Applicant tracking systems (ATS) offer numerous benefits to small and medium-sized businesses, making their recruitment and hiring tasks much more efficient. So it comes as no surprise that ATS software has become increasingly popular, with more companies realizing just how easy hiring can become if the right system is put in place.
However, there are still plenty of challenges when choosing the right ATS solution. Organizations are all different and have their own complexities, so choosing the right applicant tracking system can be quite an overwhelming task.
So where do you start? How do you compare each software solution to ensure that you are getting what the best fit for your business?
In this article, we explore some of the most important aspects of an applicant tracking system. We have provided a number of questions that you can ask vendors about their applicant tracking systems. Hopefully, the information in this guide will help you make the right decision and find the applicant tracking software that best fits the needs of your business.
Does the ATS Integrate?
If you are going to deploy ATS recruitment, then near the top of your list of requirements should be how well it integrates and what it integrates with. Most systems integrate with job boards, but you want your system to go further than that.
Background Checks – is there full integration with reputable background check providers? What about the one that you use?
Office Productivity – how well does the ATS integrate with popular tools such as Zapier and Slack? Will it integrate with the productivity tool that you use?
Employee Retention – will the ATS screen and qualify candidates?
Social Media – how well does the ATS integrate with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter? Are there any other social media platforms that it integrates with?
LinkedIn – integration with LinkedIn is essential, so the integration should be deep. Can you use your LinkedIn account to log in to the ATS and post job ads to your network? Are you able to connect seamlessly to your LinkedIn Recruiter account and post ads? What about buying a LinkedIn job ad directly? Can you use LinkedIn Cross Awareness so a hiring team can fully view LinkedIn profiles within the ATS?
What is the Range of Analytics?
You want to be able to see a complete overview of your recruitment efforts, so it’s important to figure out if the ATS software has the necessary capabilities. Having the right tools is essential to get the most out of your recruitment efforts. All of the steps in your recruitment process need to be visible as well as repeatable.
There is a lot more to recruitment analytics than just having things to measure. The analytics should answer all of the questions that you have about your recruitment process. You need to use it to make changes that improve the way you are recruiting.
Still, different companies will have different requirements for recruiting analytics. Here are some suggestions:
Cost Per Hire – most organizations will want to know this, and some are outright obsessed with it. The problem with cost per hire is that it can be interpreted differently, so the more specific your ATS can be, the better.
Planning – time to fill is important, and helps organizations better organize their recruitment.
Efficiency – how long on average does it take your organization to hire? Can the ATS tell you this?
Candidate Sourcing – for each hire, you want your ATS to tell you how many qualified candidates were in the mix.
Number of Interviews – does your ATS record the number of interviews that took place for each hire?
You need to know the degree of flexibility that a potential applicant tracking system will offer when it comes to custom reporting and providing high-level visualizations. A lot of ATS systems allow you to analyze areas such as candidate sources and candidate flow, exporting the data into an Excel spreadsheet.
Then there is compliance with US laws for equal opportunities, such as EEO. Doing this manually can be time-consuming and stressful, and thus an ATS can make your recruiting process much easier if it has EEO reporting built in.
You can have the most advanced recruitment functions and facilities in the world, but none of that matters if the system is down. All systems go down from time to time, so you need to be confident that the vendor behind the ATS is responsive and will resolve problems swiftly.
Ask ATS vendors to show you metrics of their uptime and downtime. Does the vendor have scheduled downtime for upgrades and fixes? If so, when does it occur? Is there a status page on their website where you can check for it?
What about complaints? Is there somewhere that you can see user feedback such as a forum or maybe even a social media feed? What support levels are available, and what is the cost? If you need 24/7 support, is this available, or does the vendor only provide support during business hours?
Security of the ATS
There are some very good cloud-based ATS solutions available, but if these are deployed, then the question of security must be addressed. You want to ensure that your data is going to be safe, so you need to ask potential vendors a few questions:
- Does the ATS vendor schedule penetration and security testing by a third party with a good reputation on a regular basis?
- Are there uptime guarantees provided by the ATS vendor in the form of service level agreements (SLAs)?
- In the case of a distributed denial of service attack, does the ATS vendor have an alternative mitigation infrastructure?
- Can the vendor provide historical uptime percentages for their ATS solution?
Ownership of Data
Who owns the data? While it may seem like common sense that if it’s your data, you’ll own all of it. Not every ATS vendor will see things the same. Therefore, you need to be abundantly clear from the outset on this issue. Some vendors put data roadblocks in the way so that you can’t easily transfer to another ATS vendor should you decide to do so.
How Well Does the Search Function Work?
You’ll never be able to benefit fully from your new applicant tracking system if the search facility provided isn’t up to the mark. You want to be able to use your candidate database to the fullest extent, so a powerful and all-embracing search function is a must.
Ask your ATS vendors about their search capabilities, and find out whether semantic searches, as well as natural language searches, are part of the package. Ask them for any more search functionality that they’ve included in the ATS.
What’s the minimum that you should be able to search for? Well, you have to be able to search for candidates by name, education, skills, work experience (including job description) and headlines. How does the search work? Will it extract data from resumes, summaries and cover letters?
How about the support functionality of the ATS? Does it have a knowledge base that’s easily searchable to find a solution to your problem? Are there prompts available, or an autocomplete facility that brings up relevant support documents so that you can move forward?
What Customization is Available?
There are several advantages to choosing an ATS solution that’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) based. One of the disadvantages (with some solutions) is that customization is either unavailable or challenging. Not every business has a development team that can spend the necessary time working with an ATS vendor to achieve the customization levels that are required.
The answer to this is an ATS that enables you to significantly personalize the settings of the system. Some examples of where this is useful are:
- Application for employment forms
- Candidate letter templates
- Customizing the pipeline stages for hiring
- Customized reporting on different aspects of the recruitment process
How does the proposed ATS solution handle hiring information that’s classified? You want your ATS solution to have hierarchies that are customizable within a hiring team. You want to ensure that candidates are unable to see private comments made by team members, and there should be a way to only make certain notes visible to certain team members.
You should have the flexibility in your ATS to invite different members of your hiring team that have different levels of authority. For example, you should be able to appoint an admin, a hiring team manager and normal team members which all have different privileges and permissions to edit.
It’s also important for you to be able to specify what communications are copied into the different levels of users when a hiring is taking place. If an ATS vendor is shaky in this area then look elsewhere, as this is a significant feature.