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Are You Getting Quality Applicants? It Might Be Time for an ATS Audit

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Avi has a problem with his applicant tracking system.

He loves his job managing hiring and HR at his family-owned company. The hiring process at his company is rigorous—the industry is fairly niche, the company is small, and he’s very selective about who he interviews for open positions.

But recently, he’s noticed that the number of applicants he’s seeing has plummeted. And he’s pretty sure it’s not just that he’s being too picky—in fact, Avi think it might be something about his applicant tracking system (ATS) that’s scaring away qualified candidates.

But that’s just a hunch. So Avi decided that there’s only one thing to help him now: an ATS audit.

What is an ATS audit?

I have no idea what I'm doing gif

If this is how you’re feeling, you’re not alone!

Are you nodding your head at Avi’s predicament? If you feel like your ATS is losing you talent, the user experience is bad, or if you’ve seen newer options on the market and are debating a software change, it might be time for an ATS audit.

An ATS audit is a process through which you take a long, hard look at your applicant tracking system, evaluate it on a number of metrics, and determine if it’s still working for you or if something needs to change.

Why audit your ATS?

You may feel like you have a good idea of what an applicant tracking system should accomplish. You may have even seen Gartner’s excellent Critical Capabilities for Talent Management data (research available for Gartner clients only), which outlines exactly what solid recruiting tech should accomplish.

Gartner identifies elements such as:

  • Recruiting
  • Reporting and analytics tools
  • Learning management
  • Compensation planning
  • Career and succession
  • Performance and goals

Obviously a great ATS should handle recruiting, but there’s much more that talent software can do, and you should ask yourself if yours could do more.

If you’ve ever doubted that you, your recruiters, or your applicants are making the most of your ATS, you should seriously consider doing an audit.

They don’t take that long, and even if you find that you don’t need a full replacement, you might uncover some fixable areas where you could be using the software better.

How to audit your ATS

Follow these four steps and you’ll be on your way to a fully audited ATS in no time.

Step 1: Go over the basics

Basics to the left gif

Basics below, actually

Before you dig deep into your ATS, try looking at some big picture questions. Your answers to these questions might make it clear that your current ATS simply is not for you, something you might not always realize until you really examine it.

There are always exceptions to the rules, so if you don’t like your answer to a particular question but consider it an acceptable sacrifice for high performance in other areas, that’s perfectly OK. That’s why a good ATS audit has multiple parts.

Questions to ask:

  • How much does this ATS cost? Is that within your budget?
  • Do you use all the features your ATS offers?
  • Are there features you wish your ATS had?
  • How long does it take to train new employees to use your ATS?
  • Do you find yourself turning to outside resources to get the information you need from your applicants?
  • Does this ATS fit in with the rest of your hiring process?
  • Can you run your entire hiring process through your ATS?

Step 2: Evaluate your applicant experience

Experience is always vital

Experience is always vital

Who’s using your ATS? They might not engage with it as repeatedly as your team does, but your ATS’s highest volume of users is probably your applicants. And take it from me, applicants are not big fans of applicant tracking software.

Many of them have no idea what it is, and only know that you want them to both upload their resume and retype everything into little boxes. That’s a frustrating experience, especially if you’re on the job hunt and going cross-eyed from doing it so many times.

If your ATS is especially difficult to navigate, it might be enough to scare away high-quality applicants.

There are two main ways to find out how your applicants feel about your ATS. The first is by performing a user test. I have a complete guide on testing your ATS like an applicant right here, but the process is simple: set up your ideal candidate’s resume and go through the system like you’re trying to get a job. Try not to use your own insider knowledge of the software.

The added benefit of this method is that it allows you to test your ATS’s keyword parsing at the same time, because keywords are another area where a fine ATS can still lose you good talent.

The second way to see how your candidates feel is to simply ask them. Exit surveys are a great way to acquire feedback from the people who use your ATS the most. Be aware that some applicants may be inclined to be yes-men, thinking this is part of the interview process. Adding a clear disclaimer that this survey is optional and anonymous can help mitigate this problem.

Ask the questions below both as you test your system yourself, and in your exit survey.

Questions to ask:

  • How easy is it to apply for a position?
  • How frustrating is it to apply for a position?
  • How long does it take to go through the full application process?
  • Is your application process easier, harder, or about the same on a phone or tablet as it is on your computer?
  • If applicants need to reach you, is it clear and intuitive where to find that information?
  • Do you feel an applicant can easily communicate everything they need to say in an application?

Step 3: Evaluate your own experience

You're tacky and I hate you gif

Hopefully you don’t loathe your ATS this much

It’s easy to forget when you’re so concerned about your candidates’ experience, but your experience matters, too.

After all, you and your recruiting team probably use your software every day. If you’re having a miserable time navigating the system, losing files, or crashing your computer and wasting hours on the line with your software’s help desk, then something needs to change.

Take some time to do a through examination of your ATS from your own standpoint. What bothers you? What would a recruiter using your software for the first time have to say?

Questions to ask:

  • How intuitive is this system for you and your team?
  • Is the user interface easy to navigate?
  • How long does it take to complete basic daily tasks in this software?
  • Is it easy to gather all the information you need from your applicants?
  • Does your ATS integrate with all the software you need it to integrate with?
  • If you have a problem, how responsive is customer service?
  • Has your team ever experienced serious tech issues with this ATS?
  • Does your team frequently complain about this system?

Step 4: Make a plan of action

I love it when a plan comes together gif

I’m way too young for this reference yet here we are

Once you’ve gone through your ATS with a fine-tooth comb, you should have a lot of questions answered. But knowing the answers doesn’t mean your ATS audit is all done.

Your results may make it instantly obvious that your ATS is the worst, and you need to drop it and replace it as soon as possible. If that’s the case, look into what you need to do to end your plan with your software service provider and get started tracking down a new system to use.

You can use the questions you followed to do your audit to determine which features you need in new software.

Was the terrible customer service a pain point? Make sure you look for a software with highly-rated support. Is your current ATS just too expensive? Plan a more reasonable budget and look for an ATS in that range.

Or maybe you found that you need to make some changes, but the problem isn’t so drastic that you need a whole new system. That’s OK, too.

Again, identify your pain points, and set up a meeting with the sales rep at your service provider. There’s a good chance they can help you find a workaround or customization that can better suit your business needs. Other users may have had similar problems, so check the internet for suggested solutions, too.

Questions to ask:

  • Do I need a new ATS, or can I keep this one?
  • Do these problems seem fixable?
  • What am I looking for in a new ATS?
  • What needs to change to keep me with this ATS?
  • How can I end my ATS plan?
  • Am I ready for the time investment of learning a new software?

How did your ATS audit go?

After an ATS audit, Avi realized that he was in serious need of a new applicant tracking system.

So he went to Capterra’s list of the best applicant tracking software and found a much better fit. And it was more affordable, too, translating into more money saved by the company and a bigger bonus for Avi at the end of the year. His hiring requirements are still stringent, but now Avi knows that he’s getting top quality candidates that meet those requirements through his ATS.

Are you feeling more enlightened about the quality of your software? More sure that you need something new than ever? Tell me about it in the comments below or Tweet me @CapterraHalden.

If you think it might be time for a new ATS, check out these great articles to help you get started:

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

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About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen writes about HR and eLearning at Capterra. She’s a graduate of Agnes Scott College and a TEDx presenter. You can follow her on Twitter @CapterraHalden, just don’t get her started about her zombie survival plan.

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