December 18, 2019

5 Steps To A Successful ATS Implementation

Written by
Noah Schreiber
Tags: HR

Implementing an applicant tracking system is no small feat. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) have the potential to help your company scale while cutting costs. The larger an org is, the more challenging implementing an ATS becomes. While the challenge might seem great, the rewards far outweigh the pains.

As anyone who has undergone an ATS overhaul or even a new ATS adoption will tell you, finding an ATS that meets your org’s needs is only 50 percent of the battle. The final—and most often overlooked—step in choosing an ATS system is preparing for implementation.

The 5 key points of successful implementation:

  1. Document why you are implementing the ATS
  2. Get everyone on board
  3. Clarify goals
  4. Identify and use vendor help
  5. Plan risk mitigation and go-live options

Document why you are implementing the ATS

Define your purpose, scope, and intent from the start to have a winning strategy:

  • Purpose: Why you will change your ATS or implement a new one.
  • Scope: What parts of the business will this affect, how do we expect things to change, who will see changes
  • Intent: What you want to achieve from the change (broad goals)

When you define these guiding principles early on, you give yourself a clear picture of the stakeholders that will need to act in the implementation process. Then you can build clear paths of communication between the key players and the rest of the affected org. Implementing a new system is a communication-heavy process, so make sure you have clear communication channels and hierarchies established to avoid confusion.

Get everyone on board

Teams that implement a new system or replace an old one will meet resistance. Recruiters have gotten used to their archaic—and frankly broken—ATS and can only see the short term hassle of changing.

Address concerns head-on with data. Transition the concern to enthusiasm by highlighting how the new system will improve performance across the board. Use case studies to help convince the team. After changing their ATS, Indigo, a company with 4,000 new hires every year, saw great results. After implementation, 96 percent of candidates rated the candidate experience at Indigo as “great” or “excellent.”

Data like this resonates with recruiters and helps them focus on the benefits of the new software. You can augment these benefits by training new users and making the software available to practice in before you go live.

Clarify goals

Although it may seem obvious, having clear goals and measurable metrics can make or break your ATS implementation. Follow these three steps:

  • Figure out your success metrics
  • Make sure you have short term and long term goals
  • Create an ongoing plan to track measurements so that you can improve over time

Companies measure recruiting metrics in different ways. Make sure your org uses the most up to date and relevant hiring metrics.

Identify and use vendor help

Vendors are experts on implementing their ATS. They know what’s been tried, what works, and what doesn’t.

Many ATS vendors offer implementation help in varying degrees. For smaller clients some vendors will offer case studies of successful implementations and light planning. For large enterprise clients, some vendors will even assign their own personal implementation consultant to the org for every step of the process.

Support teams and vendor resources should see you through the go-live date. Up until you go live, a vendor should treat you as nicely as possible. Take this time of high availability to dig deep into their customer service channel and see what level of access will be available to you and the quality of support once you go live.

And consider asking for data migration support. You will want to have migrated all previous data into your current ATS before going live and completing your final training. Most ATS software vendors make this process as easy as possible to eliminate selling pain points. A great ATS vendor can handle integrating astronomical amounts of data.

Plan risk mitigation and go-live options

Make sure you have listed and thought out the potential risks involved in the process of going live. If you assume everything will run smoothly, you will almost assuredly end up over your head.  Bring your key players and stakeholders together to identify and define potential problems in the implementation process. As a team, work through and address these potential problems, risks, and pain points to avoid reactively putting out fires later on.

ATS software has come a long way from its initial iterations. These vendors are giants in the recruiting space, not in small part due to the plethora of integrations they’re compatible with. These integrations allow the ATS to reach far and move talent mountains. However, it’s important to prioritize connecting your technology stack when you build your implementation timeline.

Consider all the integrations you want and what your ATS offers. Do you need all your integrations to work perfectly from the start? Or can some be implemented on an ongoing schedule so that you can go live on time?

And consider the human factor. Recruiters are human, so showing them and training them on all the new integrations at once may overwhelm them. Keep this in mind as you build your timeline, plan your training, and consider your go-live date.

Implementing a new ATS according to plan

Consider your goals and make decisions based on data. Too often organizations focus on the hype and end goal and thus fail to create a comprehensive implementation plan.

Finding the perfect ATS is 50 percent of the process. Creating a successful implementation plan that allows you to go live on time and on budget is the often overlooked 50 percent.

Plan ahead, address possible pain points, establish clear communication, ask for help, and then go live. If you want to become a true expert in implementing an applicant tracking system and learn how your company’s hiring success leads to overall business success, check out the Definitive Guide to Hiring Success.

The Implementation section of the Definitive Guide further explores lesser known strategies for implementation, such as critical few, world tour, and sample start. This section also dives into planning for future integrations, deployment strategies, and what key metrics to measure regarding user engagement. The implementation portion is an all-encompassing resource for those looking for a detailed analysis of implementation strategies, regardless of what ATS your org decides to implement. As a whole, the guide is a playbook for achieving hiring success, allowing organizations to transition from reactive orgs to key business partners.

Noah Schreiber is a contributor for SmartRecruiters. He is passionate about recruiting and its interdependent relationship with SaaS.