The Future Of Applicant Tracking Systems. Executive Roundtable. ~Software Advice.

With the emerging prominence of social media and cloud-based computing, sourcing and hiring strategies have no doubt changed in recent years. More and more hiring professionals and human resources (HR) departments are relying on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to automate, streamline and organize the complicated processes associated with bringing on new employees. In order to get a strong pulse of the market, I recently interviewed executives from three applicant tracking software vendors: Dresser & Associates, AcquireTM, and iCIMS. Who better to tell us where things stand and where they’re going than the leaders of the pack?

Before we jump in, though, let me introduce you to our roundtable participants.

Jason Barnett, CIO and co-founder of EON Applications, Inc.

As the Chief Information Officer and co-founder of EON Applications, Inc – creators of Acquire Talent Management – Jason is responsible for product and strategic technology planning. He brings over 15 years of software product development experience across several industries delivering enterprise software. Prior to founding EON, Jason worked as a consultant for several Fortune 500 companies.

Mark Dresser, President and CEO of Dresser & Associates

Dresser & Associates is the leading Sage Abra HRMS business partner in the US. For over fifteen years Mark’s company has provided unique solutions for hundreds of businesses to boost productivity using human resources software. Providing the highest level of expertise in the HRMS applications, they deliver products and services that meet customers’ needs and surpass their expectations.

Susan Vitale, CSO at iCIMS

As Chief Strategic Officer for iCIMS Talent Platform, Susan directs business strategy to drive corporate growth. She works closely with linking iCIMS’ business vision to the product roadmap to help bring valuable new functionality to market through iCIMS’ Talent Platform. Prior to overseeing corporate strategy, Susan was iCIMS’ Director of Marketing, leading all strategic marketing initiatives.

Q: What trends do you see as having the largest impact on the ATS market?

Barnett: HR and hiring professionals, as well as third party recruiters are all focusing more on finding passive candidates. To accomplish this, they’re using social media to tweet jobs and share information via Facebook and LinkedIn. And while we all hear that social media is a great tool, how do we leverage it? From a product perspective, we have to dive in and provide deeper integration with Twitter, Faceboook, and LinkedIn. Using these platforms should be easy for someone who hasn’t been utilizing social networks before. Accordingly systems are becoming much easier to use, and the adoption rate is growing.

Dresser: With the recession and the tight financial market of the past few years, I think companies have realized that they needed to start doing more with less. What they used to do with 10 people, now they’re trying to do with 7 or 8 – and they they need to attract and retain the best quality people. These companies need a system that can automate the process – that helps them find ways to attract the best candidates. Where once it was only large companies using these systems, we’re now seeing more of the smaller companies tapping into ATS in order to improve their hiring processes and stay competitive.

Vitale: We’re seeing organizations becoming more progressive with their recruitment efforts by leveraging networks – social media sites, social networks, employee networks – to bring talent in. They’re sharing jobs through these mediums instead of relying on more traditional sites like job boards like Monster or Dice. I think social media is going to change the dynamic quite a bit. Certainly not overnight, but I absolutely see social media as the number one massive change that will be taking place in applicant tracking.

Q: How has the emergence of software as a service (SaaS) changed the way hiring professionals use ATS?

Barnett: SaaS has simplified the process of implementation. The complications with legacy systems – connecting remote users, determining whether the system is going to be able to work on a wide area network – those types of things all go away. Being able to log in via an internet browser and use the application drives it deeper into the organization. Also, keeping the application up to date is taken out of IT’s hands, and brought back to the vendor. We’re usually doing updates every other week. We have liaisons who work with our customers who bring this info back to our development team, and that’s how we develop our product. If it wasn’t for SaaS, we wouldn’t be able to make these changes and get them out to customers in a timely manner.

Dresser: With cloud computing, you have the flexibility to accommodate what employers need to get their information out to potential candidates. You can have as many requisitions as you want and have those requisitions have specific questions. Then you can have those requisitions followed up by specific hiring managers and recruiters. You don’t have a hiring manager who has to do everything. The ATS gives everyone involved the visibility to see where your requisitions stand. Where does this requisition stand right now? Why hasn’t it moved? Who is holding it up? What is going on? And this makes things faster for people.

Vitale: A ton of organizations are moving away from these licensed point solutions in favor of SaaS suites. SaaS solutions are far more flexible and scalable. You’re getting upgrades for free, so you have more competitive tech. As your organization grows, it’s very easy and cost-effective to add more users. If your org goes global or acquires another company, it’s easy to scale that out–and scaling is an option as well. At the lower level, about 60 percent of iCIMS’ SMB customers come to us having never used a solution whatsoever. And these smaller companies tend to reap really great benefits when it comes to SaaS.

Q. What are a few major factors that are driving the increased adoption of ATS in the SMB market?

Barnett: As job boards have become more prolific, so have the candidates using them. As such, HR departments are getting inundated with a flow of candidate information, and they know they need a better way to manage it. A SaaS-based ATS model is more accessible and easier to use. You can use it without getting involved in a long-term contract. Literally, you could sign up for two or three months, and if that was all you needed it for, then move on. A SaaS solution is an expense rather than an asset. You can just put it on a credit card and solve a problem.

Dresser: There is a lot of competition out there for top-quality candidates. As competition gets stronger, hiring professionals at small and mid-sized businesses want to make sure they have a system in place that can easily identify and tag talent for them. When you have an ATS in place, you can do keyword searches within your database and rate applicants so you’re always looking at the cream of the crop. A big part with the ATS experience is instant access to information, and knowing exactly where people stand. With SaaS-based systems, small and mid-sized businesses have access to this sophisticated functionality without a huge IT staff.

Vitale: The efficiency is tremendous. When you’re a small or medium company, you may have a handful of people in recruitment or HR. And when you’re going through a growth spurt, that kicks you in the butt to get a system. Recruiters are dealing with a million emails and are literally using Outlook and Excel to manage that information. If recruitment is not a good function within an organization, it literally can stifle growth. So there is a lot of buy-in from an executive level to say, “let’s get recruitment right,” and using an ATS is just a tremendous benefit to doing that more easily. ATS help ensure things get done better – from the candidates’ perspective as well as the recruitment and hiring manager perspective.

Q: How do you see social media effecting the future of ATS?

Barnett: I think it’s difficult to say right now because it’s so young. There are a lot of people talking about job boards falling away, speculation that everything is going shift to a social media environment – and people have been talking about that for a while. Although social media is certainly going to be an integral part of ATS, I don’t know that it is going to be the end-all solution when it comes to managing applicants. I see social media functionality becoming better and more deeply integrated into the ATS, as well as becoming more a part of how HR interacts with their applicants. But I don’t know how much further we’re going to see things go until the social media platform mellows out a little bit.

Dresser: Social media allows you to get your words out there to passive candidates. As such, I think any ATS is going to need to be able to adapt or evolve to be able to access all of the social media vehicles that are there now, as well as what comes up in the future. That’s what’s great about cloud systems: if you buy a system and you own it, and a new system or whatever takes place a year or two down the road, then you have to do an upgrade, etc. Whereas the SaaS models are going to have to be constantly evolving to meet what today’s needs are for them in order to stay competitive.

Vitale: It’s going to get more sophisticated. Hiring professionals are leveraging social networks to post their jobs and promote opportunities at a given organization. That’s the push mentality. What we’re really going to see, though, is the pull mentality. It’s not just “How do I post and advertise jobs?” but ” How do I get the appropriate social media content into my ATS so that it’s a better candidate experience?” We’ll see a better recruitment experience because we’ll rely on data that’s fresher, that’s more real-time using social content.  This article was written by Kyle Lagunas, HR Market Analyst with Software Advice.  Read more:


Posted on August 20, 2011, in Talent Management and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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