How to evaluate Applicant Tracking System (ATS) vendors

Is an Applicant Tracking System right for you?

Small to medium size companies (50-500 employees) are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in today’s job market. Our current economy has created the need for companies to cut back their expenses while competing for top talent in a high unemployment environment. It is not unusual for the individual responsible for attracting, hiring and retaining talent to be wearing several “hats” and finding it more difficult to balance their current work load. The recruiting process, like any other business process, requires a series of steps and necessary actions that will lead to a successful hire. The steps in the process are time sensitive, paper intensive, bound by legal considerations and often require the time of multiple individuals. Companies are finding the following challenges difficult to overcome.

  • High volume of resumes with no efficient way to accept, review, store and manage them
  • Cumbersome or inefficient internal communications
  • Inability to access information quickly and report on recruiting metrics
  • Leaving vacancies open for long periods of time
  • Losing qualified applicants due to inefficient resume management
  • Duplication of recruiting efforts between various branches, divisions and managers
  • Excessive maintenance and support with homegrown technology
  • Inefficient tracking, if any, of EEO-OFCCP compliance data

It makes sense to automate steps in the recruiting process to free up time to focus on important business issues. Finding the right technical solution that meets the needs of an organization can be an overwhelming task. With so many applicant management products in the market today, it is imperative to examine current internal processes to determine needs before committing to a product that doesn’t meet those needs or pay large amounts for a product with features they will never use. An HR Manager/Recruiter can take the following steps to determine which applicant tracking system is best for their organization.

  1. Document the current recruiting process to determine what is working and what is not working. Track how long it takes to fill new positions and what financial impact the inefficiencies have on the company’s revenue.
  2. Gather a small group of stakeholders together to share this information and discuss possible solutions. Stakeholders might include a major decision maker on financial expenditures, the individual responsible for recruiting efforts who knows and understands the pain points, and a hiring manager who is impacted by the inability to find good people in a timely fashion and within a budget he/she can tolerate.
  3. The group should collectively make a list of goals and compile a list of features they consider to be necessary to achieve their goals. Once they have identified what it is they need the system to do, they have the criteria on which they will evaluate the large pool of products available. Here is an example of General and Specific goals which could come out of this meeting:

General Goal:

Lease an affordable real time, Web based system that requires no technical maintenance, will shorten the recruiting cycle, reduce the cost and time to hire, and result in an improved, qualified applicant pool.

Specific Goals:

  1. Scalable and configurable to allow for company growth and/or change
  2. Streamline and improve communications between hiring managers, recruiters, and applicants regardless of their physical location
  3. Ability to access information quickly
  4. Reduce legal exposure
  5. Measure results and track recruiting metrics including costs
  6. Requires no assistance from the internal IT staff
  7. Provide a more positive experience for the applicant
  8. Compatible with our current HRIS system
  9. Able to implement in a short period of time with little disruption to our business
  10. Automated download of existing job descriptions and resumes

Based on these goals, the company should develop a more detailed list of criteria on which to evaluate possible vendors. Use knockout factors and/or required features to short list the firms that best meet the criteria. Include wish list / Nice to Have features as part of your evaluation which are “icing on the cake” of a possible solution.

New Support Portal Launched

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new Zendesk  Support Portal for our ApplicantStack™ product, which centralizes all support resources for ApplicantStack. The new support portal is located at:

Here’s what you can find on the new Support Portal:

  • Knowledge Base Articles / Guides:  These are guides to using the ApplicantStack product, organized by section.  We also have a Quick Start Guide for brand new users (and maybe some of you veterans too!) and advanced How-To articles showing how to use some of the more advanced functionality.  We also provide an extensive video guides.
  • Get Help: Here you can post your  questions to our support team by opening up a support ticket.  We will respond to you during support hours Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm EST.
  • Search: Have a question and don’t want to browse through articles or wait for a response? Use the Search to search the entire site (Knowledge Base Articles and Discussions) for an answer to your question.
  • New Features & Updates: Here is where you can see what we have been working on.

We would love to hear what you think of the new Support portal so feel free to submit a ticket here.

New Feature: Automation with Email Triggers

We’re excited to announce the release of our most recent ApplicantStack feature: Email Triggers. This has been one of the most requested features from our customers, so it was a no-brainer to add this functionality into ApplicantStack. What exactly do we mean by Email Triggers and what can you do with it? Read on and we’ll explain how it works.

From the beginning ApplicantStack has included functionality to create Email Templates. You can create an Email Template to automate the process of sending out standard emails in your hiring process.  When you go to send an email to a candidate or group of candidates in your database, you can select an existing Email Template to save you from having to create the email each time. For example, you could create an Email Template that tells candidates you would like to bring them in for an interview, and asks for times they are available. Rather than type out this email each time you want to send it out, you could create an Email Template, let’s call it Request Interview, with this message and select it when you want to send this email to a candidate.

Email Templates can be a real time saver, but Email Triggers take this even further. With Email Triggers you can specify that you want one of your Email Templates to automatically be sent out (i.e. “trigger”) when a candidate has been moved to a specific step in your process. So in the example above, for your Request Interview template you can now specify that you want this email to trigger when a candidate is moved to the Interview stage. Then, when you move a candidate or a group of candidates to the Interview stage they will automatically receive the Request Interview email. Pretty cool, huh!

Here are some other ways you could use email triggers:

  • Application Received
  • Rejection Letter
  • Phone Screen Request
  • Interview Request
  • Request for Background Screen approval
  • Status updates to the candidate as they move through your process
  • Job offer / hire notification

Try it out for yourself and please let us know what you think!

Speed up your Application Review Process with an Applicant Tracking System

We’ve all been there before. You have a stack of resumes or employment applications on your desk and a looming deadline to fill a position. Whether they are paper applications, emails or electronic files, the task is just as daunting. Somewhere in this stack is a perfect candidate for your position, but to find her you need to sort through all the less qualified ones.

Thankfully application review doesn’t have to be such a manual process. An automated job application system, if set up correctly, can be a tremendous help in reviewing resumes and job applications more quickly and ensuring that your top candidates don’t fall through the cracks. And it doesn’t take as much time as you might think to set up a good automated system that makes your review process much quicker and more efficient. Here are some elements of an automated job application system that can help you speed up your application review process.

Setting up an Online Application

Collecting job applications through an online application process, rather than email or paper, is the first step to making your application review process quicker and more efficient. On an online job application you can ask candidates to fill in information and answer questions that can help you quickly determine if they are a potential match to your job, often without requiring you to even read their resumes. It is much easier and quicker to scan through a table of answers or filter/sort based on what you are looking for.

For example, if you are only looking for local candidates, by collecting information on a candidate’s location you can quickly filter/sort and remove applications that are not in your local area. Similarly, if you are looking for somebody with a certain degree or professional certification, you can ask this on your online application and then quickly see which applications match your criteria and skip or remove the ones that do not.

Of course, for your online application to be useful you need to be able to customize the questions and add your own company or job-specific questions. With ApplicantStack you can build your own questions with the Questionnaire Builder and attach them to your online application page. And if candidates do not fill out the questionnaires during the online application, you can always send them an email with a link to complete the questionnaire and add it to their application.

Resume Parsing

Even with an online application system, you will still likely receive resumes from candidates directly, usually by email. So your system will ideally be able to import these resumes and parse useful information from the resume automatically. At the very least, your automated system needs to be able to extract all text from a resume for searching later, regardless of its file format (i.e. Microsoft Word®, PDF, RFT, HTML, etc). Most automated systems that support resume parsing will also be able to extract the contact information from a resume, and this alone can be a tremendous time saver. Rather than having to re-key the contact data from the resume into your database, you will already have the person’s contact information from the resume.

ApplicantStack has a resume import mechanism where you can import resumes that you receive from candidates. You can upload resume files or even emails you receive from candidates with resume attachments into the system. All resumes are automatically parsed and the candidate’s contact information is extracted automatically.

Screening Applications

Nothing is more frustrating than looking through a stack of applications and finding that the majority don’t meet the minimum requirements for the job. To save you from having to sift through all these unqualified candidates, you can implement simple screening rules for your applications. One way to do this is to build rules that assign each candidate a score based on their answers to your application questions or resume content.

For a simple example, if your job requires a college degree, you could ask the candidate on the online application if they have a college degree. You could then build a scoring rule that “knocks out” candidates that answer the question as “No”. When you look at your applications in your database, you can filter out all the “knocked out” candidates and focus your attention on the ones that pass your minimum job requirements.

When building rules based on the resume content, you need to be careful that you don’t make your rules too strict. It’s tempting to try to build a comprehensive set of rules that will effectively “match” a candidate to a job automatically. But the reality is that resumes come in all kinds of formats. If your rules are too strict you will often weed out a large number of candidates who may be perfectly good matches to your job but don’t have a resume in a format that the parsing engine understands.

Browsing your Applications

Even with an online application, resume parsing and screening rules, at some point you will need to actually dig in and review the applications and resumes. At this step a well-designed database browser is crucial. Once you set your filter and drill in to look at an application, you need to assess how quickly you can:

  1. Flag and/or determine the next steps for this application,
  2. Bring up all the different parts of the application (i.e. question answers, resume, cover letter, etc), and
  3. Move on to the next applicant.

In many systems, just moving to the next candidate requires multiple clicks – go back to your list, possibly reset your filter, scroll and determine where you were in the list, and then click the next person.

ApplicantStack was designed to make the process of browsing your applications quick and easy:

  1. Setting the next action for a candidate or assigning a rating only takes a couple of clicks.
  2. All data is displayed on the same screen, including the resume preview (i.e. no need to open the resume file).
  3. You can move between applications with Next / Previous links without having to go back to your list.