Comprehensive Guide for buying an Applicant Tracking System

With hundreds of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) in the market, selecting the right one for your business is indeed a challenge. This is because choosing an ideal ATS is not like selecting the right candidate for the company. Being an HR Director or Recruiting Manager or even an Executive-level HR professional, you have to take a step back and know your organization’s internal environment. You have to evaluate the immediate HR needs, especially pertaining to hiring and recruitment, the human resource challenges the company is faced with, the expectations of the management and budget constraints. Taking your time to narrow down your requirements eventually saves your enough time and helps to choose the best Applicant Tracking System. This comprehensive and quick guide helps you make the best choice, letting you understand what you should consider at each stage of the ATS buying process.

Before going ahead, it’s better to understand what Applicant Tracking System is.

The Applicant Tracking System

Mashable Says:

“An ATS does all the scrutiny and sorting work so as to lessen your resume overload. The user sets up the application for the potential candidates to fill out and the software scans and segregates them as per user’s pre-defined grading system that determines the topmost or most relevant candidates”.

In other words, an Applicant Tracking System is the software that helps the HR departments of the organizations, HR service providers, recruiting agencies, and private placement consultants or freelancers in optimizing and tracking their overall recruitment process, identifying the best candidates and closing jobs in a shorter span of time.

The system also plays a significant role in streamlining various vacancies and the number of the applications that the HR professionals receive. Sorting out and evaluating hundreds and thousands of applications manually for a specific job is indeed an intimidating task, which is made much easier by the ATS. The system automates the manual tasks involved in the process, thereby saving your much time, letting you focus on other critically important stages like interviews and meetings.

Applicant Tracking System is Different from CRM & Accounting Platforms

During the course of evaluating and choosing the ATS for your business, keep in mind that ATS is not like CRM and other accounting platforms as ATS is more collaborative and comprehensive than those. From hiring the top level positions to selecting the executives, and even the panel conducting the interviews, ATS users smoothly run the gamut. This implies that a number of users from different departments within an organization can collaborate on an ATS platform at a time. You can keep all the relevant people in the loop to keep them updated about the process and to notify any action that is required to be done by them. Lastly, keep in mind that the cost of selecting and buying the wrong ATS significantly outweighs the time consumed on a couple of introductory calls and demos.

What Features Should You look for in an ATS?

Though the definition of the best ATS for your business heavily depends on the nature of your business and HR needs, typically, a corporate applicant tracking system used by the organizations is considered suitable for most of the cases. Corporate Applicant Tracking Systems are the technology platforms developed for HR and recruitment departments to organize and manage organization’s internal hiring process. These applicant tracking systems establish a direct interaction between the employers and the internal HR staff. As a standard, based on industry best practices, a comprehensive Applicant Tracking System should have the following core features:

  • Tools for setting a grading system and application evaluation criteria
  • Automatic notification, alerts and sorting out of applications
  • Interview scheduling integrated with the organization’s email system
  • Facility for multiple access to the system for easy collaboration among internal managers and for quick collection of interview schedules, requirements and feedback
  • Recruitment analytics that measures the KPIs like stage-to-stage conversion rates
  • Inherently embedded compliance measures to keep the system safe
  • Fully integrated and optimized, responsive career page, offering an enhanced candidate experience
  • Integrated reference checks, drugs screens, aptitude tests and other pre-screen assessments
  • Comprehensive dashboards and robust workflows
  • Automatic custom reports generation and real-time reporting

Getting Started with the Buying Process

Step 1: Know that ATS & Recruitment Software Are Different

As stated above, the ATS designed for the employers are used to organize and manage the organization’s internal hiring processes. The ATSs maintain the direct communication between the job applicants and internal hiring staff of the company.

On the other hand, the recruitment software, mainly used by recruitment agencies, headhunters, staffing agencies and executive search companies, manage the external recruiting. This software is developed to help these entities manage the candidates with their contact details for a number of employers. The recruitment software doesn’t enable robust workflows since it is not integrated with the company’s internal processes. Moreover, the analytics embedded in this software only addresses recruiter performance measurement and not the database developed and maintained by the internal staff of the organization.

Step 2: Develop Your Roadmap

This stage requires you set the time when you want to have the ATS fully functional. Decide the date and start working.  Usually, you should start work at least a month before you need a fully working ATS. It implies that you have to complete the selection process before 4 weeks of your decided “go-live” date. At this stage, you will have to complete the following:

  • Market Research
  • Discovery Calls/Proposals
  • Product Demos

It means that all these sub-processes must be started at-least eight weeks before the decided “go-live” date, so that they can be completed before a month of the “go-live” date.

Step 3: Define Your Research Methods

Having a concrete list of research methods and resources help you get the best offerings. We have recommended the following three research methods:

  • Independent research

One of the fastest and best methods is to seek opinions from your peers regarding the ATSs they have been using. Pay extra attention to their use cases and carry out your own research online for the options you get.

  • Discovery Calls

Before calling for the demos, first call the ATS providers and talk with the representatives. The questions that you should ask at this stage are about ATS basic functionality, pricing information and specialization level of the provider in your industry. You may be offered with a customized package and price on this call; however, don’t say yes to anything or call demo until you clearly understand the pricing model and commitment being offered.

  • Product Demo

If you are satisfied, schedule the product demo. Let the ATS provider set the agenda himself since a good vendor is expert in preparing the demo based on your specific requirements. The demo should be live, and not on PowerPoint only. Also, take into an account the complexity of the product so that you can also determine the staff training needs.

Step 4: Review the Terms

If you are fine with the demo and found the ATS closely matching to your requirements, the next step is to review the terms and conditions of the contract. You must understand all the terms, whether technical or non-technical, presented in the contract. Avoid the vendors offering multi-year terms.

Step 5: Discuss the Pricing

One of the widely used pricing strategies by the ATS vendors is “charging by feature or Charging per User”. Don’t go for the vendors who charge you per job/posting or per staff member. Most importantly, never pay for the technical support of trouble shooting since the customer service is complementary in most of the cases.

Step 6: Set Up Activation Plan

Once the contract is signed, the next thing is to plan the activation process. It usually consists of the following sub-stages, which you must discuss with the vendor before-hand so as to make sure that your vendor works hand-in-hand with you and your staff all through the activation process.

  • Data Collection
  • Kick-off Call
  • Account Configuration
  • System Usage Education & Training of Staff
  • System integration with your Career Page

Step 7: Post-Activation Service & Support

The vendor must be able to provide prompt support and service after the installation and configuration of the ATS system, on a continuous basis, especially for the first 6 months.

Step 8: Training Material & System Improvement

Using the ATS system is not enough to facilitate your HR processes. The system must be able to accommodate the changes and improvements in future as the need arises. The vendor should also provide training material and maintenance guidelines on a regular basis and inform about the upgrades if any.

The Final Thought

A well-chosen, well-integrated and well-managed Applicant Tracking System serves as a single and an ideal platform to serve all your recruitment needs in a one-go. If you are an occupied employer or a busy recruiter managing a number of job openings manually, it’s the high time to consider the right ATS.