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6 Reasons an Applicant Tracking System Will Not Fix Your Recruiting Problems

BY -

Phil Strazzulla

April 6, 2021

It seems like everyone in the recruiting world hates their ATS. Whether you have a real clunker like Taleo that candidates can barely apply into, or are looking at buying your first ATS, you’re probably asking what the benefits are of getting a new recruiting system.

The main issue here is that many talent acquisition teams think they will solve their core recruiting problems by getting new software.  That is simply not the case.  In fact, a supercharged modern ATS can be a huge detriment to your hiring if you’re not ready for it.

If you lead a talent acquisition team (either corporate or third party), please think twice before buying a new ATS, here’s why:

1. An ATS will not fix your employer brand

There are several signs your organization has a bad employer brand: 

  • Glassdoor review rating below 3.5 
  • Employee referrals is not your #1 hiring channel
  • Employee turnover more than one standard deviation above peers
  • Lower than 10% visitor to conversion rate on your careers site

If this sounds like your organization, it will be very hard to fix these problems with a modern ATS.  A new recruiting software suite can help streamline the application and interview process, involve your key stakeholders in the organization, etc.  

But, it cannot change a toxic culture, nor can it convince people to apply when there are many signals online and offline not to.

A better solution here would be to engage an employer branding agency to do an EVP analysis, and then re-vamp your candidate experience.  Part of this may be updating your ATS, but that is a small piece of the puzzle which is really icing on the cake.

2. ATS + lazy recruiters = no candidates

If your talent acquisition organization is struggling to source high quality candidates, a new ATS is unlikely to change that.  You can try utilizing a candidate sourcing tool to build the top of your candidate funnel, and these tools can be highly effective.

However, if you have recruiters who are unwilling to put in the effort and grind, it will all be for naught.  

A better solution here will be to hire a third party that specializes in sourcing, hire decided internal sourcers, or to change your compensation structure to reward full desk recruiters for sourcing.

Lazy recruiter not working


3. ATS + disorganized recruiters = bad data

Like any database, your ATS is only as good as the information that is added.  Many recruiting organizations struggle with how to standardize data, and then enter it consistently (how many of your recruiters mark why someone wasn’t hired, compensation expectations of a candidate, etc?  Our guess is not many).

This problem really comes down to the right data structure for your ATS, training for people who will enter data (from recruiter to hiring manager), and reinforcement on the impact structured data can have on improving the recruiting process.

Even an outdated applicant tracking system will be heads and tails more useful if there is high data integrity versus a new ATS that has garbage data.

4. A new ATS will not fix your candidate experience

Yes, a modern ATS will make it so much easier for candidates to apply to jobs.  Yes, a top ATS can automate candidate communication and keep them in the loop on their application.  Yes, an ATS can even help a candidate make their case as to why they’d be a strong fit for a job through screening questions and video interviews.

However, if you are consistently seeing negative feedback on Glassdoor about your interview process due to unfair questions, bias, or a disorganized process...no, a new ATS can’t help you.

Instead, map your entire candidate journey out on a massive whiteboard.  Think about each touch point.  Where can improvements be made that will make these potential advocates versus detractors.

5. A new ATS cannot fix your analytics issue

Many TA teams struggle to understand their recruiting process because they lack the necessary data literacy.  If you are not sure what a number is, where it comes from, and what to do with it, a new ATS will not help.

That said, many modern applicant tracking systems do have advanced analytics dashboards which are customizable and can shed insights into your recruiting funnel.  So, data driven People teams will get a lot of value from this software.

However, if this is not your team, you are much better off investing in training to help leadership through recruiter understand the core recruiting metrics, and how they can inform strategic decision making.

6. An ATS is a tool, AI isn’t here quite yet

At the end of the day, any software tool is only as powerful as its user and the organization it supports.  The point here is that an HR team that is stuck in the past will not be fixed through a shiny new SaaS offering.

AI is coming, and AI will help us to do our jobs better.  But, humans are still way smarter than machines are.  It’s on us to push the boundaries to get the most out of the tools we use, not vice versa.

While a new ATS will not save a failing recruiting team, there are many good reasons to buy a new ATS and if you’re in the market, we recommend these top application tracking systems.

Fixing your recruiting team and augmenting it with tech at the same time makes a lot of sense.  Just don’t get lost in the idea that a new recruiting stack will fix fundamental issues with how your team currently operates.  It’ll be an expensive mistake!

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