Which Is The Best ATS for Me?
One of the most common questions I seem to get asked or see being asked by many is paraphrased along the lines of “we are looking to get an ATS, which one would you recommend?”
It’s a very good question. With so much choice out there and an increasing number of users with opinions and experience of one or more products, it makes sense to ask for help and advice at the outset. Yet asking such a question is a bit like asking how many bricks are needed to build a house. It is just not possible to answer the question in isolation. When building a house there are an abundance of issues and objectives to be established and prioritised before the design and architecture can be decided upon, let alone constructed. Much in the same way, when you feel you need to acquire technology to help you resolve a problem or organise your processes it is essential you know why you are embarking on such a project in the first place and once selected, what you plan to do with the ATS.
This kind of planning and forethought is fundamental, yet this is hardly ever the way in which companies or, in particular their HR Departments proceed when in an apparent rush to select and acquire a shiny new ATS. Now I should make it clear at this stage that every organisation will need to go about things differently and this will be based on a number of things but in theory any justification for budget spend and intention to acquire a new tool should consider the following:-
- Business Objectives
- Strategic Workforce Plan
- Size, scale and scope of project
- Resources, capabilities, skills
- Previous experience and knowledge of similar projects
And don’t forget one size does NOT fit all. What works well for one organisation won’t necessarily work for you and vice versa. Whilst companies may choose to use software from the same vendor, their experiences of it and the benefits they derive from it will vary considerably. Such variations will be entirely dependent on how the system, or should I say the required solution, has been designed and architected prior to and during implementation. It is also true to say, sadly, that the level of service received from the software vendor will vary depending on the nature of the contract, price paid and the relationship that you have established with them. So many variables.
In the last 5 years there has been a growth in the number of ATS or other e-recruitment systems available, this in response to the growth in demand for such technology by organisation of all sizes. There is a solution for every company of every size and market. The available solutions will help you manage the processing whether you are recruiting for volume or niche roles, for executive or graduates and school leavers, for professional specialist skills or temps. These solutions work. Rarely do they not, let’s face it the software vendors wouldn’t be able to sell it if it didn’t. When companies get frustrated by the software they have selected, it is rarely the products’ fault. More often than not the dissatisfaction is as result of poor understanding in the first place a lack of adequate design or poor implementation. In many cases business requirements have changed yet the architecture of the system was overlooked or people have moved on leaving a void in the available expertise to make such changes.
In simple terms an ATS – Applicant (or Application) Tracking System is a software package used by organisations to help them manage the journey that a person takes when they apply for a job, become a candidate during an interview process and then proceeds to being offered a job, if they are fortunate. There are a myriad of other functions that it can be applied to and have an impact on, but for the purposes of this post we don’t need to go into what they are.
Typically if used wisely the ATS will help organisations structure, schedule and report on activities taking place at each stage for each vacancy and for each person in the process.
What it doesn’t do, and won’t or can’t do, is the recruiting for you.
Now I know this make sense to some of you, yet there are some who are now pausing, or at least I hope they are. The ATS is a tool, a tool that needs to be used by people, following processes defined by the company and the Resourcing function. Yes, it will address some of the administration issues that you have to deal with, it will help you as a company organise and keep track of workflow so that the information about a vacancy requisition and those that apply to it can be maintained and organised, in the hope that errors are minimised.
What an ATS won’t do is replace human interaction and hands on recruitment. Recruitment by needs to be high-touch and have a significant level of engagement, otherwise it becomes less recruitment and more administration, common amongst those companies that don’t really take recruitment seriously enough to invest in it properly. I’ve known some people/companies that have been able to justify an ATS on the promise of saving headcount, only for that to cause serious issues down the road. It is therefore crucial that time and effort be set aside to define your objectives, map your processes and consider the architecture of the installation and how the software will be used and how it will effectively meet your business needs. This will need to be assessed in line with your current or planned operating model and the capability of your resourcing function. You will always be thinking of scalability preferably in line with your long term Strategic Workforce Plan which will be mapped to your organisation’s overall five to ten Business Strategy.
One could argue that even with all the planning and foresight you will never get a perfect solution, there are always going to be compromises and limitations. Well that is true, but having clearly defined objectives, a solid plan and the knowledge and expertise at hand to know what the limitations will get you closer to a perfect than you were before you started.
Music of the moment: The Blister Exists by Slipknot