Attracting The Right Talent with ATS

October 31, 201611:37 am703 views
Attracting The Right Talent with ATS
The era of scrutinising stacks of paper résumés is over. In its place, applicant tracking systems are fast-becoming the chief framework by which recruiters sift through candidates. HRM delves deeper into the must-have software for recruiters.

The importance of a high-quality applicant tracking system (ATS) cannot be discounted in this digital age.

According to the Bullhorn 2015 North American Staffing and Recruiting Trends Survey, a whopping 77% of recruiters polled believed they required an ATS to perform their jobs effectively.

But, what exactly does an ATS entail?

Defining an ATS

Gary Lai, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Charterhouse Partnership, a boutique executive search firm, says an ATS is an IT software application that handles recruitment tracking electronically.

“The system has an automatic search optimisation algorithm through keywords to filter applicants,” Lai explains.

“It can also be designed to coordinate recruitment efforts and to analyse candidates’ applications for data storage and mining. Such data can be further analysed to access the volume, types and patterns of recruitment to better manage human capital.”

Binayak Bagchi, Director HR – Asia-Pacific, Restorative Therapies Group, at Medtronic, says an ATS is typically a pre-set, work flow and rule -based software application that sits on top of a company’s people data management system.

“An ATS interfaces with the job applicants, internally or externally, usually through the company career website page and is accessed through a browser,” says Bagchi.

Gary Chan, Head of Talent Acquisition, Asia-Pacific, Hitachi Data Systems, says that while an ATS is a platform to capture all job applicants’ details and manage the entire recruitment process, it also serves other functions.

“It can also be tied to other programmes to post job ads (both internally and externally), as well as to manage recruitment agencies when they are given support roles,” says Chan.

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Sketching out the system

Bagchi says an ATS is made up of several distinctive functions.

An effective version could be a market product or also a custom-made third party application developed for a specific company requirement.

“The most usual feature of a good ATS application is an ability to track and manage multiple users,” he explains.

Chan says other unique aspects of a strong ATS include facilitating a recruitment workflow, through a step-by-step management of the selection process, offering letter generation, and candidate searches.

No assurances

According to a 2015 report entitled Measuring Up, from Futurestep and HRO Today magazine, “an increased quality of candidate pool” was the most desired metric businesses were not then capturing.

However, while enhancing the quality levels of candidates remains a sought-after trait for organisations, Lai warns that an ATS is not a bullet-proof framework.

“No ATS can guarantee a perfect hire,” he states.

“It can only enhance the efficiency to which a potential suitable candidate can be brought in for interviews.”

“This allows companies to lessen the amount of manual labour required to sieve through stacks of physical or electronic résumés, most of which may not be relevant for the role.”

“No system in the foreseeable future can replace meeting a candidate in person to have a more in-depth discussion on their experiences, motivations and to also observe their body language.”

Likewise, Bagchi reiterates the belief that an ATS cannot garner a perfect recruit.

“What it can do, however, is make the hiring process smart, fair, quick and web-enabled,” he elaborates.

“The success or failure of an ATS depends on how smartly it is configured and used – both by the HR users as well as by the hiring manager. User awareness and training plays a big role in it.”

From Chan’s perspective, an ATS is a tool “to track the process only.”

“There is a keyword search function whereby recruiters can search for relevant profiles from previous applications, but the search function is not advanced and effective at times. To get the job done, the screening of calibre still needs to be done by recruiters outside the system,” he explains.

Bringing HR into the fray

So, where and how does HR come into an ATS’ eco-system?

Bagchi stresses that a key aspect of impactful ATS use is when the key HR and business leaders are involved, from the initial design right up to the implementation and user-awareness phases of the system.

“HR needs to play an exemplary role in teaching the business manager to ‘fish’ with the system. Change management is a common challenge in implementing an ATS in a company,” he explains.

“A key to the successful deployment and use of an ATS is to ensure that the recruitment work flow of the company is up to speed with the changing market trends and external talent expectations, and that the same is mapped and managed well through the system.

“The other notable aspect for HR to skilfully use an ATS is to play a consultant role for the hiring managers and to focus on driving a robust, fair and quality hiring process of top talent fits.”

Chan also highlights that HR should utilise an ATS consistently; otherwise, the data captured will not be adequate or current.

“The more data one inputs, the higher the likelihood one can search for the best fit of the applicants,” he says.

“So, all users should make it a habit to enter as much detail as possible regarding any profile.”

Lai says HR should apply an ATS as an IT tool to enhance their daily activities, so they will have more time to focus on greater human capital strategic planning.

In fact, he discloses that Charterhouse Partnership uses its own ATS for the company’s recruitment needs.

“Only qualified candidates are uploaded into the system, which is then automatically reviewed on a regular basis,” he says.

“This process ensures that the candidates are kept in touch with and for us to continue to be updated on their movements.”

The human element

While the advantages of an ATS are obvious, Lai cautions that “even the best ATS can only filter to find a suitable candidate based on the keywords in the résumé.”

“However, résumés are put together in writing by individuals and can be ‘catered’ to the job requirement. As such, the traditional recruitment strategy of speaking with the candidates still holds relevance,” he says.

“An over-reliance on such IT systems may make HR complacent and neglect the necessity for human interaction with potential and current employees.”

Bagchi fully concurs.

He says the positive aspects of the traditional recruitment process – the “human touch” should never be forgotten or replaced completely by a cut and dry, systems-driven process.

“The advantage of the ATS is that you can do the above with a handful and targeted set of aspirants,” he explains.

“I cannot think of any disadvantages of an ATS, unless it is badly designed, badly implemented or badly used.”

Chan also concedes that information now moves a lot faster, particularly through social media.

“One needs to be at the forefront of these digital trends to come out on top in today’s talent war,” he says.

An ATS with a human touch

Suzanne Lucas, who had spent a number of years in corporate HR, argues that an applicant tracking system requires a human touch.

In a recent blog post, the US-based HR leader-turned-consultant says applicant tracking systems are only useful when operated with a human touch. She says that while recruiters, hiring managers and HR generalists are keen to know as much as they can about candidates before affording them an interview, they usually offer candidates very little information about themselves in return.

“We communicate when we need to know something, but not when they need to know something,” she writes. “We’ll contact a candidate to set up an interview, but we’ll rarely contact a candidate to say, ‘we’re not interested’.”

Lucas also says that “when we reduce people to checkboxes and keyword searches, we often skip over people who can do the job, but may not have every checkbox filled in.

“Additionally, when we rely on computers to screen our applicants, we may accidentally reject qualified people just because the keywords are so specific.”

She points to a recent example.

“I recently received an email from a woman who applied for a job as an ‘undergraduate advisor’. The job posting required three years of experience. She had five years of experience as a ‘graduate student advisor’. She was certainly qualified, but the recruiter didn’t pull up her résumé because she was looking for something specific. When the candidate reached out to the hiring manager and shared her qualifications in person, the manager quickly pulled her résumé out of the system, interviewed her and hired her,” she wrote.

“But the computer? The computer rejected her.”

Source: Why Applicant Tracking Systems Need a Human Touch, which appeared on the Cornerstone website

The article first appeared on HRM Asia.


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