Has the Applicant Tracking System Failed Us?

The reason I ask is, nobody seems to be happy with the one they’re using. Having attended many HR and recruiting conferences and events, I’ve noticed a consistent trend. When I ask someone what ATS they’re using, I here, “Unfortunately…[insert ATS name]. The ATS name varies, but the sentiment is the same. It’s rare to find anyone who actually likes using his or her ATS. Why is that? Weren’t ATSs designed to automate processes and make the life of a recruiter easier? They’ve been around for years and there’s certainly no shortage of providers so you would think that time plus competition would result in some amazing systems and very happy users. Apparently not.

I think one of the problems is that ATSs were never designed to solve recruiters’ greatest challenge, finding and attracting great candidates (2012 State of Recruiting Survey). It may seem obvious, but ATSs don’t come pre-loaded with great candidates. In fact, the majority of ATSs aren’t even good at helping you find and attract talent to feed into them (3 things Your Applicant Tracking System Won’t Do For You).


It’s not your ATS’s fault. It was never designed to do that. Hence the rise in popularity of talent generation, recruitment marketing, and talent network management platforms. Recruiters rave about these systems because they help them solve their biggest challenge, finding talent.


Don’t get me wrong, ATSs are still a vital tool in talent acquisition field, but their perceived value from a recruiter’s perspective will continue to decline in favor of tools and technologies that help them find and attract great candidates to feed into the hiring process.

Views: 2103

Comment by Russ Recruits on May 9, 2012 at 1:15pm

"..does your old vacuum cleaner not work well anymore.."

Sandra - speak with your lawyers - that ones still running over here!

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 10, 2012 at 10:20am
@russ, proving once again that "squawk and hawk" hasn't changed in decades but each generation of squawk and hawkers think they just had an original marketing idea to sell something.
Comment by Russ Recruits on May 10, 2012 at 10:53am

@sandra - couldnt agree more.  I love the number of ad agencies passing off band virals as their own idea's.

Comment by Steven Duque on May 10, 2012 at 1:32pm

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I work at Bullhorn).

@Mike V, thanks for an interesting post and a very provocative question. I forwarded your post to my colleague Jonathan Wall, Dir. of Product Marketing, and he shared these thoughts with me, which I wanted to share with the community here:

"Maybe we are biased, (as is Mike V the author of this post), but we absolutely aren't seeing this trend.  The thousands of companies that use Bullhorn are growing and staying with Bullhorn.  Bullhorn has seen 40% new user growth for the last two years, and 97% of our customers renew their agreements with us.  But what's most interesting is that in the last year we've seen the companies that are using Bullhorn grow extensively too as they are adding new Bullhorn users.  So clearly, automating workflow from client, job, sourcing, submission, placements, timecards and billing and payroll is working.  Now combine the ATS with our social media recruitment solution - Bullhorn Reach, and you have a pretty powerful combination.

I don't want to debate what's more important - an ATS or great sourcing tools - as there is the need for both.   But choosing point solutions that aren't integrated with the rest of the tools you need to do your job means that the firm has to work harder to connect all the pieces then they need do.  Plus, with the point solution approach you cannot get consistent analytics about what's working and what's not, as reports from point solutions only look at a portion of the workflow.   We find that firms want to choose a platform that gives the freedom and flexibility to choose the tools they want to work with, and not be locked into one solution, nor have to figure out how to connect and integrate it with other stuff.   The Bullhorn Marketplace (http://marketplace.bullhorn.com) delivers that app store concept for recruiting with more than 30 prebuilt, instant on integrations with Bullhorn, including a number for candidate generation.
Some of the comments in this thread mention Bullhorn's search, and I also wanted to comment on that.   In the past 6 months we've introduced an all new search, that really simplifies and streamlines search efforts.  We've also found that it's boosted accuracy, so much so that companies that are using it have shortened their time to submission by 28% and time to placement by 38%.  You can check it out here - http://www.bullhorn.com/candidate-sourcing-software#tabset-tab-4"
Anyways, looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on Jonathan's response to Mike!
Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 10, 2012 at 7:49pm

Oh great, now the marketers are going to debate with each other.  This is where i came in , i saw the first of this move in another life.  :)  Have at er' boys.  I am out down and gone.

Comment by Mike Vilimek on May 10, 2012 at 8:19pm

Some great comments and discussion so far. Thanks.


-       Yes, I do work for a company that sells candidate sourcing and other solutions. There are a number of companies that offer these types of solutions. That’s why I didn’t list mine, or any other.

-       And by the way, we also sell an ATS. (Not sure why, but for some reason that makes me feel a little better about discussing the shortcomings of an ATS)

-       I agree, the ATS was designed to track candidates and manage them through the process. But tracking and managing candidates aren’t a recruiter’s greatest challenge anymore, it’s finding candidates. There have been and continue to be numerous surveys that show this.

-       Obviously some recruiters like, or even love their ATS, but given some of the earlier comments regarding Taleo and “the one that rhymes with Dullcorn”, obviously some do not. That was the point of the piece. It’s been my observation that more and more I hear recruiters say they’re less than thrilled with their ATS, but are interested in solutions that help them find and attract candidates. That is not to say that an ATS does not provide value, they absolutely do. But unless you’re able to find candidates, the tracking and managing functionalities aren’t that important. Yes, some recruiters may say, “finding candidates, that’s my job!,” but tools that help make this easier are becoming more and more popular.

-       I find recruiters are becoming less excited about a system that’s designed to track and manage their candidates (plus, there’s no shortage of them, paid and free). The real innovation today is in technologies that help recruiters find, attract and engage with candidates. The concepts that I hear dominating discussions at recruiting events are: building and managing a talent network, searching multiple candidate sources all at once (including an effective way to search your ATS, finally!), job posting distribution, specialized career sites, social recruiting, living dynamic resumes, improving the candidate experience. I never hear about: better job requisition creation or enhanced interview scheduling.


Thanks again for all the comments.

Comment by Sylvia Dahlby on May 10, 2012 at 8:24pm

Yawn - clearly this thread is about to turn into blatant self-promotion contest - I'm with Sandra, out & gone.

Comment by Bill Schultz on May 10, 2012 at 10:18pm

Some of the comments in this thread mention Bullhorn's search, and I also wanted to comment on that.   In the past 6 months we've introduced an all new search, that really simplifies and streamlines search efforts.  We've also found that it's boosted accuracy, so much so that companies that are using it have shortened their time to submission by 28% and time to placement by 38%.

Not buying it.  That's what was sold to us in the first place.  When I left Bullhorn, which was a painful process, I was asked to document my complaints.  I did, and never heard from anyone again.    Google apps and Linkedin recruiter  is a much more effective combination.  


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