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5 Problems an Applicant Tracking System Can Solve

Businesses are spending an average of $4,129 on each individual hire, according to the 2016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report. Despite that large investment per employee, they aren’t always making the right hiring decisions. Employers in the same study report an annual turnover rate of almost 20 percent, and 41 percent of businesses in a CareerBuilder study lost up to $25,000 in a year – due to one bad hire!

You’d think that businesses investing so heavily in recruiting would make sure to use optimal hiring strategies, but that isn’t happening either. According to Development Dimensions International, 47 percent of managers are deciding whether or not to hire a candidate in 30 minutes or less. And 50 percent of those hiring managers have zero training on effective interview processes.

Businesses that want to survive in the cutthroat battle for top employees must adapt – or continually face massive losses in their recruitment investments. The key to hiring top candidates is a consistent, comprehensive hiring strategy, and that strategy must be supported by an applicant tracking system.

At the outset, it might seem difficult to know if you’re experiencing this problem. Maybe you’re not tracking employee turnover or hiring spend, or you don’t have visibility into how well- (or ill-) equipped hiring managers are. In lieu of more data, look for these 5 problems to know if it’s time to start using an applicant tracking system.

Low Candidate Volume

The number of candidates applying for your openings is linked to many drivers. Candidates today are looking for a robust careers page with complete jobs data and a rich employee experience. They’re checking out your presence on social media, reviews on employee sites, and job listing sites like Indeed. Your business has to be wherever they are.

In addition to being omnipresent, businesses must present candidates with an easy, fast way to apply for openings. The most comprehensive careers page and an extensive web presence won’t help if the application process is difficult to use on their device of choice, has too many questions, takes a long time, or all three. Indeed reports that over three-quarters of US applicants would use their phone to complete an application – IF employers took the necessary steps to simplify the application process.

Candidates are clamoring for a mobile-friendly, straightforward application process. What does your application workflow look like? If you don’t know, start by taking it for a test drive. Apply for one of your own positions through both the standard web and mobile interfaces. How long did it take you? Where did you get frustrated or impatient? Were there any areas you were unable to complete, and why? The answers to these question can help you address pain points, and look for specific functionality when evaluating applicant tracking systems.

Interviews Lack Quantifiable Candidate Data

Even if candidates are flowing through your pipeline, the methods you use to conduct interviews are likely affecting your hiring decisions. And you might think there’s no way to get quantifiable candidate data from an interview, as you (or your managers) have always made decisions based on gut feel. That just doesn’t scale as your business grows.

The way to address poor interview processes is to create a consistent set of interview questions that provide the critical answers about any given candidate. Start by making a list of the key attributes of your top candidates. What do they do that makes them high performers? With that attribute list, brainstorm interview questions that will demonstrate whether or not a prospective candidate has these attributes. These are not “yes or no” questions – they’re questions that will generate stories of an employee’s past work (and life) experience.

The key to making the answers to these questions (and thus the candidates) comparable is to tie specific scores back to answers. Maybe it’s a 3- or 5-point scale for each answer – whatever it is, create a key that defines what you would expect for each point level. After each interview, record the answers and scores in an interview scorecard – a critical function of any applicant tracking system.

Hiring Managers Lean Heavily on Resumes to Make Decisions

No two resumes are exactly alike, which makes them a poor indicator of a candidate’s qualifications for an open role. Resumes are often missing crucial data hiring managers need to understand an employee’s true potential.

In order to get around this hurdle, employers have to do a little legwork upfront to get the information they need. The first step is creating some prescreen questions. These are 3-5 things hiring managers must know about a candidate before proceeding to the next level. Does the candidate have the required certifications for an open position? Are they free of any criminal charges? Ask first before investing time in candidates that aren’t a fit.

Employers can also ask candidates to fill out a very brief assessment to see if the company’s foundational principles are a match. No more than 15-20 question on this short assessment can help narrow down the “culture fit” question before spending time in an interview.

Hiring Processes are Disorganized or Nonexistent

If your business is doing well, your managers are likely very busy. They may be short-staffed at times, creating additional stress and almost no time for recruiting efforts. But they do know one thing: hiring is incredibly important for the success of the business. Bad hiring practices can cost them both time and money, and further increase worries.

Take the burden off managers by creating a hiring framework, and offering them easy tools like an applicant tracking system. Rather than asking them to each come up with their own independent processes, give them a uniform process that they can easily modify.

The business can centrally create prescreen questions, a foundational assessment, the application process, and interview questions with their associated scorecard values. You might ask for manager input prior to launching, but once it’s live, all they have to do is log in at critical junctures to view and input candidate data.

Low Employee Retention

Right now, you might know that a large percentage of employees are not sticking around. But do you have a way to understand why? An applicant tracking system can provide your business with a way to learn why employees are leaving. With that data, you can take steps to change internal processes that will keep employees around for the long term.

With an applicant tracking system, you’re building the framework for a historical dataset that you can mine for insights. Which employees leave after 3 months, 6 months, or even a year? Can you find any consistencies in their candidate data in the applicant tracking system, and if so, what are they? Maybe employees with less experience upfront are dropping out early. You might consider beefing up your onboarding program, or setting a higher bar for experience levels in the application process.

Applicant Tracking Systems Provide Businesses with a Powerful Way to Evaluate Candidates

The key to successful long-term hiring strategies is a consistent set of hiring steps that are easy for prospective employees AND hiring managers. An applicant tracking system enables ease-of-use and consistent data capture, to drive higher confidence for all parties.

Beyond hiring, the natural next step is an equally thorough onboarding process. Look for more in our upcoming post on the critical puzzle pieces to effective onboarding.

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