HR Roundtable Discussion: Experts Weigh In on the Applicant Tracking Software Buyer Report

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For many HR professionals, the traditional, paper-based process of attracting, recruiting and hiring qualified job applicants seems outdated. But the idea of transitioning to an automated, Web-based applicant tracking software (ATS) solution may present a heap of questions and considerations for potential buyers.

In a recent report by Software Advice, analysts surveyed thousands of companies in an effort to pinpoint buyers’ reasons and challenges that motivated them to switch to an automated hiring solution. We found the results insightful for potential ATS buyers, and invited three industry experts to weigh in on the report.

Tim Sackett, President, HRU Technical Resources
Tim is a 20-year HR, recruiting and talent management pro with experience in all areas of the HR spectrum–from recruiter to HR generalist in both the HR software vendor space and at various corporations. He believes the most important thing an organization can do is increase its core talent base, which starts with recruiting and attracting the right applicants.

Alexandra Levit, CEO, Inspiration at Work 
Alexandra Levit consults, writes and explores leadership development, career and workplace trends on behalf of Microsoft, American Express, Intuit and DeVry University. Her goal is to help people succeed in meaningful jobs, and to build relationships between organizations and top talent.

Patrick Clark, Director of Business Development, Hyrell
Pat co-founded Hyrell and has helped hundreds of companies modernize their approach to recruiting and hiring. He believes that all companies should be able to use smart software to attract and hire quality talent and that every company should relentlessly focus on building the best team possible.

According to the Software Advice report, the majority of buyers surveyed purchased an ATS solution to improve hiring efficiency and effectiveness. What are the top three factors you feel a small- to medium-sized business should know about their current hiring process before assessing a software option?

Levit: You have to look at your current process and examine, specifically, how candidates are currently sourced, the current feedback loop for candidates and how candidate relationships are developed and managed over time.

These factors will help your team identify gaps and opportunities so you can determine which ATS features will make your hiring process more efficient.

Also, buyers have to remember that applicant tracking is just one component of recruiting, and an ATS won’t necessarily help you become a better recruiter.

Sackett: You can’t try and jam your process into a new ATS. Every ATS is designed to work optimally under a certain workflow. Buy into that immediately, and change your workflow to match your ATS, otherwise you’ll hate the ATS and won’t use it. It will only make you faster. So, if you suck at recruiting, an ATS will help you suck faster.

Sackett also stresses the importance of consulting with an ATS vendor as you evaluate your business needs.

Sackett: The vendors know more about best practice recruiting processes than you. Listen to them and change. They want you to be successful, so they can use your story to sell more software.

Clark: Businesses should look at who will be using the system within the organization. Based on that, the software option you choose should allow you to structure the system, and communicate within the system as you need to. Also, find out where your applicants are coming from. If you can better understand where and how they find your posting, you can better align your efforts accordingly.

The second biggest reason for purchasing hiring software is the need for more features and functionality. In your opinion, what are the most important features necessary in an effective software solution?

Sackett: The single most important feature of any ATS is one that your people will use without workarounds. If you’re viewing an ATS demo and your people start commenting on how they could make the system work but only by doing X, Y and Z, then that is not the right software for you. Either you aren’t ready to commit to a new system, or it’s just not the right system for you – figure that out before you buy!

Clark: The three key features necessary for an effective software solution aren’t features in the software at all. It is the approach and the mindset your company has toward evaluating and using the software that make a solution effective or not. Too often, companies become obsessed with a very specific micro-feature. While that feature is important, you have to consider the entire approach the software offers.

The most important features for an effective software solution will be different for each company. No two companies recruit and hire the exact same way and, therefore, will desire different features.

Do you have any experiences transitioning from a manual hiring process to a software-based solution, and can you offer any advice to companies that are about to make the leap?

Sackett: In every successful ATS/HR/talent suite implementation I’ve done, we completely scrapped every process we had and started with something new. We burned down the house and built it brand new. If you have people who want to hold on to old, outdated processes, you will struggle with implementation.

Identify forward-thinking employees in your HR organization who can be groomed into ATS power users. Strive for alignment amongst these employees and work with them and your ATS vendor to drive company-wide adoption.

Sackett: Successful implementation has very little to do with the actual software and company you choose and everything to do with your organization. These vendors implement these systems as their profession. A failed implementation is on you and your unwillingness to buy into the new system and processes. The fact is most people hate change but say they love change. Most people lack the personal insight to understand this simple fact, which is why so many implementations are painful and fail.

Clark: In our experience, the most successful ATS users have a key subject matter expert (SME) who is the go-to internal source for the company. This SME will help drive adoption, ensure usage and can answer any questions as needed from her/his team. Of course, the software vendor is always there to help, but having the internal champion in an SME goes a long way toward implementing a successful solution.

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photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc

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