ATS: All the gear and no idea


Most people know the phrase ‘all the gear and no idea’ from the amateur golf scene. It describes the people who spend an absolute fortune on equipment and the best clubs money can buy, thinking it will make them better at golf. It doesn’t. Rubbish golfers are rubbish golfers. Tiger Woods could probably beat them and their expensive clubs using a cricket bat.

The way we see it, the same applies to an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Companies often spend an enormous amount on technology, thinking an ATS will sort out their problems and make their recruitment better. It doesn’t. The company’s ability to recruit is not restricted by technology; it’s restricted by the recruiters. An ATS merely works as an enabler to make really good recruiters more efficient. It won’t make anyone a good recruiter.

If you’re hiring more than 100 people a year, you need some sort of technology platform to help you, in order to avoid an administrative nightmare. But in many cases, companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, when in reality they could spend a small proportion of that amount and achieve the same results.

Software can’t replace (good) recruiters

A lot of companies treat recruitment as an administrative process. It’s not if you do it properly. It’s an interpersonal experience between a recruiter, hiring manager and candidates. Technology can’t build relationships with humans and influence their decision making – at some point, somebody has got to pick up the phone to a candidate, engage with them, get them interested in the company and the opportunity. Not all candidates you want to hire will apply for a job with you; recruiters have to go and find them. Your ATS can only manage the candidates that come to you, it can’t find people for you. And set up badly, an ATS can actually disengage the very candidates you’re trying to attract.

Once the company has invested in an ATS, then comes the 3, 4, sometimes 12-month period of implementation. Don’t over-engineer this process; get the right level of detail into your workflow. We’ve seen so many cases where, because the workflow is too complex, recruiters by-pass it, so trying to get an accurate report out of the system is impossible. It’s totally counterproductive.

Our view? Great recruiters are the most important thing, and getting them an ATS will improve their performance. If your recruiters aren’t great though, don’t think that spending a fortune on technology will fix that. It won’t.