Think your ATS software is perfect? You may be missing stellar candidates.
There’s no doubt that Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software makes the life of hiring managers easier, but at what cost? It has quickly become the standard recruitment tool for HR departments, and although it is undoubtedly useful software, it’s not perfect.
Asking recruiters to give up ATS software entirely is unreasonable (and inadvisable), yet there are ways to avoid many of the pitfalls commonly associated with its use. This article will outline three flaws with the ATS, and offer three solutions to overcome these faults so you can recruit the best candidates instead of miss out on them.
Three flaws with the ATS
1. It has difficulty reading resumes.
Formatting, fonts, and sometimes even font size can cause an applicant’s resume to be improperly scanned, which could lead to a candidate’s rejection. Newer iterations of ATS software are better at this, but most resume professionals still advise against getting too fancy with resumes and cover letters because of errors due to technology.
In addition, many of these programs boot a resume if there’s only one spelling error. Sticklers for grammar and spelling might be okay with this, until they realize the software could be picking up on a valid acronym or the strangely-spelled street name that you listed in your address section. Some candidates have even gone so far as to include a fake address on their resume to avoid getting disqualified by the ATS (job seekers out there, it might be a good idea to give this a try).
2. It over-rewards people who tailor their resumes to the ATS.
This isn’t always a problem, but it can lead to the cutting of a solid candidate because they didn’t target keywords from the job listing. Even worse, it could push forward a weak applicant who just happens to understand the way ATS operates. This software targets keywords a little too vigilantly, almost to a fault. Unqualified people who understand the process can game the system and make it to the interview stage — wasting a company’s resources and time.
3. It can be a big turnoff for qualified applicants.
If a candidate needs to enter information into a company’s ATS and then encounters difficulties, they might decide applying is not worth their time. An inefficient process will disenchant qualified professionals who have opportunities elsewhere. According to Office Vibe, 60% of people have given up on a job application at some point in their life because it took too long. This statistic alone should make many hiring managers reevaluate their heavy dependence on ATS software for screening applicants.
Problems with this software can be partially attributed to a lack of market competition. In 2016, Taleo had over 1/3rd the market share and the top five ATS software companies received over 70% of the business. This dominance has allowed these big companies to take their time updating their programs, and to become complacent. A lot of these “legacy” systems could use an overhaul to improve user-friendliness. Many were built with human resource departments in mind, not job seekers, and there is definitely room for improvement.
Three solutions to overcome faults in the ATS
1. Modify the way you use your company’s ATS.
If you’re able to improve the application experience for job seekers, it can be a boon for your business. Not only will it encourage talented people with numerous opportunities to select your company, but it will also lessen the sting for rejected candidates. One way to improve the process is to cut out parts of the application altogether. For instance, it feels redundant for candidates to put in information in an online form that they already include in their resume. This repeated information may be useful for an HR department, but if it turns away candidates then it’s in need of some tweaking.
Another way you can enhance the candidate experience is by improving communication. Sending out application notifications, even if they’re automated, is much better than leaving someone in the dark. Plus, if a candidate has been rejected, notifying them is a great way to avoid bad blood. Unsatisfied candidates are often the loudest, and a negative reputation might scare away top talent down the road.
Finally, make sure to optimize the application process for mobile users. Regardless if that’s by finding mobile-friendly ATS software or simply by optimizing your own website, make it happen to connect with the most job seekers. People seek out and apply for jobs whenever they have the chance, and one of the best chances is during a long commute (hopefully not while driving). Companies that do well with mobile users have more avenues to attract the best candidates.
2. Skim cover letters.
A good cover letter should tell you a lot about a candidate — primarily, if they seem like someone you’d enjoy having around the office (and if they’ve done their homework about the company too). If it’s impossible to scan every cover letter that’s fine, but try to get as many as possible in the hands of actual humans. They include information not found in a resume, so try to incorporate them more into the hiring process.
3. Invest the time to read resume introductions of rejected applicants.
Even if reading an entire resume is impractical, it’s a good idea to give resume introductions a look. Excellent resume intros can efficiently convey a great deal of information, and reading them will help you find solid candidates who may have slipped through the ATS. They often include quantifiable skills & experience that can help you quickly assess the applicant’s value, so you can tell if they’re worth pursuing or not. Reading these introductions is an efficient way to ensure ATS software isn’t hurting your recruitment process.
Human recruiters analyze candidate viability differently. ATS software scans for keywords, but recruiters look for information that can disqualify applicants with the software. This can lead to inconsistencies between human recruiters and the software used for screening. By adding the extra effort to read through resume intros, you’ll help assure the quality of candidates proceeding to the interview stage.
Geoff Scott is a career adviser and resume expert at ResumeCompanion, where he provides thorough advice for aspiring job seekers. Geoff’s goal is to give applicants an edge in the increasingly competitive American job market by helping them sharpen their resume and preparing them for the interview stage of the application process.