How to Choose the Right Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for your Small or Medium Sized Business

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Because of limited resources, small and medium-sized businesses need to take advantage of modern technology to streamline the recruiting and hiring process. An Applicant Tracking system (ATS) is one such technology that can be incredibly helpful.

What is an ATS?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) automates an organization’s talent acquisition operations, and provides a central repository for candidate data, including resumes and applications. An ATS is built to help you manage every stage in the recruiting process, from application to hire, while delivering greater overall efficiency.

Why it’s necessary for small or medium-sized businesses to use an ATS

Small & Medium businesses face numerous challenges when it comes to recruiting top talent. Those challenges are not limited to, but often include:

  • Inability to attract & hire top tier candidates – poor candidate experience and lack of a strong employer brand drive down application rates for most small & medium sized businesses. Those businesses often tend to use a lengthy, disorganized interview process that impedes the ability to close those top tier candidates given the war for talent.
  • Time-intensive manual process and expensive mistakes – Tracking candidate data via spreadsheets and collecting resumes manually lead to inefficiencies in the hiring process. The cost of missing out on good candidates due to lack of process and technology is hard to quantify, but according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the price of a bad hire is equal to at least 30% of the employees first-year earnings. For a small company, a six-figure investment in the wrong person is a threat to the business.
  • Lack of accountability, visibility, organization & collaboration – often, small and medium businesses lack talent acquisition infrastructure and as a result, there is no centralized “source of truth” for recruiting. This lack of centralization leads to disparate hiring process and HR, hiring managers and recruiters tend to each work in a silo. Equally as troubling, most small and medium business are not compliant and lack the necessary tracking and reporting should they be audited.

Technology can help to remedy the recruiting challenges that most small & medium businesses face. Choosing the right Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for your organization is critical to your ability to attract and hire the right talent.

How do you choose the right ATS for your company?

There are hundreds of ATS providers on the market. Some are better suited for large companies, some are more geared towards small & medium sized businesses. Some tout their close ties with social media and their efficiency in easily advertising your job postings, while others pride themselves on their sourcing tools and reporting capabilities.

In order to properly evaluate who the right ATS provider may be for your organization to partner with, I suggest first coming up with a list of key criteria to look for. When I selected the ATS provider that Melita would partner with, I came up with a list of “must-have” features and during each demo that I participated in, I screened for this list and asked questions to ensure these features were available. Criteria that I feel are necessary in any ATS provider:

  • User experience – the ATS should be intuitive and easy to navigate
  • Candidate experience – is the ATS easily customizable so that it is a tailored process for your candidateWorkflow efficiency – is the workflow customizable, does it flow according to how we want to build our process, is it easy to move candidates through the process without unnecessary extra clicks and screens
  • Reporting & analytics – can I run reports, can I customize those reports and do they track the data I need to report on
  • Integrations – your ATS should be your central hub; can you integrate your assessment test provider and your background check provider and have all results in one central location?
  • Support – What is their support infrastructure? How long is their average response time to a support inquiry? Do you have a dedicated customer service rep?
  • Essential features – this can differ for each company. Some companies may be looking for an ATS that has a strong social media integration. Others may need an ATS that has a sourcing plug in to LinkedIn. It’s important to understand how your company wants to attract talent and build that in to your ATS selection.

When I went through the ATS vendor selection process for Melita, I dedicated roughly 6 weeks to speaking with and attending demos of several different ATS vendors. In addition to the above named criteria, I also screened these vendors for:

  • Cost structure – does the vendor charge per user? Are you locked in to a yearly contract? Are all features included in their base fee, or do we need to pay extra for certain features?
  • Implementation time line & fee – how long does implementation usually take and is there an implementation fee?
  • Their ability to support us as a consulting organization – this was important for Melita because we work with our clients to build their talent acquisition organization infrastructure. I wanted to recommend and implement an ATS that would allow me to have access to their dashboards with a toggle of a button. Newtown provided this feature.

I ended up evaluating these five ATS vendors during our selection process:

  • Newton Software
  • Jobvite
  • Greenhouse
  • ADP
  • Lever

I did demos with each vendor and during that time, evaluated for the key criteria I mentioned above. I also asked questions about cost, time to implement and future improvements.

Ultimately, I chose Newton Software as our vendor to partner with.

Why Newton Software?

My first impression of Newton was very positive. Their sales team responded to my inquiry immediately, they were quick to set up a demo with me and prior to then, wanted to know about our business so that they could tailor the demo to our needs. They were the only vendor that took the time to do that – and it made a strong impression.

Through the demo and spending time speaking with both their sales & implementation teams, I found that Newton Software could provide the Melita Group with all of the capabilities that I felt our organization needed to scale our talent acquisition organization:

Attract & Engage:

  • Careers Pages – Newton assisted with a fully branded career site
  • Free Job Postings – with one click, Newton allows you to post to several job boards
  • Agency Manager – Newton helps to manage the resume flow that may come from agencies
  • On-line job applications – fully customizable job applications allows for a great candidate experience
  • Employee Referrals – Newton provides an on-line tool to share jobs and reward employees
  • Resume Parsing – Newton has enterprise-grade parsing technology; producing quick and accurate search results

Interview & Collaborate:

  • Email templates & Automation – Newton provides 90+ written email communication templates, as well as the ability to create your own templates …. a huge time saver
  • Tools for hiring managers – hiring managers can access Newton remotely from any device; ease of use is key to keeping hiring managers engaged
  • Interview Guides & Scorecards – customizable interview guides and scorecards are my favorite feature that Newton provides … you are able to better prepare your team for interviews and it automates the feedback collection process
  • Recruiting Dashboard – a visual snap shot of candidate pipelines, as well as job and offer approvals
  • Outlook & Gmail scheduling integration – Newton integrates with both Outlook and Gmail which allows you to easily
  • schedule interviews – a huge time saver when you don’t have to chase down hiring managers for their schedules
  • Advanced candidate search – this feature makes all resumes, job applications, comments, notes and candidate feedback immediately discoverable

Offer & On-board:

  • Approval processes – these processes are fully customizable in Newton and provide visibility and control to executive management
  • Offer management – Newton allows you to gather approvals, create, send and receive offer letters – all without leaving the Newton platform
  • Background checks – Newton provides with several background check providers – with one click you can initiate a background check
  • EEO & OFCCP Compliance – Newton provides up-to-date EEO and OFCCP compliance tracking and reporting tools
  • Reporting & Analytics – reports that are easy to generate and provide visibility in to each component of the hiring process
  • New Hire On-boarding – Newton is mobile optimized and easily integrated in to the next step of the on-boarding process

Closing Thoughts

A study done by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that talent & technology are CEO’s two highest priorities because both have tremendous impact on the business. Although talent & technology are two stand-alone pillars of any organization, I believe that technology helps us to attract and qualify the right talent. In this scenario, the technology is an ATS that will serve as your central hub for all recruitment related activity. Taking the time to select an ATS partner is critical; as that ATS, as well as a well detailed talent acquisition strategy, will serve as the foundation of your talent acquisition organization.

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