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Micah Fairchild The Definitive Guide to Applicant Tracking Software Capabilities

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 By Micah Fairchild

5 Must-Haves Capabilities for Your Applicant Tracking System

Finding the right Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to meet all your talent management needs can feel daunting—especially given all the stakeholders involved in the process. While we can't help (at least in this article!) with dealing with those stakeholders, what we can do is provide a guide for getting down to what you really need in your ATS software. Given that almost all commercially available software systems are capable of automated resume/cover letter storage, and that communication strategies will differ from company to company, we won't be covering those table stakes in this guide. Instead, this checklist serves as a "must-haves" document for you to reference when checking out applicant tracking vendor solution specifications. There may be additional "nice-to-have" elements that each software vendor solution has, but avoid the temptation and distraction of these until you have answers to the following questions. No matter what your size, what your industry, or what your budget, these business requirements should be non-negotiable in order for you to have an effective Applicant Tracking System.

#1 – Applicant Tracking Software Requisitions Capabilities

Can requisitions be automatically created?

The ability to draft, create, approve, and deploy requisitions is worth its weight in gold—especially when partnered with the self-service capabilities of Manager Self-Service applications. That being said, keep in mind that automated requisitions are not "nice-to-have". They are "must-haves"--if but for no other reason than the efficiencies that are inherent in that process automation. The ability to identify new positions, assignments, internal vs. external recruitment efforts, budgetary approval, required KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities), etc. can save countless hours compared with manual processes. Be extremely wary of any applicant tracking software solution that doesn't offer this capability.

#2 - Applicant Tracking Software Screening Capabilities

Can the system automatically screen applicants?

At a minimum, the ability to pre-screen applicants is a "must-have" due to the sheer numbers of candidates each job posting is receiving during this economic downturn. However, depending on the level of screening that is needed, applicant tracking systems can create elimination questions, rank order matrices, and cull out any and all applicants that don't match a positional archetype as defined by the organization.

#3 - Applicant Tracking Software Reporting Capabilities

Can the software create custom reports?

Organizations of all shapes and sizes are constantly being challenged with defining recruitment metrics such as "time-to-fill" and "cost-per-hire". Without accurate reporting tools, these analytics as well as sourcing comparisons, recruiter queries, and vendor spends are all out of reach. Having your data captured but not available for "consumption" is one of the more frustrating outcomes imaginable for applicant tracking—not just from a strategic perspective but from a compliance reporting vantage point as well. Indeed, because of this, the ability to produce "on-demand" reports based on requisitions fields should likely be one of the highest "must-have" functionality requirements on your list.

#4 - Applicant Tracking System Integration Capabilities

Can the system integrate with an existing (or yet-to-be implemented) Human Resource Information System (HRIS)?

Nearly all HR information systems can integrate, but the time, cost, effort and maintenance of integration will vary, sometimes dramatically, among different HR software solutions. You want to review the software vendors approach for integration, be it an existing packaged integration, an API (application program interface) or an XML or RESTful Web service. With so much of the HR system data needed for acquisitions, minimum requirements, and postings coming from the HRIS, estimating the time and cost involved for integration between applicant tracking and HRIS may identify big cost differences. System integration approaches that adhere to industry standards and open system communication between the Applicant Tracking System and the HRIS, such as Web services, are generally the most cost effective and least error-prone.

Can the system integrate with an existing (or yet to be implemented) HR or company website?

Depending on the solution, some vendors may not be able to easily tag onto a website. Likewise, depending on the company, this capability may or may not be needed. However, with the increasing attention that social and mobile recruiting are seeing, it is often advisable to link into some type of company "career" portal which will in all likelihood require web integration.

#5 - Applicant Tracking System Compliance Capabilities

Does the applicant tracking system have compliance-based reporting tools?

Thanks to the ever-changing global regulatory landscape few software requirements are as important as compliance tools. In the United States for example, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) sets out some pretty specific requirements in order for federal contractors and subcontractors to maintain compliance. For example, if you decide not to hire an otherwise-qualified applicant, OFCCP says you have to track why you decided not to hire that person. Likewise, each country that an organization has operations in will have compliance requirements when it comes to "tracking" applicants. As such, here are the top four compliance capabilities that (at a minimum) your HR software system should have:

  • The ability to track "non-selection" reasons for every qualified applicant
  • The ability to automatically "screen out" applicants who are not minimally qualified for a given position
  • The ability to perform desk audits outside of any formal compliance reporting for prevention's sake
  • The ability to capture individual applicant compliance data (e.g. EEO bio-data)
  • The ability to instantly create logs for a) applicants who are offered a job and/or hired for that job; or b) applicant flows

Beyond the features, functions, and questions we've addressed above, keep in mind that an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) absolutely has to be user-friendly. If it's not easy to use, not only will that impact how applicants and stakeholders take to the system, but it will also affect your return-on-investment (ROI). Further, remember that "applicant tracking" is just one weapon in the arsenal of recruitment—especially now in our current war for talent. As such the decision team that you've assembled for reviewing ATS solutions, should also query each short-listed vendor to find out about overall company financials (assuming you want this to be a long-term relationship), overall recruitment capabilities (assuming you want to grow as a company), and overall market involvement (assuming you want the vendor to be on the cutting edge of talent acquisition). End

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Having your HR data captured but not available for "consumption" is one of the more frustrating outcomes imaginable for applicant tracking—not just from a strategic perspective but from a compliance reporting vantage point as well."

 

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