7 Underutilized Ways To Extract Maximum Value From Your ATS

7 Underutilized Ways To Extract Maximum Value From Your ATS

Did you choose an ATS because of one or two outstanding features? Great! Now you’ve tamed a couple processes.

Increase ATS ROI

Are you using all the other tools as well? If not, you are leaving ROI on the table.

Here are 7 commonly overlooked ATS (applicant tracking system) features. Are you taking advantage of each one?

7 Underutilized ATS Tools

  1. Prescreening Questionnaires With Knockout Questions
  2. Stage Change Auto-Emails
  3. Recruitment KPI Reports
  4. Manual Links For Niche Job Boards
  5. Targeted Job Descriptions
  6. Process Checklists
  7. Structured Interview Scripts

1. Prescreening Questionnaires

Unfortunately, recruiting has become a race against time. If you want to shorten time-to-fill, this is your answer.

Here’s how pre-screening questionnaires work. Identify the skills and experience required for the job description. Write a question for each must-have qualification. These are aptly named ‘knockout’ questions. For example, ‘Are you proficient in Quark Xpress?’ If the applicant answers ‘No’ the ATS ‘knocks’ them out. Now they are in the ‘Do Not Pursue’ pool.

If you’ve invested in an ATS, there is no reason to review every application you receive. For an entry-level position, 50 percent may be unqualified. For a highly technical position, that number could increase.

Spend your time on the pool of applicants that make it past first-round prescreening.

2. Stage Change Emails

Let automation do its thing. An ATS is a labor-saving device. Trigger an email each time you do a hiring stage change.

For effective auto-emails, use templates and merge fields. These tools allow you to personalize the emails. Create your template using emails you’ve already sent manually.

Merge fields import information you’ve entered elsewhere. For example, your ATS can insert the applicant name, application date, application source, and job description into an email.

Here are examples of auto-emails linked to hiring stage changes:

  • Application Received Stage (‘Thank you for applying. We’ve received your application.’)
  • Do Not Pursue Stage (‘We are moving forward with other candidates. Thank you for your interest in our company.’)
  • Interview Stage (‘We would like to schedule your interview.’)
  • Background and Reference Check Stage (‘We are contacting your references.’)
  • Job Offer Stage (‘Congratulations! We want you to join our team! Your starting date is…’)

An effective applicant journey requires constant personalized communications. Set up stage change emails and never lose a candidate by forgetting to send an email.

Auto-emails aren’t the only thing linked to stage changes. They are just the most common. A stage change can trigger a process like a background or reference check.

3. Hiring KPI Reports

Do you know if your hiring efforts are effective? Do you know if they are improving? Use ATS reports to figure it out.

Here are metrics to track:

  • Time-to-fill
  • Cost-per-hire
  • Job board performance
  • Quality-of-hire
  • Offer acceptance rate
  • Diversity hiring
  • Hires to goal
  • Qualified candidates (number who move past phone screen)
  • Retention rate

4. Manual Links for Non-Supported Job Boards

ATSs automatically post to the most popular job boards. But you may use niche job boards that aren’t supported by your software. Because of this, you may keep those applicants segregated. (Craigslist is a frequent example.)

ATSs have a slick workaround using manual links. When posting your job description to the niche site, insert a link to your ATS. That way, the niche board applicants flow into your database. You won’t have to manually enter them. They will be scored using the same criteria and processed like the applicants from the linked boards.

Save time when posting to non-supported sites. And don’t hesitant to start using additional niche sites.

5. Targeted Job Descriptions

If you are trying to diversify your workforce, create customized job descriptions. Don’t confuse this with job descriptions customized for the position. We’re talking about descriptions customized for a candidate demographic.

Minority groups are underrepresented in many workplaces. Plus there are less-obvious talent pools that can also yield quality hires. What about people who need a flexible schedule? College students? Customers? Retirees re-entering the workforce? Independent contractors seeking a traditional job with health benefits?

While you’re at it, consider where your target demographic hangs out online. For example, LinkedIn attracts a different type of candidate than college job boards. Strategize accordingly.

6. Process Checklists

Ask any Six Sigma expert and they will tell you that process optimization is the key to business success. This applies to hiring processes as well. ATS’ allow you to make custom workflow checklists. Checklists ensure that; 1. Everything gets done, 2. Each hiring team member can check the status in real time, and, 3. You have a record of when tasks were checked off. Checklists also make it easier to assign tasks to members of your hiring team.

7. Structured Interview Questions

Don’t ignore ATS interview scripts. If you are struggling to find quality candidates, improve your interviewing techniques. Structured interviews are an industry best practice that every hiring team should adopt. With structured interviewing questions, all interviewers ask the same questions (in the same order) for every candidate. This prevents unconscious bias and puts all applicants on equal footing. It also allows you to efficiently manage interview scripts for multiple job positions. When your interview questions are stored in your ATS, they are easy to update as needed.

ATS Value: Squeeze Every Last Drop

Your ATS can help you reach your hiring goals—but only if you extract the maximum value from your software.

By Liz Strikwerda

New Employee Onboarding Checklist for 2019

New Employee Onboarding Checklist for 2019

Onboarding a new employee can be quite challenging and time-consuming.  Every phase of the employee onboarding process is important, so make sure to have a new hire checklist to onboard your new employee.  You can use the following outline as a guide, however, every organization will have its own unique requirements.  These tasks will need to be adjusted for the type of employment (full time, part time, seasonal), but having an initial, general list will provide a good starting point for different positions.  We have outlined a new employee onboarding checklist to make it less daunting.

Step 1:

Create a list of tasks that new employees will need to complete and that current team members will need to work on/setup prior to the new employees first day.  Example tasks to put on new hire checklist could include, but are not limited to:

Prepare any State & Federal tax forms that need to be completed.  Some of these forms might require input from multiple individuals.  Having a system in place where these can be created and completed online can save time and resources.  The ability to upload these forms form a library can be beneficial to any busy HR professional.

Prepare any job-related forms that will need to be completed and/or signed by the employee or current team member.  Having a system in place to easily upload and create fillable forms can make this task much easier.

Gather any health insurance forms and benefits information

Identify any computer or other peripheral needs that need to be set up prior to the employee arriving on the first-day

Order any technology equipment

Order phone and create new extension

Obtain a new photo ID

Order business cards

Order any materials/supplies needed by the new employee

Make any arrangements for parking/transportation

Add new employee to relevant email lists

Identify any socialization tasks such as a tour of facilities or welcome lunch/meeting

Step 2:

Put together any supporting documents and links to any videos.  These should be items that do not require any input or signatures.  Example supporting documents might be included on a new hire checklist include, but are not limited to:

Welcome message for new employees

Contact namesNew Hire checklist - library

Phone/extension list

Any training material or videos that will need to be watched

Benefit packages to review


Step 3:

Assign tasks from the new employee onboarding checklist to current team members and new hires.  An automated process for task reminders is an invaluable tool.  Having the ability to set deadlines with reminders will ensure that the tasks will get done.  It is also helpful to be able to visually see the progress indicators that show any outstanding tasks.

Assign all tasks to any relevant person with a due datenew hire checklist - checklist

Order assignments according to time needed to complete tasks and dependencies between tasks

Create email remainders

Monitor completion of tasks on the new hire checklist

Step 4:

Establish clear communication with the new hire.  Having an employee portal to facilitate the new hire checklist can make this much easier.  An employee portal can be viewed as their own virtual assistant that can help the onboarding process run smoothly.  Here are some items to include when using a portal:

Their manager’s contact information

List of tasks from the new hire checklist

Any materials that they need to review and/or sign (from Steps 1 & 2) A progress indicator and list of deadlines to help the new hire complete all the tasks

Step 5:

Review your plan and make the necessary tweaks for the next employee.  Don’t assume that one new hire checklist is going to fit all employees!  Luckily fully-automated tools such as ApplicantStack Onboard allow for on the fly updates and customizations.

Ready to implement your new employee onboarding checklist? Download a copy of our checklist here:

New Employee Onboarding Checklist


How To Conduct An Interview: Best Practices to Improve Hiring

How To Conduct An Interview: Best Practices to Improve Hiring

Why learn how to conduct an interview? It’s simple. You will find better employees. Quality employees help you execute your business objectives.

Let’s discuss interview best practices. Notice that steps 1-6 all take place before the candidate arrives. The things you do to prepare are just as important as what you do when you are conducting the interview.

Know The Job Description

If you wrote the job description, you already have a general understanding. But dig deeper. Talk to managers about skills that may not be readily apparent. Ask successful employees what helps them. Update the job description as you gain a better understanding.

Create a Structured Interview

Using unstructured interviews is a common mistakes made by new business owners. Most do it by default, not realizing that there is a better way. Some employers think structured interviews are only for high-level positions. Others believe they can pick a good employee with a ‘gut feeling.’

It’s not hard to create structured interviews. We cover it in depth in this article: Structured Interview Questions: The Ultimate Interview Guide. Follow the steps to create structured interviews for your hiring team.

A structured interview includes standardized scoring. This helps you fairly evaluate each candidate. If there are several decision makers involved, each person should rate the applicant with the same method.

Structured interviews improve hiring for every type of company. Large and small. Entry-level and senior positions.

Part of your structured interview script is an explanation of what your company is all about. Describe your company’s mission and values. Explain the organizational structure.

When you have created your structured interview script, memorize it as best as you can. You have your script to refer to, but learn it well enough to maintain eye contact with the applicant. Practice the script out loud.

Learn Hiring Laws

It’s easy to innocently commit a hiring violation. Business owners and hiring managers do it all the time. Protect your company by learning the do’s and don’ts of legal hiring.

If your company has a legal team, make sure they sign off on your questions.

Review The Candidate’s Application

Don’t go into the interview cold. If you are familiar with the applicant’s background, you will have a context for understanding their answers. It will also help you maintain eye contact and stay on script.

Schedule The Interview Location in Advance

You don’t want to wander around looking  for an open conference room with the applicant in tow. It reflects poorly on your company. It makes the applicant nervous. It’s a bad start all around. If possible, choose a private room with comfortable chairs. Glass-walled fishbowl conference rooms don’t put either of you at ease.

If it’s a video interview, make sure all equipment is ready to go. You don’t want to spend the first ten minutes figuring it out. Nothing diminishes your confidence (and corporate image) like the inability to use technology.

Schedule Enough Time

You don’t want to be rushed. Schedule enough time for the candidate to answer each question in depth. Add a 15 minute buffer between interviews.

Be a Good Communicator

The previous steps were preparatory. Now you are ready for prime time.

  • Turn off your phone or have your assistant hold your calls.
  • Speak slowly, maintain eye contact.
  • Listen intently.
  • Reject any urge to vary from the script.

Any business owner can follow these steps to improve their interviews.

Recruiting Software Helps You Conduct Better Interviews

SwipeClock ApplicantStack provides recruiting software that helps you improve your interviewing process. ApplicantStack Recruit helps you write job descriptions, post to job boards, create structured interviews, and track applicants. The result? You will find and hire quality employees faster.

You can try our recruiting software for free. Visit ApplicantStack Recruit to sign up.

Why You Need to Give Candidate Interview Feedback

Why You Need to Give Candidate Interview Feedback

At some point, every employee goes through the hiring process. From entry-level workers to executives, most candidates submit applications and, if they make it to this step, should receive candidate interview feedback.

Providing candidate interview feedback can seem painful, regardless of whether or not you are hiring the person. As the interviewer, you’re criticizing someone’s performance. What if the candidate becomes defensive? It’s tempting to only offer candidate interview feedback if you’re asked for it. Don’t take the easy route here. Candidate interview feedback can benefit you as well as the prospective new hire.

How Candidate Interview Feedback Helps You

Practice Makes Perfect

The ability to deliver constructive criticism is an essential leadership skill. Even if you’ve read the best HR books out there, there’s no substitute for practice. Delivering feedback to an interview candidate is the perfect way to hone your technique, particularly if you aren’t going to hire the person anyway.

Determine What You Want

Giving feedback to your interview candidates allows you to critically analyze exactly what you’re looking for in this new hire. This is especially important for higher-level candidates, who will have a significant impact on your company. As you assess what you did or did not like about a candidate, you can change your hiring strategy accordingly. Learn more about what you don’t want, and you’ll be better able to articulate what you are looking for.

Establish a Relationship

Offering candidate interview feedback sets the stage for a future relationship with an applicant. You want this person to feel eager to re-apply in the future, or for a different position. Maybe this person has someone in his or her network who is thinking about applying. Candidates should leave feeling good about your company – even if they aren’t offered a job. The best way to do that is by taking a vested interest in their careers.

When 51% of job applicants share their interview experiences on social media, you want to make sure that experience is a positive one. More than half (61%) of applicants search for company reviews, and what they see affects whether or not they apply.

How can you make sure you’re providing a good experience as fodder for those positive reviews? Offer candidate interview feedback. One study found that 66% of applicants who didn’t hear back from a company felt negatively towards that company. Over half were unlikely to apply for another job there as a result. Giving candidate interview feedback can seriously impact your company brand – and the people who choose to apply to future job listings.

It’s never easy to tell candidates that they didn’t get the job. But offering candidate interview feedback makes it less painful, since they aren’t left wondering what they did wrong. It’s a win-win for you and your applicants.

My Personal Journey to ApplicantStack

My Personal Journey to ApplicantStack

How did I get here and what was my journey to ApplicantStack?

6 min read

Journey to ApplicantStack

When I began my job at my last position at a help desk company, one item I was tasked with was researching a better way to recruit new employees.

I was surprised that a technology company’s recruitment process comprised manually posting jobs on sites such as CareerBuilder, Indeed, local job boards, and some colleges.

The instructions to apply consisted of an email address that “organized” the resumes into Outlook folders based on the job they were applying to. Then we spent time weeding through, in some cases, hundreds of resumes to find candidates that were worth pursuing.

The candidates that weren’t a fit were never sent a “Thank you for applying email” because frankly, that was just too much work. This resulted in more emails, calls, and the occasional pop-in-the-office to find out their status.

“Worthwhile” resumes would then need to be printed and another sheet would be stapled to the resume that included fields to be filled out. “Date Resume Received”, Date Email Sent, Phone Screen Date & Time, etc..

The candidate would then be contacted along with a list of dates & times for a phone screen.

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And that’s when the real chaos began…

Human Resources Valuable Time

Endless emails back and forth trying to set up dates and times. Once a time slot was taken, I would need to turn down appointments letting them know that the week’s slots were taken with a new list for the following week.

The phone screens consisted of a series of questions and answers that would need to be manually typed.

Most of the time I needed to disclaim that I can’t type as fast as they would talk so there would be some silence during the call as I caught up.

If the candidate did not pass the phone screen, they were emailed letting them know we appreciated their time, but we were pursuing another candidate.

The candidates that passed the phone screen round were emailed with technical test session id’s and/or personality assessments. If they passed, they were sent another email with yet again a list of dates and times for their first in-person team interview.

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The coordination required for gathering available times across multiple candidates was painful, to say the least.  

Prior to the candidate’s in-person interview, their resume, the phone screen interview sheet, the results of their technical and personality assessments, and a sheet of paper with all the interview dates and times were all bundled into a paper file and labeled with the candidate’s name.

The candidate would arrive in the office and be brought to an available conference room where they needed to complete a hand-written application for employment, which would be added to the folder.

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Don’t Let Qualified Candidates Slip Through the Cracks

Fast forward the second round of in-person interviews, the offer was finally presented to the candidate. Sometimes the amount of time that passed from when the candidate applied to when an offer was extended could be upwards of two months.

By that time most candidates lost interest or took another job at another company.

Who could blame them! 

Yes, we tried to be more organized and create excel spreadsheets to track some of this information. We also ran reports letting our CEO know how many candidates were received and all the stages of the interview process they completed.

But this was extremely time consuming and redundant.

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Hence my question: “why use an applicant tracking system?”

It was clear that the answer was I needed help and so began my quest for an applicant tracking system (ATS).

I evaluated several products based on pricing and ease of use.

One product offered a potentially cost-effective onetime setup fee, but we would need to map out our entire process up front.

If that process ever changed, we would need to re-setup the entire product and pay the setup fee again!

Since we were a relatively small company with high turnover and a need to constantly evolve our recruiting process, that option just wasn’t going to work for us in the long run.

After hearing about ApplicantStack from several other companies, I decided to take a chance and test it out.

After all, they were offering a free trial, and if I didn’t feel it met my organization’s needs, I could take my data back and continue with my ATS evaluation.

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I decided to test it out with our most hard to fill, immediate need job on a Friday.

It was very easy to create a new job and ApplicantStack offered multiple resources to me for assistance if needed.

I was also able to create custom workflows to match our current process. I posted the job on Friday and it was instantly available on my public job board and within several hours the job was posted to CareerBuilder, Indeed, LinkedIn, and other job boards.

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By Monday morning, I received over 50 new applicants who all received an automatic email letting them know that if they were a match for the position they would be contacted.

This immediately cut down on those emails and calls about whether we received their resume.

Going through the resumes was also quicker, but at that time I didn’t have any screener questions set up.

Once I added basic screener questions with scoring the initial review process became much more efficient.

I could easily knock out candidates who didn’t meet the basic criteria for the job.

At that time the candidate scheduling feature now offered by ApplicantStack wasn’t available, and I can only imagine how much more time it would have saved by allowing the candidates to select available phone interview times on my calendar!

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Data Driven Recruiting

What was also extremely helpful was that I no longer needed to create reports in Excel.

I was able to use the pre-built standard reports found in ApplicantStack to show me information such as sources of applicants so I could easily see where my candidates were coming from.

This helped me focus my recruiting budget on the best sources.

The analytics for my CEO was also a time saver since it provided all the information he was looking for.

We were also able to determine our bottlenecks in the recruiting process and adjustments needed at no additional cost.

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By this point, it was clear that ApplicantStack was the right choice for our company and we decided to start by paying for it month-to-month.

Eventually, we were so pleased with the results and ease of use that we switched to an annual plan.


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You might be asking yourself, “So Jennifer, how did you wind up working for ApplicantStack?”

My passion for helping companies find the best solutions to make their jobs easier and more efficient set me on a path that eventually brought me to ApplicantStack where my background in recruiting, human resources, and technology have allowed me to provide direct input into making ApplicantStack the award-winning product it is today.

We listen to our customers’ feedback and continue to evolve in the ever-changing human resources world.

The way I see it, every day we are improving the lives of thousands of recruiters and human resource professionals by helping them to be more efficient and to hire the best candidates.