Is the ATS Really The Answer to Screening for Dedicated Talent?

Joe Weinlick
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Years ago, when I was working with a very talented head of engineering, the fire alarm went off. While most people grabbed personal items, Greg ran into the server room, grabbed two servers and walked down the nine flights of stairs.

While I am all about following the procedure to get out of the building safely—it really does say something about the guy who’s thinking about how quickly you can get the business up and running if the office really does burn down.

Then last year, when the Northeast had a particularly hard winter and Beyond’s office was without power for a few days, our Art Director drove to the dark and closed office in her Jeep so she could grab a computer tower to take home and be more productive.

These stories of dedicated employees, had me wondering how do you screen for such a thing? Then it hit me. Maybe we already do.

The application process is highly criticized. The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) puts roadblocks between job seekers and recruiters, making potential hires jump through hoops to apply. Maybe we have the ATS all wrong—it isn’t a barrier to hiring—it’s our first line of defense that ensures that only the most dedicated people can apply properly.

For example, most job seekers have experienced a “hiccup” in the ATS when applying which forced them to reenter their information. Maybe this should be a feature—the first time you submit your information, it’s deleted and you see an error message that makes you re-submit. Maybe this happens more than once? The less serious job seeker will give up entering the same information multiple times. You’re looking for employees that can cope with frustrating days and still shine, so make sure those that can’t cut it, aren’t going to apply.

Another deterrent—don’t make it easy to upload a formatted resume. Only accept a Microsoft Word doc, then parse it terribly—losing all formatting, displaying strange characters, and no line breaks that they have to edit. If you’re feeling generous you can even make them edit it in HTML. Anyone who will go through this process to apply must be a great candidate. Put them on the fast track.

Of course, there will be critics that will argue that the best candidates might never submit, but in reality will you ever really convince that “passive” candidate to apply? Or, the ridiculously perfect “purple squirrel?” To get them to apply, the process would have to be so wonderful and engaging—almost like it didn’t even feel like applying.

And to create such an engaging process, would mean changing more than just the ATS. That would require reinventing the entire way we attract and interact with talent. Job descriptions would be incredibly well-written or better yet replaced by interesting anecdotes about the company, the people that work there, and how this job places a role in achieving the company vision. Instead of going through the application process, candidates would be inspired to find ways to share their unique talents with your organization—imagine that!

But in the meantime, we’ve got people to hire and a lot of job descriptions to write, so let’s make this easy. In the list of qualifications, add one more: “Must be able to successfully apply through the online Applicant Tracking System.” Because after all, that takes dedication and patience—what more could we ask for in an applicant?

Image Courtesy of Getty Images


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  • Kenneth W.
    Kenneth W.

    Jobs Are Important too. Not too many call backs for employment..Many opportunities for education though..

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