The Next Generation Applicant Tracking by Marilynn Kalman

The mid-21st century is bringing drastic changes to how we recruit. My crystal ball foresees changes that will impact both the job seeker and the HR professional along with how your organization can adapt to meet these changes.

Mobile responsive pages are the big words in applying online from a job seeker’s perspective. It is estimated that some 70% of job seekers apply online using smart phones or tablets. This means companies need to adapt their pages to accommodate this change. Simple corporate branding along with easy selection buttons for finding jobs of interest will allow for mobile access to the jobs pages. Pages that are complicated to manoeuvre are going to suffer in the mobile world – frame in frame careers page navigation, complicated job search tools and hard to find careers pages are all going to lose in the war for new applicants.

One way that careers pages can adapt is to eliminate the large graphics opting rather for small logo branding that allows for easy mobile browsing. A second way is to eliminate the frame in frame (iframe) careers page views. These do not respond to mobile technology and are hard to navigate, which in turn discourages candidates who are forced to work in a small application area. Impossible on a mobile screen and even challenging on large desktop screens. Thirdly, the HR recruitment team should ensure that job seekers can get to your jobs quickly and easily while eliminating any extra clicks along the way. For example, I have visited several career pages where it can take as many as 6 to 8 clicks to find the jobs page! In some cases it is nearly impossible to find the careers area. A good rule of thumb is a 2 click option – careers page with a direct link to the jobs easily identified. Many pages use a separate window that opens with the jobs displayed, ostensibly so that job seekers can easily refer back to the main corporate site. Switching between browser windows, however, is not as easily done using a mobile phone.

The one form request will be replaced with requests for information required to evaluate the individual specific to that job. We have all see the one form that requires all applicants to respond to a long list of standards questions. Most of those questions are not pertinent to that job role. This is both discouraging and time consuming for candidates.  Many will simply give up in the application process. Along with this should be the elimination of older assessment tools that have dubious value and take a great deal of additional time for the applicant. Assessment tools have their value, but they need to be specific to the job and its requirements. Both the information requested and the assessments used for any one job should be well mapped out to secure the specific information that is needed to evaluate the applicant for that job role. Requesting unnecessary information tells the job seeker that you really do not know what you need to evaluate her/him for that job.

Along with this, online systems are starting to eliminate the need for account creation. When applying to several jobs in a day, even using a Facebook or LinkedIn login can be annoying, especially if the sign up process varies among systems, which it typically does. The elimination of the login will open the door for many more job seekers and certainly accommodates those individuals who do not hold accounts on social media sites. I want to stress that this does not mean that applicants cannot use their LinkedIn or other profile to apply. There should be easy access to applying with any online profile that the applicant owns. Examples include LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook (promising to be more in-depth), or accessing a resume from0 Dropbox or other cloud repositories.

Lastly, from the job seekers perspective, parsing of data from the resume will improve tremendously in the months to come – as it should. Job seekers’ information will populate the form requirements more accurately, saving them potentially hours in applying for jobs online. This will be true for all document types such as word, PDF, and text in addition to the online resumes such as LinkedIn. Scanned documents (typically coming from fax technology) will still be a challenge as this often creates a document that is simply hard to read, however, many systems will still attempt it – they have not given up.

Job seekers are simply getting smarter about who they want to work for and if your company does not respect their need to apply in a friendly manner they will move onto another company who does. Ensure that your corporate online recruitment practises express how good your company really is.

What’s more, The HR team will benefit from technical advancements in ATS software as well.

No longer will jobs be posted manually to job boards, job aggregators or social media. The typical job scrape has compromised job accuracy in dates or information, often causing problems for the recruitment team. Jobs are often still on the web requesting applicants when they have long since been closed.  Accurate feeds will be the standard and those feeds will ensure that all information travelling to these advertising mediums will be correct within hours of changes to those jobs (job cancelled, text changes and the like).

These tools will also eliminate hours of unnecessary time in posting information by hand (a cost that can quickly add up). Take a moment to think about the time it takes to post jobs manually. So, if you have 10 jobs and you need to post them to your corporate LinkedIn account, along with Indeed, and possibly posting them to Facebook – this means logging into all accounts and uploading the data to all three, averaging about 20 minutes per job, totalling 200 minutes or 3.33 hours of your day. If you repeated this activity every month, this accounts for 40 hours a year (1 week of time if you are not interrupted). You likely need to monitor those jobs as well, so this can take another 40 hours. All of this for only 10 jobs… time that can be used for more important tasks.

In the not-too-distant future, data searches will improve immensely. The parsing technology that I mentioned earlier is indexing that data such that it can be searched much quicker and more accurately. Typically, systems have relied on keywords and stacked them using Boolean searches (and, or, not, parenthesis), for example “mechanical engineer” AND Calgary. These searches have proven slow and often inaccurate. Yet, we are all familiar with typing in a phrase and getting back reasonably good results in little time using search engines such as Google. With similar advances in the ATS search tools, system searches will do a great deal of a recruiter’s work.

Most systems are offered via the cloud (SaaS solutions), and this will certainly be the predominate method of recruiting – all users will access their system using the web, allowing all to work anywhere, anytime. Greater reliance will be placed on Hiring Managers who can easily access job lists in order to make final decisions on a new hire and in turn reduce the work load for the recruiter. Printing of resumes or emailing large numbers may no longer be necessary, and all documentation on an applicant is captured in one place for future reference.

Those same HR and hiring team members will also be able to work with the system from their mobile devices, allowing for more flexibility in completing tasks as required. For example, in Alberta we have a prevalent field office environment. Those field personnel can access job lists from their tablet allowing them to make decisions that normally would have to wait until an office visit. With simple mobile friendly interfaces also comes ease of use, meaning that little training is needed and confusion around system use is rare. This further reduces time and challenges for users.

The new generation of ATS will allow for ease of creation of specific data requests tailored to the job requirements. Some jobs may only require responses to a few questions in order to get the needed information while others may require a resume upload while other jobs may require both types of information. Questions added to a job application can be scored or treated as stop questions saving time reviewing those applicants that do not have the mandatory requirements.

Should the recruitment team ask, for example, if the individual applying to a labourer position has a hard hat, steel toe boots, a certification and a clean record – this may be all that is needed in order to understand if they are capable of completing the work. On the other hand, securing a new CFO for the company may need far more detailed information – the resume, background checks, education verification, psychometric testing, and several interviews. Systems will be much more flexible at accommodating clear job requirements allowing the collection of data that is best needed to assess the applicant for those requirements.

Big data analysis will be on our radar more and more in the months and years to come. We will have better access to reporting that can assist with how we frame our job, collect data for that job, or advertise that job. We will also have more information available that summarizes all or much of the information publicly available regarding any one applicant. We may for example obtain a summary report that looks at their activity on such sites as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter along with how far they travel to work, and validation of their education background, to name a few.

In summary, the direction for the future ATS systems is enlightening. We will see much easier user interfaces that deliver more backend function than we have previously experienced. The new technologies will allow for access from anywhere, anytime, with tools that save time in searches, training, reporting and use. As a corporate recruiter you will be tasked with how to best accommodate applicants in a manner that gathers the information needed while controlling how job seekers sees you as a company.

Marilynn holds an MBA from the University of Calgary. HireGround is a member of HRIA, BCHRMA SAHRP, HRPA, and HRMAM. We are proudly supported by the National Research Council, NSERC, ICTC, and Alberta Innovates.

Marilynn Kalman, President, Executive Manager, Manager of Business Development

Email: Phone: 403-244-1895 x225

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