How quickly some things change! The idea of a Walkman sounds positively archaic in today’s iPod world. Your kids (or interns) probably have no idea what an LP is, but say “MP3” and the know immediately what you’re talking about. So perhaps we can all take some comfort in that fact that, even in our ever-changing world, there are still some terms that have tremendous staying power. In golf, a driver is still called a wood, even though these days it’s often 100% titanium. Coke is still Coke a century later, even if it’s now available in more varieties than its inventor, John Pemberton, ever dreamed of. And the system you use at work to manage your hiring process ó it’s still an applicant tracking system. Or is it? It’s interesting to see that the term applicant tracking system has enjoyed tremendous staying power since the 1980s, even while customer requirements and system capabilities have continuously evolved. It’s not that the term isn’t an accurate description of the raw purpose of the tool. On the contrary, Applicant Tracking System gets right to the primary purpose of these tools: tracking applicants from the point of application to the point of hire. The problem is that as tools and processes have evolved, it has become a limiting term that no longer accurately portrays the value of the tool’s potential ó or our needs as recruiters in 2004. Technology has ushered in new ways of thinking about and executing on talent attraction, selection, and acquisition. Applicants can be processed more efficiently and with greater care. Candidate relationship management, once reserved for top-tier professional applicants, can be realized across every level of job seeker. Proprietary talent communities provide companies with opportunities for targeted marketing and can ultimately reduce time to fill and cost per hire while increasing the value of the employment brand. These benefits provide a foundation for talent management to be in play at a broad and individual level. Don’t be mistaken. If the biggest pain point in your recruiting process today is that you have no way to track applicants electronically, an applicant tracking system may be exactly the relief you’re looking for. If, however, your recruiting challenges are even just a little more complex, applicant tracking almost certainly understates your needs. For example, applicant tracking isn’t about helping to brand your company as an employer of choice. It does not focus on providing a great experience to candidates on your corporate website when they apply for your jobs. It emphasizes administrative processes (e.g., tracking applicants) over process improvement (e.g., automatically screening candidates for their fit with a specific job). It doesn’t speak to providing integrated tools to enhance the efficiency of your recruiters, such as job libraries, correspondence templates, recruiter-to-recruiter communication tools, and reporting modules. In short, a decent applicant tracking system will certainly help you track applicants; it’s just not likely to help you win the best ones, collect the most useful data, or deliver the level of efficiency to your recruiting process that most of us need. And with smaller teams and more limited resources, we need these things now more than ever before. So, what’s better? Well, it may be no match for the cool factor of iPod, but hiring management system isn’t bad. It’s certainly much more descriptive of the requirements many corporate recruiters share today, in a world that’s a little more complex than the days when tracking applicants electronically was truly a differentiator. If applicant tracking has evolved to become something of a commodity, hiring management is still very much a differentiator in corporate America. Hiring management systems facilitate a more complete story of the power and flexibility offered by technology as a differentiator to leverage expectations, performance, and process. Let’s explore a few of the differences between hiring management and applicant tracking, with a goal of helping you to decide where your organization is heading and which approach is the best fit for you. For most recruiters, a basic applicant tracking system, even if it starts as an Excel spreadsheet or Access database, is a key to survival and certainly to efficiency. If anything, the urgency to implement even a basic system has only increased in the past few years, as the Internet has made it so easy for candidates to apply for jobs. If you don’t have an automated way to capture and search for candidate information, your job is going to be defined by performing administrative tasks that consume a significant portion of your available time ó time that could almost certainly be better spent on higher-level activities. The good news is that if you’re just getting started with applicant tracking, there are many good systems available today to fit almost any budget. Hiring management picks up where applicant tracking left off. Tracking your applicants efficiently is no longer a self-sustaining hiring process, and you will inevitably start focusing on the following areas to raise your recruiting process to the next level:
- Tight integration between the hiring management system and corporate recruitment site. This is key, because it is the basis for ensuring a consistent and positive job seeker experience. It’s also the most visible aspect of the online employment brand interface. The hiring management system needs to support the integrity of the company’s brand first and foremost, which, depending on the company, plays out at varying levels of complexity. An intuitive, flexible interface, supported by data capture, provides insight into the job seeker and drives the overall effectiveness of the system.
- Engaging above-average talent by providing a streamlined and user-friendly online application process ó one that candidates tell you is better than your competitors’.
- The ability to seamlessly pre-screen candidates by asking job-specific questions in addition to collecting their resumes. This component should also add value to the applicant’s experience while supporting recruiter productivity. If done well, a thoughtful approach integrated into your hiring management system can serve as a self-screen or job preview.
- The ability at a glance, to see how a candidate fits with the job he or she has applied for. You should be able to accomplish this individually and in comparison with all other applicants.
- Making it easy for your recruiters to communicate and build relationships with candidates throughout the recruiting process.
- Additional recruiter productivity enhancement tools.
- The ability to extract data from your system to make decisions that support continuously improving your recruiting and talent attraction process.
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5 Ways to Hire Like It’s 2021
So where are you heading? If any of the above areas are priorities for your organization, then you’re already focusing on hiring management, the next stop in the evolution of the applicant tracking paradigm. Changing the perspective to hiring management also supports moving the technology from a commodity to a competitive advantage. Functionality that once was only accessible to a few at the high end is now within reach to any company with a desire to leverage the technology. Now’s a great time to define your needs through the hiring management lens and explore the alternatives. Note: Gary Alpert contributed to this article. Gary is the CEO of WetFeet Inc., a recruitment services firm that conducts ongoing research on trends and best practices in recruitment and works with companies nationally on a variety of recruitment issues, from technology to college recruiting and employer branding.