Know your ATS from your CRM: Keeping up with HR jargon

October 7, 2020 Mark Debono

Digital transformation has been making headlines for some time now, and a previous study from IDC and Cornerstone showed that more than eight in 10 companies consider HR to play a very important role in ensuring those strategic projects are successful. Often, they also include the digitalisation of HR itself, or some of its components. This is why it’s important for HR professionals to keep up to date with the HR software lingo. What do we really mean when we talk about HRIS, Talent management, Learning management or Applicant Tracking? Are those terms out of date, and if so, why are they still commonly used? Join us in this series of four blogs to explore those top-level categories and see what is behind them.

What is an applicant tracking system (ATS) or recruitment software?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) helps manage the entire recruitment process, acting as a one-stop-shop for internal and external recruiting within companies. It can manage both active and passive candidates and helps to ensure companies have the best chance to attract, hire and retain talent.

Recruiting can be very competitive and it’s important that applicants have a user-friendly, simple, and responsive experience throughout the recruitment experience. Using an ATS is an excellent way for companies to improve the candidate experience in recruiting, as the recruiting software helps elevate brand awareness through company-branded portals, makes it easy for recruiters to maintain a regular dialogue with applicants throughout the hiring process, and makes it simple for potential candidates to see and apply for a job through mobile-friendly software and personal welcome pages and candidate portals. In a time when candidates are the ones with the power to pick and choose, this fast, easy and personalised candidate experience is vital and if you want further tips on how to help attract top talent, you can read our new thought-piece “Talent is taking you on”.

Not only does an ATS have benefits for candidates, it also helps make recruiters' jobs easier and more automated. Recruitment software can help HR teams manage candidate sourcing and talent pools more simply, by automating areas like the CV-selection process and bringing the best talent to the top of the pile, rather than having recruiters sift through CVs manually, which has historically been quite time-consuming.

This automated CV selection through ATS software can also help recruiters avoid recruitment bias – whether intentional or not. Sometimes people can be discriminated against in the hiring process due to personal attributes such as age, race, gender, nationality and more. In some cases, this is due to the recruiter’s experiences, but it can also be due to a subconscious bias where the recruiter doesn’t realise they are behaving in a discriminatory way. Biases can also be subtler than this, such as a recruiter dismissing a candidate because of a place they have previously worked. In having software that helps sort CVs for them, recruiters will be presented with the best candidates for the role on paper, regardless of their personal background, work history and more.

This type of candidate selection can be based on specific keywords but are increasingly using predictive analytics for higher precision and efficiency.

Aside from these benefits, ATS software also helps recruiters with: Candidate referral management; insights and data on time-to-hire; pre-screening and self-assessments for candidates; simplified and GDPR-compliant applicant data management and tools for creating hiring reports for management teams.

Another very important function managed by recruiting software is about ensuring ongoing communication with potential and existing candidates, which is why the ATS acronym is often followed by CRM – Candidate Relationship Management. It helps keep a talent pool up to date, and makes sure existing candidates are kept aware of the status of their application. If recruiters often complain about ghost candidates that do not answer their solicitations, the truth is that ghost companies are almost a “normal” situation for candidates that never hear back from them once they’ve sent their applications.

The benefits of ATS software don’t stop with the recruitment process either, as it can also help support the onboarding process. There’s no point in having a slick candidate experience during the recruitment process, only for people to join and find that the onboarding phase is a mess – both processes must be linked. Recruitment software can help provide ‘pre-boarding’ information for newly hired employees in their candidate portal, such as company information and policies, and allows the HR team to immediately engage with new hires. These features help turn an excellent candidate experience into an excellent employee experience too.

Recruitment software can be highly beneficial for companies looking to overhaul their hiring process so that it is more engaging for applicants, simpler for candidates and recruiters alike, and provides more data on the recruitment process.

Thinking about the impact of an ATS software, it’s important to consider why your organisation needs to overhaul recruitment processes and whether there are features or capabilities that the current system is lacking. Start to determine what your main recruiting priorities are in the next 12 months and decide what software would help with your process overhaul. Ask yourself, “Is my recruiting team completely isolated or is recruiting a true part of my global HR and Human Capital Management strategy?”. Having a tool that can be expanded to other related processes such as employee data management, succession planning, performance management and learning and development can help simplify your overall HR management.

Who uses ATS software?

Applicant tracking system (ATS) software can be useful for many different kinds of people and in many different ways, but generally speaking it is used by people who facilitate and manage the hiring process within companies, and also by those people who are applying for jobs at companies.

People who might use ATS software include (but are not limited to) recruiters, talent acquisition business partners and hiring managers. These people will use the software to review candidates’ applications maintain talent pools, arrange and analyse interviews with applicants, upload background documents relevant to the hiring process, invite existing employees to apply for new roles they may be suited for and score candidates during the hiring process.

HR directors and other senior HR people also use ATS software alongside recruitment and hiring managers to make their roles more automated and to simplify the candidate hiring experience. They are able to use this software to approve requests from hiring managers and sign relevant documents, review the candidates applying for roles at the company and manage workflows and dialogues between different people during the recruitment process.

Recruitment software doesn’t just have benefits for those doing the hiring. Candidates applying for jobs also use ATS software throughout and beyond the hiring process. For instance, existing employees – or internal candidates – are able to use the software to view job descriptions for roles in the company, upload their CV and apply for roles via internal career portals and view the status of their job application during the recruitment process.

From this point of view, recruitment software can also be used for internal mobility, as the difference between internal and external recruitment is now often blurred.

For external candidates who are newly applying to the company, they use ATS software in the same way as internal candidates, but in additional ways with added tools and benefits. External candidates are able to add details about themselves into the system while managing their data in the system throughout the entire hiring process. Similarly, they have the ability to partake in video interviews and apply for roles through more sources such as LinkedIn and external career sites.

These functionalities mean that recruitment software makes the hiring process easier to manage and, in some cases, faster for both those involved in recruiting and candidates alike. It also ensures that both parties are able to be kept up to date with the status of an application, reducing the chances of silent periods or ambiguity for candidates in particular.

For all involved, ATS software translates to easier communication, more effective hiring, and streamlined administration processes. Hiring can be fully automated where it needs to be, and it provides a holistic HR solution for recruitment.

Recruiting people can often be a highly competitive process and the way companies manage the hiring process can determine whether a candidate will accept a job offer or not. By using ATS software and HCM platforms more broadly, companies can improve the recruitment process to ensure a seamless candidate experience – and when it can be the difference between securing great talent or losing it, it’s better to play it safe! Take a look at our Cornerstone Recruiting webinar to see how we’re helping companies overcome their recruiting challenges and ensure they’re getting the best talent.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, why not read our other posts in this series, on LMS (Learning Management Systems), TMS (Talent Management Systems) and HCM (Human Capital Management). And if you would like to find out more about how you can help progress on your own digital transformation journey, take a look at our resources here.

About the Author

Mark Debono

Area Vice President at Cornerstone OnDemand

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