Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"I can't recruit from my ATS!"

At a local Recruiter networking meeting recently I heard an attendee state "I can't recruit from my ATS!" I've been thinking about that statement alot lately, and the more I think about it, and the more I talk to Recruiters in other organizations, it makes me understand just how pervasive this problem is. Over the past 9 years, I have used three different ATSs, including one that was homegrown, Peopleclick, and currently, Brassring. As much as I have thought that these ATSs could be better, I know it could be much worse. I've heard time and time again horror stories from other Recruiters who share the sentiments of the Recruiter at that networking meeting. Or even worse, I've heard from those who still have no ATS at all. GASP! The thought of no technology just sends shivers down my spine!

John Sullivan's article yesterday on ERE illustrates the shortcomings and lack of new innovation related to much of the technology available today. Check out the comments too, especially Tim Nelson's, great stuff!OK, so the technology is far from ideal right now. But are you maximizing the use of the technology you have available to you today? It is my strong belief that the technology available now can enable, empower and engage Recruiters to be more efficient and effective in their jobs. You should be able to easily move candidates through a work flow and share their resumes and relevant info with hiring decision makers. You should be able to find candidates in your database through targeted searches, and use the ATS to communicate and with those candidates. You should be able to establish re-engagement strategies with prior unsuccessful candidates, create communication strategies and develop relationships that will pay off in the future. You should be able to store information on candidates so you are able to know what is happening (or has happened) with a candidate and when. You should be able to produce powerful metrics on a variety of business-critical topics with just a few clicks. Often, it is not the technology, but the end-users that are the problem. For those who have the best intentions and wish to apply technology, if the proper resources are not applied, or implementations are not well thought out, disaster will strike. Several years back, I saw Michael McNeal speak, and he had a term for just that, "Fast Bad". As much as technology can empower and enable, it can also cripple. Having an ATS, and not being able to recruit from it is "Fast Bad", and that can result from a poor system, a poor implementation, or most often, a combination of both.
Over the past couple of years, we have begun to see a new wave of recruiting technologies emerge to challenge the job boards. We have yet to see many new truly innovative ATS solutions however. Maybe the first step is to stop thinking of these as "Applicant Tracking Systems", and start to think of them more as CRM-related systems, which is the direction we really need to start heading. Instead of ATS, what if the term for this technology was redefined using the acronym that Gary Cluff (my boss, mentor and master of new acronyms) coined: RIMS (Recruitment Information Management System). IMO, "ATS" represents transactional technology, RIMS on the other hand represents a multi-functional, interactive candidate management tool.

In summary, maximizing your effectiveness with today's recruiting technology is critical to any organization's talent acquisition success. The type of innovation that Dr. Sullivan suggests is tied to our demands on the vendor community to innovate and upgrade now. The question of course is who in the vendor community will take on such a risky (and costly) challenge? Whoever does and is successful will undoubtedly spark innovation (and hopefully consolidation) across the vendor community, which is something that we should all benefit from.


At 12:56 PM, Blogger Pete said...

Ben, I couldn't agree more. Too many recruiters are using ATS' as a storage facility for resumes and phone numbers (I guess Excel and Word have gone the way of the Dodo bird) - Recruiters that want to maximize the potential of ATS', be they in-house or COTS systems, need to take intitative to utilize all the tools. Spending even 1-2 hours per week "trying to break" it can help identify new tools and functionalities in the system.

At my last company, when we used Bullhorn, many panicked because it took them out of the CTRL-K or F3 world they so happily hid in. But truth be told, it was a great system, with incredible reporting functionality, keep in touch functions that were a click away, and other tools that one night a week of tinkering could discover.

Now having said that, I'm not the biggest proponent of going into the database and calling every Java Developer since 1997, since the hits will be minimal at best, if the contact info. is even still valid. BUT, taking very selected seach criteria and pounding out some calls or tailoring a "hot list" of candidates will pay dividends in much shorter time frames.

So is it "can't" recruit from the ATS, or is it "haven't put the extra time in, because I want someone to hand me the names"?

Alot of people "can't" until someone else "does" :)

- Pete Radloff

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Ben said...

Pete - Point well made. This is why the initial implementation phase and training is so critical. The end users in Recruiting and HR, whether they administrative staff, technical recruiters or generalists all need to buy-in to the technology and understand fully the guidelines and expectations for it's use.

To produce meaningful, organization-wide metrics for example, the accuracy of the reports I produce are critically tied to the accuracy of the data entered into the system (i.e. garbage in, garbage out syndrome). End-users need to fully understand how to enter data properly, and how critical that responsibility is to the recruiting function.

Whether it be tied to the initial implementation, or the release of upgrades, the quality of the training of end-users is very often tied to the successful use of the technology. Well trained, self-motivated end-users will make most ATS's sing for them. The opposite end-result is most likely to occur for those who expect to just 'plug-and-play'.

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think software should be easy to use, not put the burden on the user to learn an off the wall user interface.

I am a software developer and have been looking for a new project. So, if you know any recruiters that would like to work on an ATS with me to sell, I can be contacted via email at (search_vmail [at] yahoo.com).


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