April 12, 2017

4 Creative Ways to Use Your Applicant Tracking System

It has become quite fashionable to criticize the humble applicant tracking system. From the job seeker’s perspective, that makes sense: Many ATSs force candidates to fill out arduous, time-consuming applications. Technology is supposed to make life easier, but for 80 percent of candidates, applicant tracking systems make life stressful and difficult.

It doesn’t help that ATSs filter about 75 percent of candidates out of the running. That isn’t good news for employers: Many of these candidates are well-qualified, but they’re getting bounced because of system errors or slight differences between the keywords the ATS looks for and the keywords the candidate used on their resume.

ALSO READ: Avoid These 6 Recruiting Email Mistakes

The good news is that a lot of ATS vendors have wised up to these issues – sometimes, volubly complaining works out. That means more great applicant tracking systems attuned to both candidate and employer needs are hitting the market, and these more smartly designed solutions offer recruiters and hiring managers the opportunity to use their ATSs in creative, unconventional ways.

As hiring technology gets more sophisticated, so do our recruiting strategies. Here’s a look at four ways in which today’s recruiting and hiring experts are making the most of their ATS:

1. Set Up a ‘Dummy Job’ to Build a Candidate Pool

Why limit yourself to only collecting resumes that are immediately applicable to your open jobs? Why not start building a storehouse of resumes you can draw from when other jobs open down the line?

SnapHop CEO Wen Tian suggests creating a model job so interested talent can get on your radar (and into your database) without formally committing.

“Build a candidate pool by setting up a dummy job so candidates can indicate their interest without formally applying for jobs,” Tian says. “This also makes it easy for recruiters to identify those candidates because they are attached to the dummy job.”

2. Integrate Smartly

Another great thing about the newer crop of ATS solutions is that many of them integrate with external programs to become more than simple resume receptacles.

For example, you can make your ATS more flexible — and more candidate-friendly — by integrating scheduling tools. Allow candidates to select interview or phone screen times when they submit their resumes to cut down the number of overall steps in the application process and give job seekers more control.

Depending on your ATS, you may also be able to integrate with a marketing automation platform or even an AI chatbot, which could really change your candidate experience game for the better.

3. Optimize Your Job Posts for Search Engines

Chances are, a lot of your candidates will be accessing your job posts through search engines and job aggregators. Tian says you can use your ATS to your advantage here just by making a few tweaks to your posts and descriptions.

Make sure individual job descriptions do not all begin with the same paragraph,” Tian advises. “Move the common paragraph — often the paragraph about the company— to the end of the description so  it’s easy for candidates and search engines/aggregators to distinguish between different jobs.”

Tian also suggests including job ID numbers in the titles of your jobs so search engines and aggregators can distinguish between different jobs with the same titles.

4. Leverage Psychographics

You’re probably familiar with demographics, but what about psychographics?

Where demographic information tells you who applies to your job, psychographic information tells you why they’re applying. It goes further than age, location, and gender, diving into candidates’ values, beliefs, cultural preferences, and so on.

Your ATS can actually be a rich source of psychographic information. By reading through the candidate information stored there and comparing it to successful employees who already work for the company, you can get a sense of the common motivations your best applicants share. This information, in turn, can be used to create more targeted recruiting efforts.

You’ve probably heard of persona-based recruiting before. Psychographics are a lot like that, minus the “wish list” factor. Instead of dealing in ideal candidates, you create a portrait of your best candidates as they truly are in the real world.

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When you get down to it,  applicant tracking doesn’t have to such a pain for candidates, nor does it have to be such a narrowly focused tool for recruiters and hiring managers. As technology continues to advance, ATS will become even more versatile. Get ahead of the curve now, and you’ll blow your competition out of the water.


Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of Recruiter.com. When he’s not writing about employment et al., he’s listening to hip-hop, reading poetry, and bingeing on sitcoms.

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