What is an applicant tracking system (ATS) and why do I need one?
As small companies grow bigger and have more needs they have to hire new employees. Often these new workers have specialized knowledge that the company’s leader doesn’t share. It’s pure luck when the company’s founder finds the right person after several days of looking through resumes and interviewing two or three candidates.
Usually the picture is not as bright. With today’s turbulent economy, there are thousands of people looking for a job – any job – who apply for every job they can find, hoping that they will be lucky. Human resource management (HRM) people have to spend plenty of time looking through all of the resumes that they have received to find several candidates qualified enough for the job. It takes time, it takes effort, and it costs money.
It’s a common practice for big corporations to have a recruitment budget for their HRM team. Unfortunately, small businesses usually cannot afford this luxury, even though they desperately need the most outstanding employees to take the company to the next level. That’s where an ATS becomes the perfect solution, letting you not only access local professionals, but also go global.
Core business specialists are more qualified to determine what is important for getting the job done right than generalist HR people. An in-house applicant tracking system puts the small business owner in the driver’s seat by performing the complex HR task of finding new employees.
What is an ATS?
So what is an application tracking system? It’s a software application that helps an organization manage and automate their recruitment process. It can be used by any organization that recruits permanent or temporary staff.
Applicant tracking software works like a database by collecting information and storing it for future use. Usually it works through the company’s website. Applicants go online to complete their application. This information is then stored in the ATS database, field by field. Company managers can then access this information and quickly determine which applicants they want to interview.
Some software developers offer an ATS with a fixed set of built-in functions. Other software applications let the software buyer customize the program to fit the buyer’s needs.
In addition to working with job applications that are collected on the company’s site, many applicant tracking systems can gather public job postings. This expands the pool of applicants many times over.
Most importantly, an ATS helps managers hire the right employees. Managers may search the database based on what they need, such as a particular skill or software knowledge, and put together their own pool of candidates. Now that the circle is narrowed, the HR department may step in and do their part of the work. Because an ATS makes it easy for hiring managers to identify potential candidates, companies can shift some of the work off HR and onto the actual people who will be working with the recruits.
Why do I need an ATS?
Say you have an opening in your company. You post the information about the vacancy on public job boards, and in a week you already have a hundred applicants. You start to study the 1-, 2-, 3-page resumes, and by the time you reach the tenth resume you have already forgotten why you liked the second one. You can continue struggling with the application or you can save your time and effort and go to an ATS.
Yes, for large organizations, the benefits of an applicant tracking system are quite obvious. Hundreds of applicants and resumes turn an ATS into a necessity.
For smaller organizations, the benefits may not be as clear. But now that the software is getting more affordable and easier to use, applicant tracking systems are very attractive even for the smallest organizations.
Here are the top 4 benefits of an ATS for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
- Online job board and application
- An ATS lets people view open positions and apply online for one or several jobs. It makes the process more efficient for both the applicant and the recruiter than the old way when an applicant called about a job, filled out an in-person application, or emailed a resume.
- Save time with screening questions
- After posting a vacancy on a public job board, you may get tons of applicants. Most of them, however, appear unqualified. If you use an ATS, you can add screening questions to your application to test for qualifications, such as required education, number of years experience in a specific role, etc. When reviewing resumes the answers to your customized questions become part of the applicant’s record. It’s much quicker to review the answers to these questions than to read each resume.
- Provide a professional first-impression to job seekers
- In the recruitment process, the business owner’s goal is to attract top people to the company. An ATS becomes a powerful marketing tool as well as a recruitment tool. Job seekers typically associate a company job board and online application with a large organization, so an applicant tracking system with an integrated job board provides a professional first impression. An ATS can also send an auto-receipt email after a person has applied, and send an email when the job has been filled.
- Central resume and data repository
- An applicant tracking system stores every resume from every applicant in its centralized database. In addition, any information generated during the review process is also stored with the applicant record, including notes, assessments, emails, and workflow data. Later, when you have an opening for a new position, you can look first in your company’s ATS.
So if you are tired of wrestling with tons of paper you have to receive, study, file, and then store, then it’s time to go paperless. That’s why you need an ATS. An applicant tracking system not only stores the data, but it’s also searchable. What might have taken hours can be done in minutes, saving time and money.
Can my company afford an ATS?
Here is the good news: Not only can your company afford an ATS, your company cannot afford not to have one.
Here’s how you can calculate how much money you’re losing by not having an ATS in your company:
- Map out each step of your current recruiting process, and estimate the approximate time and cost for each task. Include things such as approving new jobs, posting new jobs, receiving and reviewing applications, pre-screening and interviewing applicants, and making offers.
- Make a list of the negatives and positives of your current recruiting process. The negatives will certainly outweigh the positives.
- Estimate the loss of revenue to your company for the time that your jobs typically go unfilled.
- Compare items 1, 2, and 3 with the time and cost of using a well-designed ATS to perform these tasks.
- Finally, summarize your business case with an exhaustive list of the benefits below:
- Allows candidates to quickly and easily apply for a job in your organization.
- Facilitates high-volume recruiting while remaining cost-effective.
- Delivers a highly configurable, scalable solution that can be customized to your unique hiring management process, yet accommodate your evolving needs as your organization grows or your processes change.
- Allows recruiters to quickly search the database for all information, and by specific parameters.
- Allows recruiters to easily post career information to the company web site.
- Supports EEO/AAP compliance. Capable of capturing, tracking, and reporting voluntary EEO data, while remaining in compliance with the guidelines set forth by the EEO/OFCCP.
- Supports pre-screening of candidates with elimination questions to find those who meet basic qualifications for the position.
- Includes a Communication Center to facilitate communication among recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates.
- Allows users to schedule appointments, leave notes and interview feedback, send mass messages, and auto-respond to applicants upon receipt of each resume.
- Includes comprehensive support from the software developer, at no charge to your company.
By Katerina Trufanova