With budgets still tight at many organizations, a new applicant tracking system may be a pipe dream for your department. Though you may view your current technology as a museum piece, and probably long for the latest and greatest, your organization may not truly lack effective tools. Maybe you’re just not effectively leveraging what you already have. This is a common problem in the use of any kind of automation. For example, if you use Microsoft Word or Outlook, you probably have a sense that you are not fully utilizing many aspects of them. Even if you are a “power user” who knows all the ins and outs of the software you use, you probably know many people in your organization who are not. It’s likely that this is also the case with your recruiting automation. Why Aren’t You Using What You Have? Recruiting technology is often more robust than users realize. Often, they just never take the time to set up the features that can benefit them the most. I have spoken with several ATS sales reps who tell stories of customers already in the process of shopping for new technology, claiming that their system “isn’t suiting their needs” ó without having a true understanding of its capabilities. This is often the result of the system never being properly set up or fully utilized from the start. It also often happens when there is a changing of the guard and the incoming users end up learning just enough of the system to get by, but never enough to really become versed in the system’s true capabilities. The following tips can help you more effectively utilize the technology you already have to achieve better efficiency. 1. Don’t just read the directions. Depending on the documentation that you have available, reading the directions may appear daunting and a waste of time. Despite this, the user’s manual is often one of the best places to start if you want to get a good overview of your system’s capabilities. Instead of sitting down and reading the manual from cover to cover, skim for concepts and identify areas that you may want to explore and apply. Then you can drill down for more detailed instructions. 2. Elect a power user. Instead of having everyone go through training again or sit down and read the directions, elect a “power user” first. This person is in charge of doing some research on behalf of the team and distilling the information into tips and suggestions for training. This power user may be the department manager, or else one of your more technical users who has a comfort with technology and a willingness to share what they know. Chances are you have someone who is more adept at the system and people already gravitate to them for help. Make this person your team’s official power user. Ask your power user to spend one to two hours and come up with the five best tips for the team to improve their use of the system. Your ATS and Microsoft Outlook are ideal initial candidates for this type of program, but you can try it with any piece of technology that you think is being underutilized. 3. Tap other resources in your organization. Check with your training and IT departments for assistance. You may be surprised at what a wealth of knowledge they can offer in areas such as creating reports and other common database issues. In addition, they are also normally power users in common office applications such as Microsoft Word and Outlook and may be able to help you with some tips and suggestions once they understand your workflow. 4. Join user groups. Many major software packages have user forums and user groups that you can join where you can find answers to frequently asked questions and workarounds that other organizations have come up with to common problems. This is also a great place to find information on interfacing with other applications ó such as your email program, contact manager, or other technology ó that may not be supported by your vendor as part of their “official” technical support. User groups may be hosted by your vendor directly and operate through a client section of their website or they may be private groups accessible through portals like Yahoo! Groups. Check with your vendor or do a search on the web to find these groups. 5. Break it down into smaller bites. One of the main problems with training is information overload. To combat this, identify the highest leverage activities first instead of trying to learn or relearn the whole system. By tackling things in smaller sections, or breaking the information down into a series of tips and learning these over time, there is more chance that the information will be adopted into use. Here’s a suggestion. Each week assign a section of the manual or part of the system to a different member of your team and ask them to master it and present a ten or fifteen minute summary at your weekly meeting or come up with a tip for the week. This will encourage proficiency across your team and lighten the load on one user having to act as the help desk for your entire department. 6. Talk to your vendors. Look to your vendors as partners and don’t be afraid to ask them for help. I have found many vendors saddened and often shaking their heads at how underutilized their products normally are. If you have a good relationship with your sales representative, start there and ask if they can give you suggestions. Most vendors offer retraining or advanced training. This may be at a price, though ó so make it clear that you want to exhaust other options before you go that route. Also consider putting in a call to the implementation consultant who set up your system or the trainer you originally worked with. Let them know you feel you may not be making full use of the system and ask if they can offer some suggestions. Most vendors are happy to do a certain amount of this without a charge as a service to their customers ó and because it also often identifies issues and opens the door to customization, add-on projects, or additional training revenues. Be clear about your intentions, though, and respectful of your vendor’s time when asking for help. This includes making an effort on your own to read the manuals first and using the other information already available to you. Conclusion If you are considering investing in new technology or just wish you had something better, first examine what you already have. Optimizing your current technology can save you a great deal of time through improved efficiency ó and help your organization achieve the best return on investment from your current systems.