sifting through applications and picking the right candidates can be extremely challenging if your HR team is not getting what they need from your ATS.

LaKiesha Tomlin, the founder and CEO of Thriving Ambition, Inc., has been featured in a variety of publications for her expertise in hiring, leadership, and personal development. She recommends getting to know your tool inside and out, and turning to your hiring experts to find out new and improved ways to get things done.

“Ask people who have experience. I frequently ask my HR business partner and other hiring manager about the functionalities of our ATS and if they have any tips and tricks to help me post requisitions quicker.”

Talking with your hiring team, you may learn they need things like:

  • Specific dashboards that help them access most-used features
  • Custom views/interfaces for hiring managers, HR professionals, and talent acquisition leaders
  • Role-based permissions that control personal or sensitive information
  • Mobile compatibility for decisions that need be made on the go

2. Tinker With Your ATS and Internal Processes to Make Sure They’re Aligned

The key to making your ATS work for you is to experiment with the tool, as well as with your own processes.

Look at the end-to-end process for using your ATS, and identify any gaps in the process. Is there a certain part that your hiring team has to do manually because your ATS can’t do it for them? How can you build that into the ATS?

On the other hand, is there a manual process that people are still using that limits your ability to take advantage of the ATS? How can you train your team to use the ATS for this process so you can collect better data?

Make sure to strike a healthy balance between adjusting your ATS and adjusting your internal processes. Don’t pivot too hard one way or the other, or you risk sacrificing operational efficiency for hiring efficiency (or vice versa).

3. Automate Where You Can

Once you’ve taken a look at your end-to-end process, look at opportunities to automate and simplify.

At the very least, an effective ATS needs to make communication and coordination easier for your hiring team. At its best, your ATS should intelligently reach out to candidates at the right time and help you reduce Time-to-Fill.

Explore your ATS to see if you can use automation or templates to simplify things like:

  • Interview evaluation forms
  • Email templates
  • Offer letters
  • Hiring approvals

If you can simplify one (or all!) of these things, you can give your hiring team the tools they need to fill positions faster. If you can’t simplify these things with your current ATS, think long and hard about the value your ATS is bringing.

4. Think About What Your Hiring Will Look Like In Five Years.

Your company will inevitably change over time, and your ATS has to keep up.

Thinking about the direction of your company—and how that direction will affect your hiring—will help you think more holistically about your ATS. Sit down with key stakeholders to think about high-level goals and how those translate into hiring needs.

For example, say your CEO has a goal to bring new clients on faster and double sales over five years. In order to accomplish that, you need to hire an additional salesperson for every four new clients you bring on. As new clients are brought on faster than before, you will need to hire additional salespeople at a quicker rate.

If your ATS is outdated, you run the risk of ballooning HR expenses (as hiring teams spend more and more time hiring salespeople) and an inconsistent experience among candidates. However, if your ATS makes it easy to standardize the hiring process and is built to scale, you can handle a quicker hiring timeline without unnecessary expenses.

5. Understand the Data You Have (and the Data You Need)

Your ATS is only as good as the data within it.

In order to improve your ATS, take a good look at:

  • What information is your ATS capturing?
  • What information does your hiring team need to make a great decision?
  • Is there a gap between the two?

If you identify a gap, decide what needs to change. Does your ATS need to capture additional information about a candidate? If so, include an additional field for candidates to fill out.

However, improving the quality of data isn’t always about collecting more data—sometimes it’s just about collecting the right data. If your ATS is capturing information that your hiring team doesn’t need, cut some things out of the process. Optimizing your ATS should be about streamlining the process for your hiring team, but also streamlining the process for your candidates.

6. Leverage Social Media To Find Great Candidates

Social media is a powerful recruiting tool.

Over 90 percent of companies use social media for recruitment, and 73 percent of recruiters have made successful hires through social media. While job boards can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, posting an open position on social media is completely free. In addition, social sourcing often attracts excellent passive candidates.

Despite the power of these social networks, many recruiters are hesitant to use social media for hiring. However, an effective ATS can quell some of the concerns around social hiring.

If your company is ready to amp up social hiring, think about how your ATS enables—or doesn’t enable—social sharing:

  • Are you able to push jobs to social networks straight from your ATS?
  • Are candidates able to apply directly from social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn?
  • Can your current employees post open jobs to social networks to attract people in their network?

7. Integrate Your ATS With Existing Systems

If your goal is a seamless hiring process, you need an ATS that “plays nice” with your other systems.

Think about every step of your hiring process. See if your ATS can integrate with key components, such as:

  • Human resource information system (HRIS)
  • Work status verification system
  • Criminal record verification system
  • Onboarding program (or does it have its own!?)
  • Billing or payroll system
  • External job posting system
  • Scheduling and coordination tools

Put your ATS to Work For You

Improving your ATS is a major undertaking, but the benefits—a better hiring process and a better candidate experience—speak for themselves.Looking for more guidance on picking the right Applicant Tracking System? Download our free kit to dive deep into your ATS needs. (And if you’re looking to upgrade to a groundbreaking ATS, take a tour of Jobvite Hire.)


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