Applicant Tracking Systems Don’t Find The Best Candidates – ATSs reject the unqualified

Jul 11 2012 in Featured, Hiring Systems/ATS, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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Employers don’t use Applicant Tracking Systems to find the best candidates.

That’s a good thing because ATSs are terrible at finding the best candidates. Then again, few HR departments are set up to find the best candidates.

It’s not even the job of HR departments to find the best candidates … That’s the hiring manager’s job. The HR department’s job is to find about a dozen candidates (for a day’s worth of interviews) that meet the hiring manager’s minimum qualifications as efficiently as possible.

This statement might get all the recruiters and HR professionals in the audience all up in arms, because HR departments are under a constant struggle to justify their existence within an organization. If your job was truly to find the best candidates, you’d read every resume, wouldn’t use applicant tracking systems and would talk to each candidate that met at least 50% of the minimum requirements. For many jobs, HR departments don’t have employees with enough functional knowledge to choose the best candidates because they’ve never worked in these functional departments – Many don’t even understand industry terms … or what the basic job requirements even mean.

Because it’s not HR’s job to find the best candidates, similar hiring processes have been adopted by employers of all sizes and types, public, private, profit, non-profit, governmental, schools, health care … you name it and they’re probably using this process.

These similar processes developed as the number of applicants exploded at the same time there was a push to “improve” HR processes. At the same time, ATS pricing plummeted – what cost over a $1 million 10 years ago, now is offered for free through job boards.

Government regulations also caused employers to regularly incorporate applicant tracking systems into most hiring processes. Our old friend, The Patriot Act, required employers of all sizes to submit to surprise Department of Labor audits, of all hiring practices to make sure employers were in compliance with Federal labor laws. Since this included fair hiring practices, employers scrambled to adopt practices that demonstrated objective interview/hiring criteria to government auditors. ATSs allowed companies to demonstrate objective selection criteria to the Feds.

ATSs allowed HR departments to selectively review resumes, improving hiring efficiency. In addition, ATSs protected HR departments from Department of Labor audits, by forcing HR reps and recruiters to select interviewees based on objective criteria.

… But notice, neither one of these benefits helped HR departments to find the best candidates.

Just like finding the best candidates isn’t HR’s job, it’s not the goal of an Applicant Tracking System, either. In order to increase efficiency of HR departments and to help HR departments show DOL auditors that they choose candidates to interview based on meting minimum criteria, ATSs can’t fulfill these primary goals while also finding the best candidates.

… so they don’t.

Instead, Applicant Tracking Systems are set up to disqualify candidates. HR departments receive an average 1,000 applicants for each ad they post, only reading a few percent of the resumes they get.

This leaves an HR departments with a problem – they need a way to disqualify the majority of candidates while also validating objective selection processes.

How is this possible, you wonder? It’s possible because ATSs make it extremely efficient to disqualify candidates … while also making it justifying interview selection, basing it on objective criteria.

Unfortunately, these processes are also incredibly dysfunctional, because they create a disadvantage for the best candidates.

This may seem unfair to you – but it also can create advantages for certain candidates. At the same time employer hiring processes create disadvantages for the best candidates, they also create advantages …

… for the candidates that best understand (and can best game) employer hiring processes.


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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