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Technology rescues relationships from hiring Day 1

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Confronting a difficult economy, talented people have tough times finding jobs. Getting lost in the hiring process makes matters worse.

Organizations of a certain size and more have an added need not to lose outstanding applicants on the internet. Hiring amid uncertainty is hard enough without the added handicap of overlooking technology to compete within an industry.

Establishing the right applicant tracking system will place the hiring process on firm footing from the start and set the course for a satisfying and productive career.

This is where Doug Coull and other hiring experts come into play. He is chief executive officer of SmartSearch, which has used client-inspired innovation to create next-generation talent acquisition interfaces for small and medium-sized businesses. 

Known as applicant tracking systems, the ATS technology assists with day-to-day talent acquisition. This is the critical first step in bringing the right people on board. After recruiting and hiring top talent, companies need to retain them, offering a sense of purpose, authority, responsibility, right development and right incentives.

Toward that end, Coull talked with Meghan M. Biro, analyst, brand strategist, podcaster and TalentCulture CEO, about the nuts, bolts and advantages of applicant tracking systems.

The assumption is that organizations need an ATS in the first place.

“If you’re a really small organization you don’t,” Biro said. “But if you’re 150 people-plus, it’s likely you need a better way to handle hiring.

“Hiring is the sum of its parts with every component up to par—sourcing, recruiting, tracking applicants, maintaining a great data pool and communicating,” she said. “It’s most effective as a whole system.”

Focus on relationships

This assures attention is routed to the right place.

“An ATS does the heavy lifting so your hiring managers can build the kind of relationships and connections that lead to the best hires,” Biro said.

The goal is end-to-end productivity.

“Using an ATS will keep data organized, maximize efficiency in the recruiting process, create a pipeline of potential candidates for upcoming jobs and enhance communication between everyone involved in the hiring process,” Coull said.

“An ATS effectively promotes your employment brand and company culture to prospective employees,” he said. “You can collect and keep hiring data organized and assure compliance. Generate metadata to monitor and improve workflow and results.”

Experts assure public-facing portals are managed properly—with appropriate planning and technology—to make it all work together.

Companies should look to successful competitors and learn from their best hiring practices. Then hire those well versed in technology to manage applicant tracking systems. Such specialists will rarely emerge from within the organization.

“The most important strategy is to shop not just for software but for a partner,” Biro said. “When you go for an ATS that comes as a partnership, you can then do meaningful work to find out what your real pain points are.

“Do you need a culture fit for ATS and organizations? Absolutely,” she said. “If you’re a small and mighty corporation, you’re not going to need the same things as a massive global giant. You need a different approach, a culture that fits your own.”

Avoid mixing unrelated elements

Coull cautioned that, in his opinion, “Procurement should have almost nothing to do with the selection process. They know nothing about an ATS.

“Understanding your current processes is vital,” he said. “If you have a competent ATS vendor, they can help you with best-practice suggestions based upon hundreds or thousands of other users and organizations.”

Before taking on an applicant tracking system, entrepreneurs should have a good grasp of their company.

“Assess your specific hiring automation needs and the current bottlenecks in your processes,” Coull said. “Then make a well-reasoned decision based on how proposed solutions address specific requirements. Avoid allowing marketing hype to override your needs assessment.

“Be inclusive during the evaluation process of products,” he said. “Recruiters, hiring managers, administrators and—for staffing companies—sales people are the user population, not management or IT. They will give you vital and unique insights.”

When evaluating vendors, Coull said, “A good cultural match is very important.

“Longevity and financial situation are vital considerations because you want a long-lasting relationship,” he said. “Heavily venture capital-backed companies often focus more on investor exit plans than customer service.”

Devise an overall technology strategy with best tech designated for each area. 

“Now that you’ve got it, let the ATS provider guide you in how to best use it,” Biro said. “Maintain a collaboration so your ATS can adapt to your changing needs.

“Learn how to best use the data generated by your ATS,” she said. “That’s an incredible resource. Too many companies don’t know how to tap into it.”

Look for partnerships

Any applicant tracking system should take many factors of the company into consideration.

“Make sure you’re following best practices—including data and information security,” Coull said. “Ideally, your ATS provider can run due diligence on your strengths and weaknesses. Then take appropriate actions.

“Avoid traditional vendor-customer relationships,” he said. “They can become contentious. Instead, build a partnership with your provider. Both parties need to contribute for long-term success. Focus on open honest dialog. Beware of over promises and unrealistic demands.”

That means having sensible expectations and measuring results.

“Nothing sours implementations faster than unrealized expectations,” Coull said. “Focus on key requirements first, Rome was not built in a day. You’re in this long term. Evaluate results and user adoption using system data.

“Plan for the future, and think out of the box,” he said. “Anticipate needed changes if your business has new hiring needs on the horizon. Don’t fall prey to insular analysis. Your vendor partner should have lots of ideas to address evolving requirements.”

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Jim Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he graduated from Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He enlisted in the Air Force and served for 25 years in public affairs – better known in the civilian world as public relations. He also earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Public Affairs. Since retiring, he has been a consultant and in the federal General Service as a public affairs specialist. He also acquired life and health insurance licenses, which resulted in his present affiliation with Largo Financial Services. In addition to expertise in financial affairs, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity and financial management. Medium has named him a top writer in social media.

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