How to Prevent Your ATS from Working Against You

The first applicant tracking systems were developed in the early days of the Internet, when companies were eager to get the most out of technology. In their eagerness to build comprehensive systems, many ATS vendors and employers overcomplicated the application process by adding too many features without taking the user experience into account.

The application process is the service part of a company’s employer brand – similar to the role of customer service, employers should make sure their online application process is aligned with the company’s values and does not turn qualified candidates away. It’s no different than when customer service organizations work to enhance the company brand by providing service representatives with scripts, behavior guidelines, etc.

The Evolution of the Internet

The web has evolved and so has user behavior. There has been a marked shift to mobile as millions of smartphones and tablets have been purchased by consumers:

  • 51% of all time spent on digital media in the U.S. occurs on a smartphone or tablet (comScore).
  • 51% of users open emails on mobile devices (Litmus).
  • On a global basis, 64% of all internet users accessed the Internet via smartphone, and 28% via tablet (Global Web Index).
  • Nearly one-third of all job search traffic at Simply Hired occurs on mobile devices.
  • 52% of the email job alerts sent by Simply Hired are opened on mobile devices.

As web usage shifts to mobile, users want to take their data with them, and be able to access it from any device. Cloud storage solutions have grown exponentially in the past several years.

  • Dropbox, a popular cloud storage app, has 200 million users worldwide (Wall Street Journal).
  • Google Drive, Google’s cloud storage service, has more than 120 million users. Google Drive users are required to have a Gmail or Google Apps account.  Gmail, with over 425 million users, is the top free email provider in the U.S., and increased its share significantly in 2013  (Litmus). Google Apps is used by more than five million businesses and 66 of the top 100 universities. 

This data indicates that ability to store documents (such as resumes and cover letters) in the cloud and access them from any device is now seen as a necessity rather than a convenience for many web users. They are also practical in their use of the web, viewing LinkedIn (with over 200 million users and growing at a rate of 2 users per second) as an online resume.

Trend in Google Search Volume

The Impact of Device Proliferation and Cloud Storage on the Application Experience

Users are highly attuned to redundancy and kinks in their online experience. They have come to expect ease-of-use after years of using products and services by companies that invest heavily in user experience testing (such as Google, Apple, and Facebook). Web users readily complain about problems they encounter in online reviews, forums, and on social media. Though they are likely to interact with your company only once – when they complete an online application – the ATS is an extension of your employer brand and should be treated as such. 

A user-friendly job application experience through your ATS enhances your employer brand, positioning your company as efficient and respectful of the candidate’s time. A poor experience with an ATS can lead candidates to draw erroneous conclusions about what it’s like to work at your company. If your ATS asks for unnecessary or redundant information, provides insufficient options for the explanation of unusual life circumstances, or sends automated rejections minutes after scanning a resume for keywords, candidates can draw the following conclusions:

“They are not technology-friendly.”

“They must be really bureaucratic and inefficient.”

“They are going to require too much of me.”

“They are inflexible.”

“They are just going to treat me like a number.” 

How to Improve the Candidate Application Experience

As the primary line of communication between your company and its next great employee, the ATS deserves special consideration. Here are some tips to help you create a candidate-friendly application experience.

  • Take a self-audit of your own application process and compare it to other companies in your area. Do this for both mobile and desktop.
  • Make a list of what information you are currently collecting from candidates. Categorize information into four buckets:

1. Absolutely necessary (name, contact information, work history, education, etc.)
2. Nice to have, but not necessary (e.g., college GPA)
3. Can be collected later (such as reference information or social security number)
4. Not at all necessary (e.g. exact dates of previous employment and graduations)

  • Look at your company’s mission and values statements. If “Do more with less” is a core value, does the candidate experience support that? Consider how to align the candidate experience with the company’s core values.
  • Measure and analyze:

1. Visits to your employer site by device type
Application drop-off rate

  • Consider integrating services like LinkedIn, Google Drive, and Dropbox into your application process. Below is an example of an online application that presents multiple options for resume upload.

ATS Screen Shot 

In the coming weeks, we will continue to delve into the world of ATSes. Stay tuned as we examine specific hang-ups in the application process, including forcing candidates to lie and artificially disqualifying candidates.
At Simply Hired we want to navigate the ever-changing landscape of successful recruiting with you. Stay with us over the next few months as we explore best practices in recruiting and look at examples of employers that do it well. You can sign up to receive future newsletters and feature articles in our preference center. 

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