3 Warning Signs Your ATS is Losing You Talent

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Your ATS is awful.

Sorry, that sounded harsh. Let me rephrase: your ATS is really, really awful.

That’s not according to me, by the way. That’s your applicants talking. And since they’re the ones that you have the applicant tracking system for in the first place, you might want to listen to them.

3 Warning Signs Your ATS is Losing You Talent

Not only do your applicants dislike your method of hiring management, it might be bad enough that they’re going elsewhere. 60% of job candidates don’t even complete online applications because of tech issues alone. That’s right, you are actively bleeding talent because of your ATS.

It’s a horrible fate and nobody wants it. Not you, not your boss, and not even your applicants. If they’re applying, they do want to work for you. Now you just need to make sure your applicant tracking system isn’t so bad it’s driving them away before they can even get in the door for an interview.

Luckily, the same research that tells us how much people hate applying online also tells us how to fix these problems. Is your ATS sporting any of the below red flags that show you’re losing talent?

1) They feel dehumanized

There’s something about going through a computer system that feels distant. The vast majority of applicants expect you to at least give them some automated confirmation contact. But even then, a huge chunk of applicants find even that much too impersonal.

Losing You Talent

Image courtesy of careerbuilder.com

From your end, the picture is a different one. You know how many applications you’re getting every day. Tons! You might be up to your eyeballs in resumes, and as much as you know that behind each one there’s a person, you just don’t have the time for it. You might be getting hundreds of applications a day. You can’t possibly send every interested applicant a handcrafted response.

Still, your ATS is not (and never will be) a complete replacement for human-to-human interaction. You need to at least have a friendly automatic confirmation email to let people know that somewhere, back behind the machines, there is a real person after all. It will go miles towards fixing your applicants’ dehumanizing feeling of being a number rather than a name.

2) It creates unnecessary hurdles

Studies show that 70% of applicants want online applications to be five steps or fewer. While that might be too short to fit in all the information you need, in the age of Glassdoor reviews, you have to give the people what they want. Especially because, according to the same study, 60% of applicants will give up if an online application is too long or too complex.

I can hear you now.

“But if they quit, then they weeded themselves out! We don’t want quitters!”

Maybe not, but losing more than half of your potential applicants is an awful sign, and it doesn’t say anything flattering about your business’s application process. You don’t want your applicants to burn out on busywork, and you don’t want your company to get a bad online reputation, so streamline the system for them.

3) They’re onto you

Your potential hires know about ATSs. They’re very well aware that there is a machine between them and you, and nobody wants to have to deal with a machine instead of a human being. It’s not entirely different from calling a company and getting an automated phone tree; you’re going to jam the # or 0 button until you get a person on the line. The ATS version of this is hitting enough keywords that the resume gets through the machine and to real human eyes.

Would you rather your applicants write their resumes and cover letters for you and your company, or reverse-engineer them to suit the needs of a machine? If you want to save yourself from losing strong resumes to a bunch of keyword-optimized lists, you can start by re-thinking your keywords.

How to fix it

Alright so we’ve confirmed why your candidates aren’t big fans of your software. The obvious next question is how can you fix it? I promise that I haven’t brought you this far just to drop you now. Here’re three things you can do to fix your ATS problems.

1) Test your software like an applicant

Not even 40% of hiring managers have tested their ATS like an applicant. That’s just crazy, since this is the best way to know what your applicant experience is really like. If you want to know what your ATS is like on the other side, it’s crucial that you actually use your ATS from the other side.

2) Talk to your applicants to see what they want

Survey, survey, survey. If you’re a lucky duck you might have an ATS that incorporates a survey feature to allow you to get quick feedback. If not, consider using a survey tool to determine what your applicants thought of the process. You could also check out a free option that you could send via email or include in a link at the end of your online application form; perhaps when you send out that automated completion email that your applicants want so badly…? People want you to communicate with them. Avoid being faceless whenever possible and it will help both sides of the equation.

(Quick note for your surveying: I’d be on the lookout for false positives or negatives based on people either thinking that a positive review will improve their job chances or negative reviews from people upset they didn’t get the job.)

3) Check with your existing hires

When my alma mater wanted to boost applications, they did something brilliant. They surveyed high school seniors to find out what they wanted in a college and implemented the results of the survey to encourage more students to apply. But they messed up on something else. They didn’t talk to current students to see what made them choose the school.

Because of this, the new changes did several disservices to those already enrolled by getting rid of programs we loved and changing core curriculum in ways that looks great to high schoolers, but not to college students. And us current students? We were not happy about it.

You want to bring in new people and make the process work for the potential new hires. But if you don’t see what went right with the people whom you’ve already hired, you’re missing an important piece of the puzzle.

Bringing it all together

Now there’s a chance your ATS could have nothing to do with a negative hiring experience. Maybe the person leaving poor Glassdoor reviews is really just upset they didn’t get the job they wanted. But it’s worth taking any suggestion about your hiring experience seriously, since a poor candidate experience can have negative impacts that ripple through multiple areas of your business.
What do you think? Are there other ways you minimize negative candidate experiences? Let me know about them in the comments below, and they just might be what I write about next time!

Looking for Applicant Tracking software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Applicant Tracking software solutions.

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About the Author

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Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.

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