Applicant Tracking System: Friend or Foe?

In this fast-paced world of recruiting, it is hard to keep up with the technology that is supposed to make recruiting easier for all of us. If you work for a company whose applicant tracking system is a file cabinet, you probably feel like you are in the dark ages. On the other side of the coin, there are companies that have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on a system that has all the bells and whistles, but is not user-friendly. Below are some tips to finding an applicant tracking system that will suit your needs.

  1. Assess your needs. The basics are always important building blocks and this is no exception. If your company uses the old-fashioned file cabinet approach, then you have a lot of things to consider like, “What am I going to do with all the resumes I currently have?” “How much will it cost to scan them into an applicant tracking system?” These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself. If you currently have an applicant tracking system in place and you want to change systems, then it is important to look at issues like how easy it will be to transfer over the information in your current system into your new one. Also you need to determine what functionality you are looking for in a new system as opposed to the system you are currently using. Again these are just a few of the questions you need to address.
  2. Decide on a budget. This step is crucial to determine what type of system you can afford. Cost can always be a tricky issue, because usually for a few bucks more you gain more functionality. This can be a sticky trap, because more functionality doesn’t always mean a more efficient system. More functions can sometimes slow a recruiter down when using the system if they are required to use certain functions that may not be totally necessary. Compare cost and functionality that you will need from different systems to help you narrow down the field of potential systems.


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  1. Get a demo. Once you have determined your needs and have a budget in place get a demo of each system to see how they really work. This is a crucial part of the process to see how each system functions. This is your chance to ask all of your questions about each system. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because this is your chance to get a clear picture of how the system will perform and more importantly meet your needs.
  2. Make a group decision. It is very important to have all the people who will be using the system involved in the decision-making process. There is nothing worse than having a manager, director, or VP make the decision on an applicant tracking system without the user’s input since they will not be the ones using it on a day-to-day basis.
  3. Think long term. When making a final decision on a system, plan for the future. Make sure that the system that you decide on is capable of handling changes in your business that may occur in the future. Make sure the system has the ability to change with the business?otherwise you may be going through this entire process again within a couple of years. I highly recommend web-based systems. These systems allow you to “subscribe” so that you can easily change systems down the road if necessary. Also many systems allow you to add features as your company grows. This can work to your advantage because you may be able to start with a stripped-down version and then add features as you need them. This will save you more money in the long run.

As I am sure you know, applicant-tracking systems can be a great tool in this crazy world of recruiting. They can either make your job easier or they can turn it into an administrative nightmare. If you follow the suggestions listed above, you should be able to avoid some of the applicant tracking system selection pitfalls.

Scott Hagen ( is a graduate of San Diego State University, with over 8 years of high tech corporate recruiting experience with industry leaders such as Qualcomm, Cymer, and Pyxis. Scott is also a co-designer of the Recruiters-Aid PERS (Proprietary E-Recruitment System). Recruiters-Aid provides Internet candidate sourcing and screening services, and guarantees results-or the clients do not pay. Recruiters-Aid manages one of the largest free recruiting resource sites ( online. Recruiters-Aid services were created specifically for recruiters who don't have time to source the Internet themselves.


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