Candidate or Applicant?
I regularly switch from candidate to applicant so let me explain how I differentiate:
- Candidate: someone who has NOT applied for a job.
- Applicant: someone who HAS applied for a job and is in the ATS database.
In any scenarios where both could apply, I will use applicant.
The ATS has evolved in many ways but it's important to understand the core elements of the ATS versus additional modules. I consider the core elements of an ATS as being:
- The job.
- The applicant.
- The workflow.
I would expect an ATS to include the following as part of the job functionality:
- Job templates library.
- Screening questions library.
- Job approval process.
- Multi-posting options (direct or third party integration).
The applicant area tends to be relatively simple but as a minimum I would expect a full job search and apply section plus portal.
Search for jobs by keyword, location, distance and category.
- Register for job alerts.
- Apply without registering.
- Save an application for later.
- Receive an auto response confirmation of a completed application.
Additional features that are often seen:
- Auto-matching of similar jobs.
- Map view of jobs in search result.
- Manage their details.
- Delete their profile.
- Review job applications and track their current status.
It is also important that the search and apply process is as seamless as possible. One area still overlooked is the number of new windows or tabs that are opened. As an example, one large retailer has:
- An ‘information site’ that explains the different working areas.
- Clicking on a job link opens up a second new tab with the full job details.
- Clicking on the apply link opens a third new tab with the ATS apply process.
- A registration process before the application process can start.
If the candidate was looking to apply for 2-3 jobs, which is entirely possible in a retail store environment, they’d have quite a few tabs open which can easily lead to confusion and high drop off rates.
Every company has their own recruitment process so the ATS workflow capability will be important but not always that flexible. Many products have a customisable workflow that allows you to do pretty much anything you want, whereas others are less flexible. But as a minimum I would expect:
- Ability to move applicants from the apply to offer stage.
- Multiple stages such as applied, shortlisted, interviewed, rejected, offered, hired.
- Email templates for each stage of the workflow.
- Access for Line Managers to view applicants at key stages e.g. shortlist.
- Online interview scheduling to allow applicants to select a suitable date/time.
In addition to the three core elements an ATS should also have:
- Applicant search and matching.
- Source tracking.
"It is important that the search and apply process is as seamless as possible.
Search and matching
As most employers get high volumes of applicants, finding a particular applicant or similar applicants cannot be done easily hence the need for search functionality. There are two aspects of search:
- Finding a specific applicant by name, keyword etc.
- Finding applicants by skill, keyword etc.
Some vendors will have a very simple search engine whereas others will have embedded a semantic search tool such as Textkernel. This in effect gives you intelligent Google type search capability which is far more powerful, accurate and helpful than a standard keyword search tool.
Having a tool such as Textkernel embedded within your ATS should also enable features such as:
- Automatch previous applicants to a new job before posting externally.
- Third party CV database searching e.g. job boards and LinkedIn.
- Candidate CV upload and auto-match jobs.
- Included synonyms and related terms making every recruiter a ‘sourcing expert’.
The ability for an ATS to source where an applicant came from has got both easier and harder. One of the challenges is, the candidate may see your job on a job board whilst at work or on their commute, but not apply until later when they are at home and go direct to your career site, find the job and apply. This would show the source as ‘career site’ when in reality it isn’t.
However, most of your career site traffic will show the primary sources which will be a mix of:
- Organic search.
- Other channels such as job boards and social media.
You should be using Google Analytics on your career site plus the ATS source tracking reports to get some high level information on where the majority of your candidates/applicants come from. Unless you have a dedicated analytics resource though, most of this information will be useful but not that helpful as you won’t have the time to dissect it to get meaningful data that allows you to make decisions.
As long as you do the following you have the basics covered and will maximise the easy traffic:
- All jobs published on your career site must be indexed by search engines.
- All of your jobs are on www.indeed.co.uk.
- Any sector specific jobs are published to relevant niche job boards.
- Your career site is fully responsive for all devices in particular mobile.
" Google Analytics on your career site plus the ATS source tracking reports to get some high level information on where the majority of your candidates and applicants come from.
Every ATS has a suite of standard reports but they can never satisfy the whim of every recruiter. Even what I would consider a basic report such as ‘time-to-hire’ is never the same across every organisation hence the ATS vendor does not stand a chance of creating reports that keep every recruiter happy.
This gives the recruiter a few choices:
- Review the standard reports and work out if they are of any value.
- Ask if bespoke reports are possible and give an example of one you’d like so the ATS vendor can give a cost and timescale to produce such a report.
- Check if the ATS is fully integrated with a third party reporting tool and if so:
Are there additional costs?
Do you need training?
Can it produce the reports you need?
The reality, though, is that reports are always a tricky area to get right and something vendors and recruiters work on continually, so don’t expect to get it right first time and be flexible in your thinking. I see a lot of time and effort put into creating bespoke reports only to see them never get used!
" Reports are always a tricky area to get right and something vendors and recruiters work on continually, so don’t expect to get it right first time.
CEO, Talent Acquisition, Lumesse
There has been a shift in recent years from traditional ATS to a preference for suite vendors, and now the re-emergence of best-in-class TA solutions. Where do you see the segmentation and rationale between Talent Management Suites and the Talent Acquisition platform?
An Integrated Talent Management (ITM) suite (recruitment, performance, learning, compensation and other modules) makes sense for some companies as it can address a number of business issues and functionality requirements and tends to work well for mid-market companies who are not facing challenges in their recruitment function. But for companies who are actively competing for key talent, they need to be at the forefront of talent acquisition technology, hence an ITM suite vendor that has to build a lot of different ‘core’ products, will struggle and possibly never become the expert in more than one thing, which results in everything else being a compromise.
TA is an innovative function within these types of business and they have to think about the consumer journey (candidates) as well as their customers (Line Managers) and in order to compete, they need an agile talent acquisition platform that allows them to utilise the latest technologies quickly and easily. Candidates expect the job search and application process to be like interacting with Facebook or Amazon and if it’s not, in a competitive market the recruiter will lose out. Likewise, Line Managers just want great quality applicants and technology that helps them do their job more effectively on any device, at any time.
The ITM vendor is more internally focused on the employee journey rather than the candidate experience and will often at best have two (2) new product releases per year compared to Lumesse having eight new product releases (8) per year ensuring our customers can remain agile and adopt the latest technology tools fast, to give them maximum advantage and greater hiring success.
Lumesse’s SaaS technology allows every customer to decide individually on which tools or functionality to switch on and configure to their needs at the time convenient to them.
" The ITM vendor is more internally focused on the employee journey rather than the candidate experience.
Moving away from the traditional ATS and into open platform ‘eco-system’ technology gives users limitless scope for their recruiting solution. Why is this so important now?
When compared to a traditional ATS, the open ecosystem gives more choice to companies to be more agile so as to be able to react to market trends. As the market takes more of a consumer approach to recruitment we start to see this more and more applied within recruitment technology. This will result in highly specialised and integrated apps and micro services that benefit specific user groups. Think about a candidate being invited to an interview and alongside the invitation letter in the candidate portal a new app launches when reading the invite to tell him that his pick up from home was arranged by UBER, another app launches on the day of the interview showing him the location, a map to the building, the biography of the interviewer. All this will tremendously improve the experience that different user personas will have while using recruitment technology in the future.
" Companies actively competing for key talent need to be at the forefront of talent acquisition technology.
Adoption, Collaboration and Productivity are essential when thinking about Recruiting technology. How is Lumesse responding to this market shift?
We are able to offer unique hiring manager experiences for specific user personas in specific industries e.g. retail where managers have a specific need to recruit people in their stores but all the interaction need to be conducted within an app on a mobile device, within the store environment rather than at their desk in the ATS. By providing tools that are specific, easy to use and help managers get their work done more easily, we’re promoting higher adoption rates and greater collaboration. If we make the tools more like Facebook and Amazon and as a result drive similar adoption rates, then we as a vendor have been successful and in turn, our customers will also be successful. Ultimately, if we can create a self-motivated user, with a vested interest in using the tools, everyone will be happy.
" We are building more advanced user experiences for recruiters with an adaptive UI and integrated analytics.
We are also building more advanced user experiences for recruiters with an adaptive UI and integrated analytics, so in real time we can tell the recruiter the best action to take, and also present the micro training for that task or action i.e. on-demand self-learning.
Furthermore, as we have a global view of actions and results, our system is continually (machine) learning and giving that feedback to recruiters.
Our new search based navigation is supported by natural language processing that works in the same way as Google. A natural language query is actioned immediately e.g. “show me accountants in Manchester”, “take me to vacancy creation” etc. which makes navigation a lot easier. The queries can be done via text/ keyboard or voice. We are also integrating chat bots which we see as a real productivity boost for direct hiring certain groups such as graduates.
Integration with social tools becomes a vital part of the collaboration aspects during the hiring and onboarding process. Our systems allow cross communication so that a candidate may communicate via Facebook Messenger whereas the recruiter and manager may use our ATS chat tool, but all of the information will be in a single app of choice for each party.
This is why we are seeing best-in-class TA on the rise as it allows this high degree of specialism that benefits the user and the candidate. If we look at the amount of investment going into HR technology, and the amount of new start-ups appearing every week, we will continue to see high levels of innovation across Talent Management and Talent Acquisition.