Monday, January 28th, 2013

The Dirty Secret Behind Applicant Tracking Systems: Qualified Candidates Need Not Apply

ATSI recently walked a client through a company’s applicant tracking system and it was an unbelievably painful experience. Companies have made the barriers to entry so difficult that it is amazing that they receive the thousands of applications that they do. It is not unusual for the upload process for a single job to take more than an hour and the amount of redundancy between the ATS screens and the resume content is astounding. Yet every day I talk to clients who see an online posting for a job they think is perfect for them and they take the time to upload their application only to  never even hear back from the company.

The systems are so temperamental that they can screen an applicant out because their previous job titles don’t exactly match the title the company is recruiting for, the sections of the applicant’s resume don’t lay out in the same way the system is programmed to read the resume, or the applicant doesn’t have a supposedly “preferred requirement” like an MBA. When I read about the so called “skills gap” that employers complain about and the millions of open jobs that aren’t getting filled because of it, I have to wonder. Maybe the skills gap lies with the employers  relying on a flawed talent sourcing process. Or the employee who writes what are generally inarticulate, useless job postings that everyone and their mother appears qualified for  because we all think we are great communicators and team players. Perhaps if employers invested more time in the front end by writing clearer job specs they would deter some of the applicants that apply to everything under the sun because they appear qualified based on the vague description.

If the online world was so perfect, we’d source everything that way…our accountants, doctors, hairstylists, friends, mates…yes I know there are some exceptions to this but for the most part, people source products and services (and yes, friends and mates) through people they trust or relationships that are built over time. Would you continue to do business with a company that never acknowledged your concerns? Would you maintain a friendship with someone who never returned your calls? No, you wouldn’t. So why would you bother to put up with an applicant tracking system?

My colleague, Kathy Hansen just released an excellent report about ATS that sums up the multitude of issues with them and you can read it here.