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: 2101

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 7, 2012 at 1:53pm

So true Mike.  I take it you sell the technology that is going to solve this problem.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 7, 2012 at 2:13pm

Well, here's the part that befuddles me... "one of the problems is that ATSs were never designed to solve recruiters’ greatest challenge, finding and attracting great candidates"

I disagree. The ATS is designed to TRACK applicants. Who they are, what they're doing, where they go next. I've used countless systems in the past and have liked a few. LOVED MaxHire. HATE Taleo. I don't think my expectations are that crazy. I just want it to be easy to access, find what I need quickly, and it's really great if it can talk to Outlook for calendar / email purposes.

 I think what drives candidates nuts is the difficulty of getting their info into whatever system we're using.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 7, 2012 at 2:21pm

I tried several different ones.  Threw them all out and just use outlook.  Easy to search and track drag and drop candidates or copy into folders.  Color code status.  Agree with Amy the applicant tracking system is to track applicants not source.  All kinds of technology is being peddled to source candidates.  So what google works as well as anything i have ever tried to use.

Comment by Bill Schultz on May 7, 2012 at 4:42pm

True Amy, and the fact that none of them have a robust search engine.  So what's the use of parsing all of your resumes into their/your (you'll find out when you leave) database, if  you can't find them.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 7, 2012 at 7:01pm

Oh Bill... I don't leave the ones I like in Taleo... :) It's true though. Taleo actually what appears to be a strong search function but of course it never works.

Comment by Bill Schultz on May 7, 2012 at 8:01pm
Yeah same as the Other one that rhymes with Dullcorn
Comment by Dave Hitchman on May 8, 2012 at 8:54am

As an occasional applicant I confirm Amy's comment Taleo sucks. In fact it is so bad that I can no longer be bothered jumping through the pain barrier - good job the other side or not.

All of these things have the short coming that they really only do a little pattern matching and nothing really useful.

Comment by Sylvia Dahlby on May 8, 2012 at 4:30pm

Tools are not designed to do the job for you... the hammer does not build the house, nor does a nail gun make you a better carpenter. Having the right tools for the job is important, but don't blame the hammer if you have no idea how to build a house in the first place - or if you're using a shoe to pound nails it might be time to upgrade your toolkit.

I also agree with Amy's comment that sourcing & tracking are 2 different things. If you've built a good database, your own ATS can be a good source & tool for CRM, referrals, and pushing jobs out across your network.

Comment by Peter Ceccarelli on May 8, 2012 at 4:46pm

Oh wow.......another advertisement!  Way off the mark as to what an ATS is supposed to do.  I agree with Amy and Sandra, ultimately it manages the candidate through the process and makes the administrative process much easier. As for sourcing candidates, that's my job!  However a good ATS will spider out to most of the active job boards and candidate flow is generated.  I love my ATS. 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 9, 2012 at 11:28am
I had to laugh, this reminded me of some of those tv commercials I wrote back in the 60's.
The one that came to mind started out, "does your old vacuum cleaner not work well anymore".


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