Insuring you select the right Applicant Tracking System in 2001

Improving recruiting operations is often described as trying to fix an automobile while it is traveling at 100 mph: it’s difficult to do while you’re filling positions at high volume, high quality and high speed. But recruiting activity has slowed recently in many industries, making this an excellent opportunity to improve recruiting processes and systems before the next wave of open requisitions. And if, like many other companies, selecting an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) ends up on your list of improvements, there are a few things you need to consider first.

Most corporate customers are disappointed with the recruiting systems within six months after implementation. Companies will typically assemble selection committees devoted to deciding on an ATS and invest exhaustive efforts selecting the best available system. And yet within 6 months, they are often disappointed with the their choice and end up asking the vendor to customize.

How can your company avoid making these costly errors in judgment when selecting an ATS? Let’s start by focusing on hiring workflow and recruiting documents, which will highlight two fundamental problems in choosing the right system.

Map hiring workflow.

Corporations have unique workflow associated with hiring, but ATSs have a different embedded workflow that is more generic. Rarely can an ATS vendor customize the system to accurately mirror the company’s unique workflow. If you choose an ATS that doesn’t match your existing hiring workflow, you’ll end up being forced to modify your hiring process to match the system’s workflow.

So before you begin your search, map your hiring workflow. Mapping your hiring workflow means creating a detailed flowchart that illustrates all of your internal hiring processes. This flowchart should include all participants, sequence of events, and documents. Also clarify in this char, when you want the system’s functionality to start. Do you want the system to process requisition-approval routing or start with an approved job requisition? Many ATSs start with an approved requisition, while others can handle approval routing as well.

List all hiring documents and forms.

Hiring involves as many as 15 plus separate documents (samples are listed below). ATSs are usually designed to handle only a few types of documents, including resumes, job requisitions, EEO data forms, and job postings. Some systems handle additional documents like candidate applications and offer letters. Until ATSs automate all hiring documents though, companies are likely to be frustrated with the functionality of recruiting automation.

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The next step is to list all of your hiring-related documents. Hiring involves as many as 15 plus separate documents (samples are listed below). Most systems are configured to handle only three primary documents: job requisitions (including job description), resumes, and job postings. The better systems can handle additional documents like interview schedules, interview feedback and emails. But the problem is that hiring can involve many more documents that need to be linked in order to facilitate and track the entire process. Certainly, the system you select should handle as many of your documents as possible, and listing your hiring documents out will help you assess that. Below is a sample list of different types of documents that can be related to filling one position:

  • Job Requisition
  • Job Posting
  • Candidate Resumes
  • Completed Application
  • Resume Feedback Form, (from Hiring Manger)
  • Interview Feedback
  • Interview Schedule
  • Employee Referral Form
  • Background Checks
  • EEOC Data Form (Voluntary Self Identification)
  • Relocation Request Forms
  • Education Verification
  • References
  • Offer Request Form
  • Job Offer Letter
  • Emails & Correspondences
  • Immigration and Visa documentation

Formalize the RFP (request for proposal).

A formal Request for Proposal (RFP) is quite valuable for both your own company and the system vendors you are considering. It clarifies your requirements and helps you prioritize your needs when evaluating each vendor. It also clearly defines your selection criteria, helping you to more easily compare the many different systems available. Below is a sample list of RFP topic areas to include in your RFP.

  • System Overview
  • Uniqueness
  • Collaboration
  • Requisition & Profiles
  • System Administration
  • Reporting
  • System Delivery Options (ASP, Intranet, Client Server etc.)
  • Technology
  • Data Redundancy and & ISP Fail-over
  • Implementation & Support


Following the above steps will at least get you that much closer to selecting an ATS that will work for your company, and that won’t require complete customization six months down the road. But after reviewing your workflow needs and the available solutions in the ATS market, you may discover that the system that best fits your needs is not even an ATS. You may find that other types of systems offer the functionality you require.

Some alternatives include document management systems or workflow applications. Recruiting and hiring are business processes with predefined events, tasks, contributors and documents. Applicant Tracking Systems are essentially workflow and document tracking systems that are customized for recruiting activities. When selecting a system to automate hiring, don’t neglect to look outside the current ATS paradigm and you may find some surprising alternatives. Whatever system you choose, just make sure it makes sense for your workflow. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

Michael Neece ( is Founder of Caseridus, Inc., which consults to high technology, startup, and financial service companies on optimizing staffing productivity. Michael helps corporations improve every dimension of recruiting operations, including people, processes, and technologies that impact hiring effectiveness.


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