It’s hard to read a news article online without coming across one about how artificial intelligence (AI) is about to change the world.
But away from all the media reporting, artificial intelligence and automation has already made huge strides in creating a streamlined, more efficient recruitment process.
In the modern, ever-changing job market, businesses are increasingly turning to technology to identify and hire the best talent efficiently.
One such technological solution is the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This sophisticated software brings a myriad of benefits – and it’s only likely to get better as technology develops further.
The benefits of applicant tracking systems
An ATS benefits businesses by automating and organising the hiring process. They have the capability to revolutionise the way organisations find and make a good hire, bringing:
Streamlined recruitment processes
Applicant Tracking Systems manage everything from posting job openings to onboarding. This streamlining ensures a more efficient and time-effective hiring workflow, reducing the burden on hiring managers and allowing them to focus on more strategic aspects of talent acquisition.
Reed Talent Solutions’ Technology Strategy Lead, Jade Beddoe, said ATSs enable organisations “to drive consistency to manage candidate applications.
“They enable you to track what's happening with every application - to do all of that manually is quite difficult.”
The enhancement of the recruitment process afforded by using an ATS not only reflects positively on the overall brand and employee value proposition (EVP) of an organisation, but it also reinforces its business to customer brand in sectors where candidates can also be customers.
The consistency providing by using an ATS means the recruitment process is delivered in a uniform and fair way, regardless – for example – of the diversity of the candidate pool. Above all else, this consistency helps lead to quality objective hiring decisions being made.
Efficient CV screening
Some ATS systems utilises AI to scan and analyse CVs, identifying qualified candidates based on specified criteria. This automated screening process significantly reduces the time spent manually reviewing CVs, enabling recruiters to identify the most relevant candidates promptly.
Enhanced candidate communication
Communication is key in the hiring process, and ATSs facilitate better interaction between recruiters and candidates. Automated email responses, interview scheduling, and status updates keep candidates informed throughout the recruitment journey, creating a positive candidate experience, and maintaining the employer's brand reputation.
Jade said the automation within an ATS dramatically reduces the admin burden on talent acquisition teams, with – for example – candidates being sent immediate responses to applications, or if someone doesn’t meet the minimum criteria, they can still be added to your talent pool, a database of potential job candidates which can be stored within an ATS.
Those candidates in a talent pool are typically highly qualified and have previously expressed interest in joining an organisation. Maintaining a talent pool allows businesses to cultivate relationships with workers whose skills and experience align with their requirements.
This way, a hiring manager does not have the start the recruiting process from scratch for each position. Instead, a pool of highly qualified candidates who are already familiar with and interested in an organisation is already available.
“You can create talent pooling within an ATS and keep candidates engaged with your brand,” she said. “Those candidates you have in your ATS are potentially a hire of the future.
“They're already receiving content from you, so by the time they come to apply, they're already a little bit more bought in, which will reduce your dropout rate and improve applicant numbers.”
Centralised data management
With a central database for candidate information, ATSs provide a unified database for all recruitment-related data. This centralised approach simplifies data management, allowing recruiters to access, update, and track candidate information seamlessly. This not only enhances collaboration among team members but also ensures data accuracy.
ATSs foster collaboration among hiring teams by providing a shared platform for communication and collaboration. Team members can access the same pool of information, share feedback, and collectively make more informed decisions about potential hires.
Implementing an ATS can lead to significant cost savings over time. By automating repetitive tasks, reducing time-to-hire, and improving overall efficiency, organisations can optimise their resources and allocate them more effectively.
However, by far the greatest cost saving comes from hiring the right person at the first time of asking. This reduces attrition and the associated business costs of having to onboard new employees, of managing under productive or immature teams, and of hiring managers constantly being caught up in recruitment activities.
As businesses grow, so does the volume of recruitment activities. ATSs are scalable and can adapt to the changing needs of an organisation, making them suitable for businesses of various sizes.
Whatever people think of AI, it is not only here to stay but is likely to have an ever-increasing influence. Generative AI and gender decoding are becoming more common, while some ATS are starting to integrate generative AI such as ChatGTP.
Jade added: “Generative AI tools embedded into an ATS can take the details of a vacancy and create an engaging and unbiased job advert to be posted on job boards with the click of a button. The AI takes on the admin task for the talent advisory team to create better adverts that appeal to a diverse talent audience.”
How to implement an applicant tracking system
The benefits of an ATS may be clear, but how can your organisation decide which system best meets your needs?
Here are four steps to follow to implement the best ATS for your business:
Define your purpose and scope your requirement
The first thing to do is to document why you are implementing an ATS. Define your purpose, scope, and intended outcomes. If you are hoping to integrate your ATS with another HR system or other enterprise software, you should include engagement with your IT team to ensure these expectations can be achieved.
Reed Talent Solutions Project Delivery Director, Joe Finch, said it is important to focus on why you are implementing an ATS and what issues you hope to address.
He said: “You need to assess what benefits you anticipate a change will bring – what are the outcomes that would mean the project would be considered a success?
“You must ask questions within your organisation, engage a variety of people – including recent new hires who have experienced your current processes as applicants.
“Ideally you should form a project group to evaluate the current process, and then formalise what you actually want to improve and how you envisage an ATS will help support achieving improvements.
“Where possible you should gather a set of measurable success criteria that enable you to demonstrate improvements.
“You must remember that while an ATS can enhance a process of recruitment and engagement, it won't fix a broken process.
“If something's fundamentally wrong with the activity you're doing, implementing an ATS isn't going to solve your problems.”
Selecting your ATS
You must assess a range of options, engaging with several potential ATS providers highlighting to them your unique circumstances, required outcomes and the specific challenges you hope to resolve that were identified during the ‘scoping of requirement’ stage.
Each vendor should be able to demonstrate how their system’s functionality aligns to your requirements.
As part of the selection process ensure you are familiar with the level of implementation and ongoing support an ATS vendor will provide to you. Your vendor will know their ATS inside and out and will help to troubleshoot and find solutions in a far more effective way than you can on your own.
The size of your organisation is likely to determine the amount of support you'll get.
Joe said: “If you're a large organisation that's going to potentially be financially beneficial for the ATS provider, you're likely to get a lot of support. They'll probably be keen to lead you through the process.
“In that case, you'll probably get an implementation lead or at least a success manager to make sure the system delivers on your requirements. Smaller organisations can expect to be far more self-service, perhaps with guided notebooks and standard training, but less direct personalised support.”
Engage your team
Once you have chosen the correct ATS, you need to get your team onboard. For an ATS to work, there needs to be buy-in throughout your business. Some employees may be nervous about change, be worried that automation is going to take their jobs, or scared they won’t be able to cope with the technology.
As with any other change programme, clear, consistent and frequent communication will be a key to success. During implementation, your ATS include clear communications that position the reasons for the change and anticipated benefits for the organisation.
Also, it is important to include a clear timeline for the change highlighting any key activities different users may need to undertake and when.
System users should be offered initial demonstrations, and a variety of options for training (supported webinars, recorded demonstration videos, written guidebooks – even personalised individual or small group support) along with clear guidance for ongoing support for users.
This will all help to make the transition to the new system and process as simple as possible.
Review your success criteria and measurable metrics
The final step of the implementation process revolves around measuring outcomes and lessons learnt. Reflect back honestly and assess what went well during the project to help inform how to approach other similar change projects in future.
As previously noted, it is easy to say an ATS will streamline a recruitment process, but you will need to have set out what this means for you in practice and your project success criteria.
Joe added: “It is important to ask if you are getting the anticipated outcomes. This process is likely to take some time because you will have an immediate reaction where people think the new system is great – or terrible - but you must then look at how everything has bedded into operations in three, six, 12 months down the line.
“It’s about understanding if you are getting the expected outcomes in terms of your key measures: time to hire, quality and cost of hires, employee retention and applicant feedback, over the mid- and longer term to demonstrate return on investment (ROI).”
As the benefits of an ATS become clear, your team will be willing to overcome any minor challenges that may arise. It remains important to keep communication lines open, be clear about your ongoing goals and make sure any feedback is used to further optimise the talent acquisition process.
Using an ATS to measure success
A good ATS will use automation to not simply manage applications but offer a wealth of data to measure and enhance recruitment success.
Reed Talent Solutions’ System Configuration Analyst, Mark Carpenter, said by fully understanding how an ATS can be harnessed, organisations can make data-driven decisions, optimise their hiring strategies, and ultimately build a stronger workforce.
An ATS simplifies the candidate management process by centralising applications and CVs. This allows recruiters to focus on more strategic aspects of the hiring process, such as engaging with top talent. Success can be measured by the reduction in time spent on administrative tasks and the increase in productivity.
Mark said rules can be created to allow immediate deselection criteria to refine the search for the right candidate.
“For example,” he said, “if a job requires someone to have a driving licence, we can get it to automatically reject everybody who hasn't got one.
“We can get it to sift out candidates who don't match key criteria, which saves organisations hours going through applications that are never going to go any further.
“The system can be designed with automatic proceeds or rejects throughout the whole process.
“If somebody gives us the qualifying score on a video interview or test, they can be immediately moved to the next stage. They don't need to wait for us to come in the next morning and have a look at their scores.”
The same works for someone who doesn’t hit the required scores, with time delays built into the process so a candidate doesn’t immediately get a rejection email.
“It takes a lot of legwork out of the process,” Mark said. “It’s about removing all those little things that take time, such as trying to contact someone on the phone and them being unavailable.
“These things just keep adding time to the process. Whereas things like self-booking or getting someone to do a video interview at their own leisure will keep the process moving forward.”
Measuring the success of an ATS involves evaluating the quality of hires made through the system. By tracking the performance, retention rates, and contributions of employees hired via the ATS, organisations can assess the effectiveness of their recruitment strategies. A higher quality of hire suggests the ATS is aligning well with the company's talent needs.
An ATS can also help your company improve its diversity and inclusion metrics, by measuring information such as the percentage of diverse candidates in the pipeline and the hiring outcomes for different demographic groups.
“Everything you do in the system is reportable,” Mark said. “For example, you can ask for a report on the selection process steps, looking at which candidates are rejected at each stage and why.
“Ultimately, it’s all about creating a system that works for both you and your potential employees.”
In conclusion, it is clear a well-specified and properly implemented ATS can be transformational for talent acquisition and for your organisation as a whole.
Implementing an ATS will mean organisations can dedicate more time to their core responsibilities: sourcing and hiring exceptional candidates and improving the candidate experience.
It will do this while streamlining the recruitment process, improving diversity and producing cost savings.
While an ATS might not make the headlines in the same way as the latest ‘tech bro’ venture in the US, it’ll supercharge the way your organisation does recruitment.
If you are looking for support with the technology which will supercharge your recruitment process, you can find out more here.