The appeal of applicant tracking systems (ATS) for employers is obvious: they promise to bring order to the often disordered process of managing job applicants. An ATS can theoretically drive all job applicants into a single pipeline, massage their unruly information into neatly ordered database fields set up exactly as the employer desires, and allow HR to actually manage the interactions with applicants.

Sometimes the ATS works well – and sometimes (like all software) it doesn’t. When it works, the HR and recruitment team are very happy and often are able to do more with less. (Although poor ATS implementations can cause problems for job seekers, as I noted here).

Job boards, however, face several challenges when dealing with employers using an ATS:

1. Technical integration: when a job seeker views a job on the job site and then decides to apply, there has to be a ‘hand off’ from the job site to the ATS. Usually this is simply a redirect to a specific ATS URL – but not always. A poor hand off can result in ‘dropped’ job seeker applications – and an unhappy employer.
2. Source recognition: Ask any job board operator and you’ll quickly find this is the number one complaint against ATS vendors: they can be ineffective at recognizing the source of an application. Thus, your job board may show that 50 people applied for a particular job…but the ATS only recognizes 5 applications from your board. What happened to the other 45? Some drop out because of the actual ATS questions and structure; others don’t mark their ’source’ correctly. Some ATS vendors automatically recognize the source – this is good. But many rely instead on the job seeker – who is in a hurry, anxious to get through the application, and not awfully worried about accuracy of the source picked from a drop-down list.

There are, unfortunately, no easy solutions. However, as a job board operator, you can prevent problems by ensuring that your job board software is flexible and built with the expectation of ATS integration, and by working closely with the employer and ATS vendor during the set up and testing phase. Don’t assume that the reporting is accurate – verify it independently. Remember – ATS is not going away, and your board’s ability to work with an ATS will have a huge impact on your long term success.

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Comment by Joel Passen on November 10, 2009 at 11:41am
I agree with your points here. Some job boards are doing a great job to facilitate source tracking and a smooth hand off. Dice, for example is one of the best that I have seen. They actually have a field for unique apply to URL's. Alternatively, Hotjobs charges employers / job posters $150 per month to add unique apply to URL's to their postings. Fortunately, there are some workarounds with Hotjobs but, their policy is wonkish (at best).

Comment by Julia on November 10, 2009 at 12:54pm
Great points! We have found that most job boards now allow the ATS to pass an Ad Code ID that can be used to more accurately track the applicants source. Although, as Joel pointed out, some job boards do require an extra fee to accommodate unique URLs.
Comment by Steve Hopkins on July 2, 2019 at 7:02am

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