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ATSs: Moving Beyond Applicant Tracking

Source | SHRM :By Roy Maurer

Applicant tracking systems (ATSs) have outgrown their initial function and are rapidly evolving into a recruiting resource, according to a panel of talent acquisition experts speaking at Lever’s recent inaugural Talent Innovation Summit.

The legacy ATS is commonly criticized as being inefficient, frustrating both recruiters and candidates.  

“Somewhere along the way, ‘ATS’ became like a swear word—it’s almost a reviled term in the industry,” said Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer for San Francisco-based Lever and moderator of the panel on the future of acquisition technology. Lever is part of the new generation of applicant tracking systems with the goal of improving the experience for recruiters, hiring managers and candidates.

The panelists agreed that the ATS does well what it’s supposed to do—track applicants—but that to be successful as recruiters, the technology needs to encompass the profession’s current demands, such as online sourcing, candidate engagement, content creation and analytical reporting.   

“It’s a 35-year-old category. Only time and attendance is older,” said William Tincup, an HR technology analyst and CEO of Tincup & Co, based in Dallas, speaking about human resources technologies.

ATSs must still function as workflow and compliance tools, noted Kyle Lagunas, principal analyst at Lighthouse Research & Advisory, a research firm based in Austin, Texas. “But they were not built for recruiting,” he said.

Elaine Orler, founder and CEO of Talent Function, a consulting firm based in San Diego, added that recruiting has evolved faster than the technology.

“The code base and functionality of these systems has not changed with the Internet,” agreed Matt Charney, Dallas-based executive editor and head of content at media company Recruiting Daily. “What we need is a system of engagement and not just a system of record. Going from Google and a beautiful landing page to an ugly .net ATS interface is like taking a DeLorean at 88 miles per hour.”

Lagunas noted the “disproportionate amount of effort and money that goes into recruiting before the application comes in,” so it makes sense to broaden the scope of ATS technology beyond tracking applicants. “There are endless opportunities to apply candidate relationship management tools to engage with past clients, silver and bronze candidates that didn’t make the cut, and alumni networks,” he said.

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