The benefits of using an ATS

Ineffective hiring process can lead to poor staffing decisions, project delays
By Gerald Adams
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 08/30/2018

We’ve all heard our share of stories about the joys of the employee hiring process, from the positive “Pat has been an incredible asset for our group — we were so fortunate she applied for our job posting” to the not-so-positive “Boy, did we ever make a bad call on that one — he looked so good on paper.”

Let’s face it — even if an organization is batting .500 for new employee selections, the hiring process can still be time-consuming and difficult, whether it’s a small business or large corporation.

And many businesses still rely on the traditional method of gathering potential employees. This includes sorting through an overflowing inbox of email submissions, printing piles of resumés and cover letters, reviewing each document, and then conducting meeting after meeting to see if applicants match their submitted resumés.

An ineffective hiring process such as this can lead to poor staffing decisions — and those decisions can have many adverse effects on a business. These begin with project delays as they try to fit the wrong person into a role, and continue with added costs if the decision is made to release the unsuccessful employee and restart the hiring process.

That’s why it might be time to consider the alternative — an applicant tracking system (ATS), a software tool that helps an employer manage recruitment needs electronically. From the time a potential candidate reads a job post and submits her application, to the time the employer receives her resumé and sets up an interview, an ATS will help track the applicant’s progress.

Different approaches

There are different types of applicant tracking software that rely on fundamentally different approaches with respect to candidate management.

Keyword-based approach: Some applicant tracking systems use a keyword-based approach that weighs an employee’s initial suitability based on words and phrases that are found throughout his resumé, cover letters and other submitted correspondence. Using this approach, a higher occurrence of pre-defined words and phrases may indicate the applicant is more suited than other applicants who do not include as many of the “desired” terms.

One of the drawbacks of the keyword approach is that some web-savvy applicants will employ the use of resumé optimization tools that may increase their chances of achieving an interview. Such tools scan the employer’s job posting and suggest words and phrases that may cause their application to be ranked higher.

Questionnaire-based approach: Other systems are questionnaire-based, with weighted answers that automatically rank the best applicants based on their responses. This allows the HR team to create a set of questions that will pre-screen candidates and calculate an overall weighting score based on the values that have been assigned to each question. If a particular question is more important to the position, then the question is assigned a greater score.

This approach is popular with those who are looking to choose an ATS for the first time, due in part to its ease of use. Many businesses also believe the questionnaire approach results in a more accurate submission because it requires each applicant to provide responses to a specific set of questions.

The benefits of an ATS

For each challenge listed below, an ATS is able to provide a viable solution:

Slow hiring times: Vetting a prospective candidate is one of the biggest challenges in recruitment. With so many variables to consider for each person, HR managers can become sidetracked during the hiring process. As a result, companies that hesitate and are slow to make a job offer often lose out on talented workers. A 2017 report from Top Echelon on recruiting trends noted that the third highest reason candidates turn down jobs is if the employer takes too long to make an offer.

An ATS will help to streamline the hiring process by organizing the top applicants’ data and then tracking each person’s progress throughout the recruitment process. That means less time wading through unsuitable submissions, and more time dealing with good candidates. Better organization means a faster hiring decision.

Retaining employees: Losing recent hires to a different company is another challenge faced by HR managers, especially with the growing number of millennials entering the workforce. With one-third of new employees choosing a different job after just six months on the job, according to a 2014 report from Equifax

Solutions, it’s more important than ever to ensure the right employee is chosen the first time.

The ATS should be set up to search for candidates who offer the best long-term employee potential. A question-based ATS can include behavioural questions that will pre-screen for more loyal applicants versus candidates who may be prone to job-jumping.

Promoting compensation: With high competition in many key industries, employers must include relevant compensation programs that are both fair and appealing to prospective employees. If an excellent candidate applies for a position at a company, the chances are good this person has already applied at a number of other firms. Thus, providing an attractive compensation package is paramount to garner and retain the new hire.

An ATS can be used to list the job’s salary range and benefits, but also include engaging content to highlight the compensation package. Since some ATS don’t allow more than standard documents and text, choose a system that allows for rich media, videos and other creative offerings. Such content will emphasize the advantages of the company and make the job posting stand out from the crowd.

Hiring the right people is crucial to a company’s success but the job can be made easier by using the technology an ATS can provide.

Gerald Adams is media director at CanPay Software in Winnipeg. To learn more about applicant tracking systems and related HR and payroll solutions, visit

Add Comment

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *