How to Select an Applicant Tracking System

Employee group is working with a vendor to select applicant tracking software.
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Finding the right applicant tracking system that meets all the needs of your organization can be an overwhelming task. It can be a challenge even knowing where to start when considering applicant tracking systems and how to compare each solution.

Here you will find important areas to investigate, questions to ask and responses to analyze during the applicant tracking systems evaluation process. This information will guide your company in the search for the appropriate applicant tracking system to meet your needs.

Identify Applicant Tracking System Decision Makers

A company must organize itself internally before starting any applicant tracking systems evaluation process. When preparing to evaluate an applicant tracking system, it is essential to form a collaboration of stakeholders and give these decision makers time to arrive at an informed decision.

Your selection committee should be prepared to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each applicant tracking system vendor. The selection committee should include these members.

  • Selection Executive: This is usually a Senior Vice President (SVP) or Vice President (VP) of Human Resources who can empower the other committee members with a clear directive and vision. The person should also have the ability to explain the vendor selection in terms of Return on Investment (ROI) to his/her counterparts.
  • Selection Manager: This person must have a full understanding of the hiring process and the company’s pain points in order to create proper search and selection tactics.
  • Committee Member: To ensure the users' voice is represented and that successful adoption of the chosen solution will occur.
  • Committee Contributors: These are members from other departments that provide additional input to the applicant tracking system selection process. Those with financial expertise can give input on the financial stability of the vendors or compare the total cost of each applicant tracking system in relation to the project budget. IT contributors can educate committee members on the technical capabilities of the vendors’ applicant tracking systems and help compare each solution to your current system.
    Committee members should be people who can recognize the value of technology tools, process optimization, and customer service as it relates to your corporate vision of talent management.

Document Your Current Hiring Process

After you have assembled your applicant tracking system selection committee, your first assignment is to create a document that tracks the process of the employee requisition, your hiring process, and the role of the hiring manager, the recruiter, and the candidate to complete a hire. Then your committee should discuss why each step is necessary and what would happen if it were eliminated.

Simplify your hiring process and make sure each step is really adding value and helping you produce quality hires. This will allow your committee to compare the needs of your hiring process with the capabilities of each applicant tracking system. This evaluation is a great opportunity to learn about best practices in hiring and to review and optimize your current hiring process.

Identify Requirements for Your Applicant Tracking System

Now that you have clearly identified your company’s hiring process, your committee is fully prepared to identify your company requirements for an applicant tracking system. Bear in mind that you want to have a clear-cut answer to the following questions:

  • Why are you buying this applicant tracking system?
  • Is your current hiring process aligned with your company goals?

Keeping these questions in mind will help your committee make a strong case to purchase an applicant tracking solution. In order for the applicant tracking system you choose to have a strong connection to the ROI, your committee must create clear expectations of what you want in an applicant tracking system.

Your applicant tracking system should build a better relationship between recruiters and hiring managers, streamline your requisition creation and approval process, and improve your quality of hires. Your applicant tracking system should streamline the recruitment efforts of Human Resource professionals through automation, creating a more efficient and cost-effective hiring process. This is the perfect time to address common HR challenges, such as:

  • High volume of resumes with no effective way of accepting, reviewing and managing.
  • High volume of job opportunities with cumbersome internal communication.
  • Inability to access information quickly and report on all recruiting metrics.
  • Losing qualified applicants due to haphazard storage of resumes.
  • Duplication of recruiting efforts between various branch offices and divisions locally or abroad.
  • Excessive IT maintenance and support expenses with homegrown technology.
  • Ineffective tracking of EEO-OFCCP compliance data.
  • Struggling to get proper attention from IT for technology upgrades and enhancements.

Also, take this opportunity to consider the value of improvements from new processes and technologies such as:

  • avoiding using different modules,
  • improving communication, and
  • addressing global issues.

To keep this manageable you need to identify essential "must haves" in order to eliminate unqualified vendors. For instance, as a fundamental factor, your committee may decide that you will only consider vendors that provide a Web-based solution as opposed to an installed system, as the hosted solution eliminates any burden on your IT team.

Identify Requirements for Your Applicant Tracking System

Identifying clear business goals will connect your priorities to your requirements. It is imperative that your committee stays focused on its initial system requirements. The committee must avoid being distracted by system elements that are not in line with your company’s priorities. You have recognized the important business goals and key requirements to consider when forming your own objectives.

Key Requirements to Consider in an Applicant Tracking System

  • Process efficiencies: centralizing a process can improve a variety of tasks including, but not limited to, job requisitions, tracking, management of employee referral and transfer programs.
  • Allows candidates to quickly and easily apply to your organization for salary and hourly hire without going through multiple pages of questions.
  • Can facilitate high-volume recruiting while remaining cost-effective.
  • A highly configurable, scalable solution that can configure to our unique hiring management process and capable to accommodate our evolving needs as our organization grows or our processes change.
  • Improved reporting capabilities: many organizations are challenged with determining their total spends on vendors, sourcing, and comparing metrics. Coordinating through a single source will allow for accurate centralized reporting.
  • Allows recruiters to search the database on all information, and by specific parameters.
  • Includes a Reporting Center that enables users to run ad-hoc reports and save criteria for future use, as well as run industry standard reports, including cost-per-hire, time-to-fill, source effectiveness, and more.

Build Brand Identity and Awareness

  • Creating a connection between an applicant and a positive employment experience will craft recognition of the brand. A strong brand can generate trust that will drive applicant traffic and enhance your talent pool.
  • Branded Career Center web pages may be accessible through your company’s Web site.
  • Allows recruiters to easily post career information to the company Web site.
  • Provide multi-language capabilities for global support.
  • EEO/AAP Compliant.
  • The ability to maintain an accurate measure of such information will keep in agreement with federal regulations and avoid any legal actions against the organization. It will also help to establish applicant quality.
  • Capable of capturing, tracking, and reporting voluntary EEO data, while remaining in compliance with the guidelines set forth by the EEO/OFCCP.
  • Capable of pre-screening candidates with elimination questions in order to indicate those who meet basic qualifications for the position.
  • Improved communications.
  • Establishes an environment that effectively informs, will unify all the users and streamline the organization’s operations.
  • Includes a Communication Center to facilitate communication among recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates. Also allows users to schedule appointments, leave notes and interview feedback, to send mass messages, and auto-respond to applicants upon receipt of resume.

Customer Support for the Applicant Tracking System

  • Full user adoption depends on the level of customer support provided by the vendor during and after implementation.
  • Readily available support team, dedicated to managing company and user issues while employing industry best practices.
  • The highest level of support available at no charge to your company.

Applicant Tracking Systems Vendor Assessment

It is recommended that you ask for a Request for Proposal (RFP) from potential vendors your committee has decided to consider. This is your opportunity to gain clarification on any topic to help your committee determine whether the applicant tracking software can do the required job. Your committee should consider the following major issues to devise an effective RFP:

  • Does the system support the main concerns of your committee? This ties into the previous part of the evaluation process; you must know your process completely before you can determine what features you need. Your committee cannot be distracted by solutions that may offer functions that are not your main priority. While they may seem attractive, many flashy features and functions will not create any value for your organization if they will not be adopted by your users.
  • Has the vendor installed the system in another organization of a similar size?
  • Your committee should have access to references that can give you insight on issues such as customer satisfaction and follow up the implementation process, and hidden fees. Remember, features are of no value without strong user adoption.
  • What does the implementation process entail? Having a successful adoption rate begins with proper implementation. You want to be sure that your chosen vendor does not leave your users without proper training and continuous support. The implementation should be centered on your organization’s recruitment process, not learning how to accommodate to their system.
    You should never have the feeling that your implementation program will leave you feeling lost and unsure of the vendor’s capabilities. During the evaluation process your committee should have the impression that, based on your department priorities and business goals, your implementation will create a strong foundation for a long partnership with your applicant tracking system provider. Remember that high user adoption to the applicant tracking system will generate a higher ROI.

More About Applicant Tracking Systems Vendor Assessment

  • What is the vision and growth strategy of the vendor? The vendor must demonstrate leadership and foresight as a market leader. In order to present a comprehensive solution, the vendor should take into consideration your specific needs and prepare for change and growth in the future.
  • Determine whether this solution contributes to your overall business plan? In the end, the Selection Executive will likely need to display an expected ROI in order to make a strong case for the solution.
    The Selection Executive must look for savings on such things as recruitment advertising, employee value of the use of search firms, and process optimization provided by the vendor. The company should also save on employee retention and candidate quality. It can be overwhelming to create a fully detailed document of inquiries that will encompass all the necessary topics to evaluate an applicant tracking system.
  • Beyond features and functions, your committee should be sure to discuss the vendor’s ability to serve as a long-term partner to your organization. As your committee conducts its vendor assessment process, you want to be sure to consider such factors as:
  • Financial Stability: Conduct due diligence on the financial statements of all prospective vendors under review. You will find this is a perfect topic through which your financial committee contributor can guide you.
  • Qualities of Strategic Partners: To offer a complete solution some vendors will partner with other service companies in order to offer their clients a more comprehensive suite of services. Your committee should be aware of any partnerships that are involved with the competing vendors. The information can provide an insight into the possible partnership between your company and the vendor.
  • Recruitment Capabilities: Regardless of your company size, you need to make sure that the vendor has the capability to support the full employee life cycle, from applicant tracking, onboarding, succession planning to off-boarding. This will prevent your company from growing out of its solution, which would likely result in aggravation, a new evaluation, and costly implementation fees.
  • Future Product Development: Be sure that the vendor conveys a strong understanding of the challenges facing recruitment now and in the future. The vendor you choose must be on the pulse of technology and industry news in order to adjust to your changing needs and ensure that the solution’s configurations are being used to its fullest potential.
  • Integration with HRIS: Although you may want your IT committee contributor to provide input on this matter, it should not sway your committee into using an applicant tracking system that will not adequately serve the entire department. Any vendor worth considering should provide the capability to move key information from its system into your HRIS system with minimal difficulty.

Summary of Vendor Selection for Applicant Tracking Systems

The timeline for a vendor selection process for an applicant tracking system can range from a month to six or more to complete. The following is a suggested timetable that will allow your committee to project a timeframe for the vendor selection process for an applicant tracking system.

Please be advised that this is subject to change based on a preferred implementation date.

Timeline for Your Vendor Selection for Applicant Tracking Systems

  • Form a selection committee - 1 week
  • Identify company needs - 1 to 2 weeks

Objectively assess vendors against the identified company needs with the following process:

  1. Create a long list of possible vendors - 1 week
  2. Request RFPs to provide clarification on any topic or concern - 4 weeks
  3. Create a shortlist using your key evaluation criteria - 1 to 2 weeks
  4. Finalize a vendor - 3 to 6 weeks
  5. Demonstrate various systems - as soon as possible
  6. Sales presentations - as soon as possible
  7. Site visits - as needed

Keep in mind that the main goal of an applicant tracking system is to empower your users. Committee members should be able to recognize and place a value upon technology tools, process optimization, company vision, and customer support in order to strategically narrow down the vendors into a short list of real possibilities.

It is likely that your short list may not have many distinguishing functional differences; therefore it is important to keep the less tangible elements of that vendor in mind.

Your committee should look to sources of information such as the vendor’s Web site, newsgroups, Human Resource portals, and tradeshows. Connect with colleagues at other companies that are similar in size, needs, and industry to learn from their experiences.

Partnering with a service-oriented vendor that is the most compatible fit with your organization’s vision and goals for the future will prove invaluable for all key players in your applicant tracking system evaluation, selection, and implementation.

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