Overcoming Recruitment Challenges by using an Applicant Tracking System

Overcoming Recruitment Challenges by using an Applicant Tracking System
We've all heard our share of stories about the joys of the employee hiring process. From the positive, "Pat has been an incredible asset for our group - we were so fortunate she applied for our job posting", to the not-so-positive; "Boy, did we ever make a bad call on that one - he looked so good on paper…"

Let's face it; even if your organization is batting 500 for new employee selections, the hiring process can still be timely and difficult. This same situation applies whether you run a small business or large corporation.

Though HR and hiring managers come up against similar challenges each time they need to hire a new worker, many businesses still rely on the traditional method of gathering potential employees. This includes sorting through an overflowing Inbox of email submissions, printing piles of resumes and cover letters, reviewing each document, and finally, conducting meeting after meeting to see if applicants match their submitted resumes.

An ineffective hiring process such as this can lead to poor staffing decisions - and those decisions can have many adverse effects on your business. It begins with project delays as you try to "fit" the wrong person into the role - and continues with added costs if the decision is made to release the unsuccessful employee and restart the hiring process.

If you are still employing a traditional paper-based method of recruiting employees, it's time to consider the alternative - an Applicant Tracking System.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

Simply put, an applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software tool that helps you manage your recruitment needs electronically. From the time a potential candidate reads your job post and submits their application, to the time you receive their resume and setup an interview, an ATS will help you track the applicant's progress throughout the hiring process.

Different Approaches to Applicant Tracking

Just as there are different types of software to suit specific industries and purposes, companies also create applicant tracking software that rely on fundamentally different approaches with respect to candidate management.

For example, some applicant tracking systems use a keyword-based approach that weighs an employee's initial suitability based on words and phrases that are found throughout their resume, cover letters and other submitted correspondence. Using this approach, a higher occurrence of pre-defined words and phrases may indicate that the applicant is more suited than other applicants who do not include as many of the "desired" terms.

Playing the System - One of the drawbacks of the keyword approach is that some web-savvy applicants will employ the use of "resume optimization" tools that may increase their chances of achieving an interview call. Such tools will scan the employer's job posting and will suggest words and phrases that should be added to their resume - and in turn, may cause their application to be ranked higher than others.

Other systems are questionnaire-based with weighted answers that automatically rank the best applicants based on their responses. This allows your HR team to create a set of questions that will pre-screen candidates and calculate an overall weighted score based on the values that have been assigned to each question. If a particular question is more important to the position, then the question is assigned a greater score.

This approach is popular with those who are looking to choose an ATS for the first time, due in part to its ease of use. Many businesses also believe that the questionnaire approach results in a more accurate submission because it requires each applicant to provide responses to a specific set of questions.

Whichever approach you choose, an applicant tracking system can provide efficiencies that will significantly reduce the time you spend in the hiring process.

How can an ATS help in Today's Top Hiring Challenges?

If you are using a traditional paper or spreadsheet method for your recruiting efforts, take a few moments to consider the challenges you face and then compare them with the top issues faced by today's HR professionals. For each challenge listed below, an ATS can provide a viable alternative:

  • Slow Hiring Times - Vetting a prospective candidate is one of the biggest challenges in recruitment. With many variables to consider for each candidate, HR managers can become sidetracked during the hiring process. As a result, companies that hesitate and are slow to make a job offer often lose out on talented workers. A 2017 report 1 on recruiting trends noted that the third highest reason candidates turn down jobs was that the employer took too long to make an offer.

    How an ATS can help: It will help to streamline your hiring process by organizing the top applicants' data and then tracking each person's progress throughout the recruitment process. You'll spend less time wading through unsuitable submissions, and more time dealing with the most suitable candidates. Better organization means a faster hiring decision.
  • Retaining Employees - Losing recent hires to a different company is another challenge that HR managers face, especially with the growing number of millennials entering the workforce. With one-third of new employees choosing a different job after just six months on the job 2, it's more important than ever to ensure that you make the right employee decision the first time.

    How an ATS can help: Set up your ATS to search for candidates that offer the best long-term employee potential. If you choose a question-based ATS, you can include behavioral questions that will pre-screen for more loyal applicants vs. candidates that may be prone to job-jumping.
  • Providing Attractive Compensation - With high competition in many key industries, employers must include relevant compensation programs that are both fair and appealing to prospective employees. If an excellent candidate applies for a position at your company, there's a likely chance that the person has already applied at a number of other firms. Thus, providing an attractive compensation package is paramount to garner and retain the new hire.

    How an ATS can help: Use your ATS to not only list the job's salary range and benefits, but to also include engaging content that will highlight your company and its compensation package. Since some ATS don't allow more than standard documents and text, you should choose an applicant tracking system that allows you to include rich media, videos and other creative offerings. Such content will emphasize the advantages of your company and make your job posting stand out from the crowd.


Hiring the right people is crucial to your company’s success. Make this job as easy as it can be by utilizing the technology that an ATS can provide.

1              Top Recruiting Trends: Top Echelon’s 2016-2017 Recruiting Industry Report


2              2013 Employee Turnover Trends


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