The Black Hole of Recruitment - The Applicant Tracking System

I am completely annoyed with the Applicant Tracking System blackhole. Let me explain.

I am a Recruiter with 15 years of experience. And prior to Recruiting, I served staffing professionals as an Assistant. So, I have been in Staffing for a long time. My staffing experience pre-dates the automated systems available today. Yes, I grew up in the era of receiving paper resumes. Yes people, you heard correct. I said PAPER RESUMES. I had to physically keep a file cabinet with them - all organized in a way they could be retrieved during an OFCCP/EEOC audit. And yes, I actually lived through an OFCCP/EEOC audit during this timeframe too. The thought of having access to all of the resumes I had to physically file by hand, through my computer - OH JOY!! I couldn't wait.

And I've tried them all too: Resumix, Icarian, Webhire, StaffingSoft, Ceridian, FileMaker Pro, AIRS SourcePoint and Taleo. The first system I used was Resumix. And it really was just resume storage and retrieval. What started as more of resume storage and retrieval, has turned into recruiting without a person. I want to believe that ATS was never meant to replace a physical recruiter (a person) to still screen resumes. But sadly, this is what it has become.

Now all the bells and whistles of an ATS have been added to the mix. All the things engineers have listened to Recruiters dream about being able to do with their system: match a person's skills from a resume to a job requisition, a questionnaire to see if they truly match the job, etc. No matter how much an engineer tries to set this up, Recruiters still cannot only rely on the ATS to truly match resumes to jobs. Because recruiting is not black and white only. There are gray areas in recruiting. You simply cannot remove the 'human' from Human Resources. But that IS what's happening out there.

Which brings me to today. I am one of the unfortunate unemployed Recruiters out there. And I'm having to apply through these annoying Applicant Tracking Systems. On average, it takes 45 min to an hour to apply with all the questionnaires involved. And I get the question about education. And this is a 'gray' area I mentioned earlier. Although I don't have a degree, I have enough experience to be equivalent to a degree. ATS cannot determine this; it just marks me as 'not qualified' simply becuase I answered "no" to the degree question. And here is my favorite part -- I get no notification to let me know if I am 'in' or 'out'. I get no call to ask how I could have this much experience without a degree. What happened to that perfect ATS, people? You have it automated to screen someone out, but not to send them a simple notification.

Recruiters, really??? Do you ever READ the resumes you receive? Are you only relying on your ATS to automate this for you? If you are, I believe you are losing out on perfect GEMS! And really, you are no longer a Recruiter, but a Computer Administrator. And GREAT candidates are lost in the ATS Black Hole.

Views: 665

Comment by Lis Wilson on June 23, 2010 at 12:14pm
Completely agree with you Becki - it must be a nightmare being a job seeker now-a-days with the automated (person) at the other end of a PC. Killer questions, lengthy processes and no human touch are not good for employer branding. However, there does have to be a balance to stop the serial applicant and due to the volumes of applications there does need to be some automation involved.

This is why we have built our own. As someone who is used to it from both sides of the fence, I would really appreciate any feedback you have from a job seekers perspective. Let me know if you are interested in further dialog.
Comment by Becki Dunaway on June 23, 2010 at 2:22pm
Lis....I would love to dialog! As a Recruiter myself, I agree that you do need to have a way to detour the 'serial applicant'; as you said. I have had many of those types of candidates in the past. If they aren’t a fit for my role; I often have tried to help by referring them. Okay, I know there are some WAY worse “serial applicants” too. Sometimes I think the lack of the human touch has made this worse. This is why I think a 10 minute phone discussion is worthwhile because at least you can explain why someone is not a fit. Even the ‘serial applicant’ is frustrated with the ATS Black Hole….they are just looking for an answer as to why they don’t fit a job. Just the perspective of someone who has not ever been unemployed longer than a couple weeks for her entire work career.

BTW – kudos on the home grown ATS. I used one designed based on FileMaker Pro many years ago and it was one of the better ones we ever used. The only reason even that company eventually purchased a larger ATS is because of the size of the servers involved with maintaining it and all the records it held.
Comment by Michael Hennessy on June 24, 2010 at 10:06am
Becki, I hear you! I developed ATS systems for over 10 years...and I'm well aware of the Black hole you're referring to. My company has developed a service for candidates like you that want to at least get some piece of mind on whether their resumes are really viewed. It does a lot more than that, but that's a key benefit. Check it out at... . It's free to register and track your 1st resume!
Comment by Michele Crane on June 24, 2010 at 10:15am

I couldn't agree with you more! As a business owner who relies heavily on our recruiters putting applicants into the ATS, I also rely heavily on the human contact feature of my recruiters. We use our ATS for inputting resumes, matching them to jobs currently in the database and just overall storage of resumes but we DO NOT use it for emailing or any features related to our website.

We require real human contact in order to make sure a candidate is a good fit. Why is this so hard to do?

It takes about 10 minutes to pick up the phone and actually touch base with someone who sent their resume in.

It takes three minutes to actually email them a thank you and we will be in touch!

The human factor is being taken out of everything customer service related. It stinks and it makes things much more difficult. I would rather speak to a live person than press "1" or "2" ten times and repeat my name five times because the automated system didn't understand me!

As recruiters it is important that we remember what we are here assist our clients and our candidates. How can we assist if we never talk to either one?
Comment by Becki Dunaway on June 24, 2010 at 11:14am
Michael -- I will take a look at the site you sent and let you know what I think! Thanks for the post.
Comment by Becki Dunaway on June 24, 2010 at 11:15am
Thank you! I'm glad there are still some employers out there who use human contact! You're right, it does only take 10 minutes to pick up the phone; but it seems that people are afraid to do it anymore. And I'm sorry, but a computer system is not capable of determining if a candidate has the right personality for the job.
Comment by Heidi on June 24, 2010 at 11:59am
Bravo to you Becky for bringing this up. I agree 100% with you, while ATS systems are great for managing resumes, they are not recruiters. I've worked for companies that have used the post and pray recruiting strategy and rely on ATS to screen applicants. The illusion is this mentality of "click the magical button" and great candidates will come pouring in! The reality is some companies rely on the machine to search for key words to determine fit. Wrong! Great companies build recruiting infrastructures that incorporate many dynamics.

The problem with the magical button mentality is that it's reactive and nobody is actually recruiting. So it's a culture of:

"Wait and see" mentality
Let's hope the right person walks in the door
Hopefully they will apply online.

Other issue include:

Some companies are not connected to the community on or off line;

Hiring managers do not know who to pick because they have not been trained on effective interviewing and selection

The recruiters (admins) are trained to push paper.

I understand the desire to cut cost but one of the strongest assets a company has are its people. So the question is why do some companies rely on a hit and miss strategy to build their workforce? Recruiting is about people and you have to have the human touch.
Comment by Becki Dunaway on June 24, 2010 at 12:13pm
Thanks for the feedback and comments Heidi! I love how you phrased my frustration! "Wait and see" -- love it! I actually am working on a part 2 to my post that spells this all out really well!
Comment by Heidi on June 24, 2010 at 2:28pm
I am looking forward to it!
Comment by Sarah Calverley on June 24, 2010 at 9:12pm
Becky - thanks for a tidbit of the jobseekers POV. I think ATS systems should NOT be able to screen people out. I have found that internal recruiters rely heavily on ATS, and in doing so have very limited pools of talent to draw from. However, when a recruiter does their job and actually promotes the right person to that hard-to-fill role, the response is often - "sorry, we already have him on our database..." If they did have them on their database - why didnt they consider him for the role?! Kind of frustrating when you have just alerted them to a great candidate their ATS rejected for a prior role...


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