Every week, NETSHARE hosts Ask the Coach, a phone-in coaching session with leading career management experts. Last week we welcomed a new career coach to the team, Sue Hansen. Here is an excerpt from last week’s coaching session with Sue.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have become an integral part of the machinery that influences the hiring process behind the scenes, and if you understand their role you can better understand how to position yourself for your next job. ATS’s have come into common usage, especially among larger employers, as a means to both track candidates as they progress through the hiring process, and to objectively rank employees based on their qualifications against preprogrammed criteria. Here are the basics of how an ATS works:
ATS are designed to be sold to organizations as a means of providing a centralized tracking system to manage the recruitment process. Tracking candidate applications using software improves the workflow and reduces the cost to fill a position.
Candidate information is typically gathered through a job board or web application and then entered into the submission process. The ATS then tracks the applicant, gathering information about interviews, background checks, reference checks, etc. Once a hiring decision is made the system generates the offer letter, then tracks the candidate’s acceptance and the start date. Once the start date is set, the ATS is used to alert all necessary departments, such as IT, telecom, payroll, and HR operations and facilities, to ensure a smooth first day.
One of the real advantages of using an ATS is to prevent legal hassles over employment discrimination. The ATS has a built-in point system that provides an objective ranking of applicants. Sue cites one experience she had working with a large consulting firm. The ATS vendor working in collaboration with the firm preloaded the names of national and regional and boutique competing firms into the ATS system so any applicants with credentials referencing those competitors would rank higher in the ATS’s point system. This is common practice with ATS systems. Google, for example, tends to rank candidates with degrees from specific schools higher than other candidates.
What this means for job applicants is that you may not be perceived as visible by the ATS system unless you meet enough of their preprogrammed criteria. Rather than trying to “game” the ATS system by guessing at those criteria, your best defense is networking. Sue says that her experience shows that 60 to 75 percent of hires at every level come from employee referrals. Making referral connections and networking your way into the company is still your best bet to be considered as a serious job candidate.