Applicant Tracking Systems on Candidate Experience (CandX). iCIMS, Greenhouse, and CATS respond.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) serve as an intermediary between job seekers and a company’s hiring personnel. As a result, ATS and the people who make them are caught in the middle. On one hand, ATS are an essential tool for hiring companies trying to sort through a mountain of applicants. On the other, they’re an unseen source of frustration for job seekers trying to earn a job interview. ATS are tools built to make recruiters’ lives easier, but where does candidate experience figure into their development? (Read more: What is an applicant tracking system?)

To gain some insight, I reached out to executives of three top applicant tracking systems: iCIMS, Greenhouse, and CATS.

Autofilled Applications vs. Tailored Applications

Read more about Greenhouse ATS for Job Seekers.
Read More: What you need to know to create a perfectly tailored resume for Greenhouse ATS.

When asked what many ATS do wrong, all three executives pointed to “an onerous application form,” as Greenhouse President Jon Stross put it. One of their solutions to this is to automate as many input fields as possible for the job seeker.

“One thing we do really well from a candidate experience standpoint is offer many different ways for a candidate to apply for a job,” wrote CATS President Tony Sternberg. “Instead of having to … use a resume [or] manually fill in everything, candidates can apply with Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter accounts. If candidates have accounts that are established elsewhere they can just apply with those accounts and we’ll pull the information in from there.”

“iCIMS software has parsing technology and also offers candidates the option to apply with their social media profiles or cloud programs like Google Drive, so that information is pre-populated and there is no need to enter duplicate data,” wrote iCIMS founder and CEO Colin Day.

Sternberg (CATS) added, “With the new portal we’re rolling out, it will automatically parse the resume that you attach and then auto-fill those fields for you.”

Resume parsing and app integrations can help an applicant get to the “submit” button faster than ever. That said, it might discourage applicants from taking the time to tailor their resume and application to the specific job, something these executives believe is crucial to a successful job search.

“It’s now become so easy to apply to many jobs at once that a lot of candidates will ‘spray and pray,’” wrote Stross (Greenhouse). “When a hiring manager or recruiter is reviewing applications, it’s really obvious when someone is doing that. It also really stands out when someone truly wants that job and tailored their cover letter and application to it specifically.”

“Tailoring their resume and cover letters to each application is super important,” wrote Sternberg (CATS). “I think far too often, candidates are too generic with their approach, where they just apply to a lot [of jobs] and hope that a little bit sticks. I think it’s much more important to apply to the jobs you’re truly interested in and spend a good amount of time customizing your message to that particular employer and to that position itself.”

Scan your resume to make sure it has the right keywords.

 

The Resume Black Hole

Job seekers often feel frustrated with the job searching process because they feel left in the dark,” wrote Day (iCIMS). “Candidates often feel like their resume is entering a ‘black hole’ when they apply online and go weeks without hearing back from the employer.”

Stross (Greenhouse) agreed, writing that “one of the most common complaints” from job seekers is that “they never hear back from companies after applying.”

To address this, these ATS equip recruiters with tools to stay on top of communication. “Recruiters are alerted when a candidate hasn’t been communicated with to ensure no one falls through the cracks,” wrote Stross (Greenhouse).

“To ensure they don’t feel in the dark, job seekers receive a confirmation email letting them know that their application was received,” wrote Day (iCIMS), “and continue to receive tailored emails on their application so they know exactly where they are in the process.”

Of course, an automated email confirming the receipt of their application doesn’t tell a job seeker whether anyone has actually looked at their resume. These solutions require recruiters to take intentional action. Day (iCIMS) believes that ATS can only do so much: “Although it may be easy to point a finger at the technology they are using – the ATS – the problem likely lies in the hands of the employer and the way in which they are or are not leveraging the software.”

The same could be said about the way recruiters opt to use ATS searches, filters, rankings and other functions that reveal their top candidates. Using the features to their full capabilities could probably prevent some qualified candidates from slipping through the cracks, but it relies on a knowledgeable recruiter making the effort.

Preventing Discrimination

Age Discrimination in Hiring
Read More: Real stories of blatant ageism and helpful tips on how to avoid it.

As an intermediary between the hiring company and the applicant, one of the ways ATS can help job seekers is by guiding recruiters and hiring managers away from discriminatory practices.

“Because our software is configurable, customers can decide to omit information such as names, graduation years and more, to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process,” wrote Day (iCIMS), who also mentioned the role ATS play in helping companies remain compliant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“Within CATS, recruiters have the ability to blind submit candidates to hiring managers,” wrote Sternberg. “That way those decisions can be made in a vacuum, based purely on experience and fit for the role.”

Unfortunately, as mentioned already by Day (iCIMS), it’s up to hiring professionals to use those features. He added, “ATS can significantly improve and streamline the hiring process and offer a very positive experience, but the hiring managers and recruiters need to have a good understanding of all the software’s capabilities and use it to its greatest capacity.”

Greenhouse is trying to combat bias by making the interview process more rigid. “The main area of focus for us is around supporting structured interviewing that is efficient, streamlined, and correlates to the hiring brand’s culture and recruiting needs,” wrote Stross (Greenhouse). “When companies run an unstructured interview process, they tend to have inconsistent interviews without clear criteria where unconscious bias can play a heavy role.”

He concluded, “By setting objectives at the outset of the process and then maintaining consistency and always connecting back to those initial criteria, a company can start to overcome their unconscious biases and make more informed and fair decisions.”

Candidate Experience and the Hiring Machine

“Some employers are failing their own candidates by providing a terrible application and hiring experience, which can leave a bad impression on not just their employment brand, but their overall company brand,” wrote Day (iCIMS).

Stross (Greenhouse) expressed a similar sentiment: “Our customers are typically working in competitive environments where they know that to win the best talent, they’ll have to make sure every touchpoint is just right.”

ATS are often branded one of the “bad guys” of the job search, but it sounds like are doing what they can to make sure applicants are treated fairly. It’s in their best interest to create a great candidate experience, as it is the hiring company’s. Unfortunately, ATS are just one component in a complex hiring machine built on overworked and undertrained HR personnel, inconsistent corporate policies, bureaucracy, bias, and human error. There are a million points in the process where something can break down and leave an applicant in the lurch.

What is the number one thing you’d like to see ATS or hiring companies implement to improve your experience as a job seeker?

Get past iCIMS, Greenhouse, and CATS ATS by scanning your resume with Jobscan.


Full Responses

For additional details and full context, check out these unedited responses.

How do other ATS fail? What does your ATS do differently to create a better candidate experience?

iCIMS chairman and CEO Colin Day:

Job seekers often feel frustrated with the job searching process because they feel left in the dark. Candidates often feel like their resume is entering a “black hole” when they apply online and go weeks without hearing back from the employer. Because recruiting is consumer-facing and can affect your bottom line, it needs to be prioritized. Some employers are failing their own candidates by providing a terrible application and hiring experience, which can leave a bad impression on not just their employment brand, but their overall company brand.

To create a positive candidate experience, we offer a configurable tool that allows companies to make the hiring process quick and easy. Some of our customers, like Advantage Solutions and Enterprise Holdings, require applicants to submit a resume and complete just a few screening questions that can be done in a few minutes, rather than a lengthy application.

iCIMS software has parsing technology, and also offers candidates the option to apply with their social media profiles or cloud programs like Google Drive, so that information is pre-populated and there is no need to enter duplicate data. Our software is mobile optimized and mobile friendly, so candidates can apply from any kind of device at their convenience.

To ensure they don’t feel in the dark, job seekers receive a confirmation email letting them know that their application was received, and continue to receive tailored emails on their application, so they know exactly where they are in the process. The software even allows for video interview options, which may include a self-recorded video clip coming from the candidate to showcase their personality or a full-blown digital interview to better connect candidates and employers who may want to “meet” virtually before committing to an in-person interview.

To take it to the next level, we also have the option to communicate with candidates and provide updates and reminders through text as we have noticed that they value the immediacy and convenience, and have partnered with Google to improve the job search experience through machine learning capabilities. The bottom line is that companies need to offer a great candidate experience to attract and hire the right employees, as evidenced by iCIMS survey data that revealed nearly one third of full-time working Americans have declined a job offer primarily because the company had negative online employer reviews. As a result, as an employer and as a vendor, we are transforming the job searching and application experience to function more like a shopping experience, to meet candidates’ needs.

Greenhouse President Jon Stross:

The three most common complaints we hear from candidates are:

1.) They never hear back from companies after applying.
2.) An onerous application form.
3.) A poorly organized interview process that feels duplicative/irrelevant/unfair/arbitrary.

Our customers are typically working in competitive environments where they know that to win the best talent, they’ll have to make sure every touchpoint is just right. Greenhouse helps in a variety of ways:

Intuitive, simple, mobile-friendly application process
Easy to send rejection emails to ensure everyone gets a response
Professional, branded, templated emails for every situation
Recruiters are alerted when a candidate hasn’t been communicated with to ensure no one falls through the cracks
Greenhouse enables a structured interview process where each candidate is evaluated consistently and purposely
Greenhouse collects “candidate satisfaction” data through a survey so companies can learn where they are failing and improve

CATS President Tony Sternberg:

So, one thing we do really well from a candidate experience standpoint is offer many different ways for a candidate to apply for a job. So instead of having to reinvent the wheel and use a resume and manually fill in everything, candidates can apply with Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter accounts, so if candidates have accounts that are established elsewhere they can just apply with those accounts and we’ll pull the information in from there. We also don’t force candidates to register on our portals like some of the other Applicant Tracking Systems out there—who wants to remember a username and password for every job they apply to? With the new portal we’re rolling out, too, it will automatically parse the resume that you attach and then auto-fill those fields for you. We also realize that over half of traffic is now mobile, so we make sure job postings and portals render well in mobile, as well as offer mobile-friendly function. Candidates don’t have resumes on their phone, so we enable them to connect into services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or wherever their resumes might be. So I think from that perspective, we make things really easy for applicants, by removing a lot of the hurdles inherent to the application process.

After developing an ATS, what do you wish job seekers understood about the application and hiring processes?

iCIMS chairman and CEO Colin Day:

I hope that job seekers understand that ultimately the employer that they are applying to controls their own application process. Although it may be easy to point a finger at the technology they are using – the ATS – the problem likely lies in the hands of the employer and the way in which they are or are not leveraging the software. ATSs can significantly improve and streamline the hiring process, and offer a very positive experience, but the hiring managers and recruiters need to have a good understanding of all the software’s capabilities and use it to its greatest capacity.

Greenhouse President Jon Stross:

It can be just as frustrating for the hiring companies as it is for the job seekers!

It’s now become so easy to apply to many jobs at once that a lot of candidates will “spray and pray.” When a hiring manager or recruiter is reviewing applications, it’s really obvious when someone is doing that. And, it also really stands out when someone truly wants that job and tailored their cover letter and application to it specifically.

CATS President Tony Sternberg:

Tailoring their resume and cover letters to each application is super important. I think far too often, candidates are too generic with their approach, where they just apply to a lot and hope that a little bit sticks. I think it’s much more important to apply to the jobs you’re truly interested in and spend a good amount of time customizing your message to that particular employer and to that position itself.

 

What can ATS in general or your ATS specifically do to help combat recruiter blind spots and unethical profiling practices, such as age discrimination?

iCIMS chairman and CEO Colin Day:

Our software helps our customers collect, search, store and report on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) information to help them meet OFCCP regulation compliance requirements. Because our software is configurable, customers can decide to omit information such as names, graduation years and more, to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process.

Greenhouse President Jon Stross:

Great question! We’ve spent a lot of time working on this issue.

The main area of focus for us is around supporting structured interviewing that is efficient, streamlined, and correlates to the hiring brand’s culture and recruiting needs. When companies run an unstructured interview process, they tend to have inconsistent interviews without clear criteria where unconscious bias can play a heavy role.

How does it work? There are a couple of steps to follow to build an effective structured hiring process.

1.) Have the team clearly articulate the desired criteria for the new hire at the outset of the process.
2.) Maintain a consistent interview process to test for this criteria.
3.) Collect explicit feedback on that criteria from hiring managers and the rest of the interview team.

By setting objectives at the outset of the process and then maintaining consistency and always connecting back to those initial criteria, a company can start to overcome their unconscious biases and make more informed and fair decisions.

CATS President Tony Sternberg:

With the accessibility of social media, it isn’t difficult for employers to find information like that about candidates. Ultimately, then, the onus is on the ethics of the employer, but there are legal protections out there for candidates for those reasons. Within CATS, recruiters have the ability to blind submit candidates to hiring managers. That way those decisions can be made in a vacuum, based purely on experience and fit for the role.

Facebook Comments