Using applicant tracking systems in the hiring process

Do you use applicant tracking systems (ATS) during the hiring process? We recently ran an article looking at ATSs on the technology blog (Technology: Does it solve--or cause--hiring dilemmas?) and it got me to thinking about them and wondering if any of you had experiences using them.

When the recession was at it's peak, we were hearing stories of HR receiving 100s of applications for jobs openings that may have previously only gotten a handful. So, on the plus side, I could see how an ATS could help HR wade through a deluge of applications.

However, I see two major drawbacks. One, you could miss out on great applicants who don't have the specific phrases or words that your ATS is scanning for in their applications. Maybe there is a candidate who doesn't have the right degree but a large amount of experience that proves he can do the job. If you are using an ATS, you would miss that sort of applicant.

Second, applicants have learned to game the system. Some have figured out key words (these are words that likely would be included in a good job posting) and formatting tricks to use to deceive the ATS into thinking they are qualified for the job when they really aren't. In addition to unqualified applicants, you end up with people who are willing to cheat to get what they want, and that doesn't bode well for their dedication and ethics as your employee.

Do you use ATSs? Have you had a good or bad experience with one?


  • 2 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • We use an ATS that allows us to ask supplemental questions (e.g., do you have five years experience building widgets?); and then filter applications based on those responses. An applicant could be dishonest in his/her response and make it through the filter; but we do eventually review the application to ensure the response to the question is supported by the experience. Of course, no matter how you screen applications, you won't know that the applicant was not honest until conduct the interview or do reference checks.

    Celeste is right that using an automated system may result in missing a qualified applicant. But the truth is, even screening applications manually, if you are screening over 100 applications, you are probably just looking for the same buzz words that the ATS looks for.
  • David,
    You make a very good point--applicants can lie just as easily on a paper resume as an electronic one, so you might as well have an ATS help you filter through the stack if you've got a bunch of resumes (and a lot of other HR things to do).

    I like the idea of having the supplemental questions--it sounds like at least some of ATS providers are aware that good candidates can get kicked out and are finding ways to adapt. Definitely something I would look for when deciding which ATS provider to use.
Sign In or Register to comment.