Avoid These 4 Common ATS Implementation Pitfalls

Why it pays off to slow down and get ATS implementation right, the first time

Your Applicant Tracking System is the backbone of your talent acquisition function. But it can be the unsung hero or the villain. How you approach your ATS implementation and use can make or break your experience — not to mention your ROI. Let’s walk through common missteps and how to realize ROI by making the right moves from the start.

The reality is, despite its critical operational role, proper ATS configuration is often overlooked. This creates issues from day one for recruiters, candidates, and the success of your overall hiring program.  

You only get one chance to set an ATS up correctly. You have to make it count.

We’ve had years of experience working with clients to overcome the challenges they’ve encountered due to a rushed or poorly planned ATS rollout. Our hope is to help you avoid that same fate by sharing what we’ve learned. 

Let’s take a look at four common missteps that plague ATS rollouts and how to overcome them.

4 Missteps That Result from a Bad ATS Implementation

Think of your ATS as your talent acquisition command center. Missteps in building out your ATS impacts how well it will serve your organization months or years down the line. 

1. Undefined recruitment workflow in your ATS

Without a defined recruitment workflow from the beginning, an ATS investment is mostly wasted. Why? 95% of our potential clients say their existing ATS is missing the mark. What they don’t realize: your ATS wasn’t built to fit your specific processes. So, in the end, it doesn’t fit their needs. 

But your ATS can fit your needs — if you consider workflows from the start. An ATS allows you to clearly define your talent acquisition workflow via steps and statuses. You can assign a step for every stage of your process, which may include application, resume review, initial phone interview, hiring manager interview, background check, offer, and hire. Within each step you can then assign statuses like pass, fail, no show, withdraw. It’s an iron-clad way to support repeatable efficiency that streamlines the hiring process.

2. Unproductive ATS reporting

Every decision made during ATS setup has a trickle-down effect. If workflows are not defined, and steps and statuses are not created, then by default reporting capabilities will be limited. This directly impacts recruiter productivity. Why? Because what should be automated reverts to a manual process.

Recruiters must take matters into their own hands to create the reports they need to do their jobs. This often means tracking candidate-specific information in an Excel spreadsheet to achieve the level of detail and insight required across the hiring process. Time is lost. Viable candidates are lost. And the ability to analyze actionable data to see where your hiring process shines or needs improvement is lost. Without that insight, you may never know your time-to-fill, opening-to-fill, or sub-cycle times, and how those impact your hiring success.

3. Unsubstantiated compliance

To put it bluntly, your ATS is your “stay out of jail” tool. As an employer, you’re required to remain compliant with OFCCP and EEOC regulations, which includes everything from how jobs are posted to whether any form of discrimination occurs during the hiring process. An ATS is designed to streamline the capture and reporting of compliance-related information. But, again, it can only do this if set up correctly from the start. 

Every time a manual tracking task is done outside the system to compensate for an ATS limitation, the possibility of human error increases and calls into question the accuracy of reporting. Every step of the process must be carefully and completely documented. Any holes in compliance reporting can open you up to the possibility of serious financial and legal repercussions. From a regulatory perspective, if it was not documented, it didn’t happen—for better or worse. 

4. Unfulfilling candidate experience

An ATS is an applicant tracking system. For candidates who apply to open positions, the ATS is often the first impression they get of your organization. How your ATS is designed determines how it functions, which directly impacts the candidate experience.

Without the right steps and statuses, you risk losing track of candidates advancing through the hiring process. Or, worse, you risk having candidates get stuck at one stop along the journey. If applicants feel there’s a lack of communication or transparency from your organization, they’re likely to cut their losses and move on—depending on your ATS, you can leverage automated communication updates to keep candidates in the loop, or quickly identify where candidates are in order to reach out on your own. A disjointed process could cause you to lose out on top talent and earn you a reputation as an organization to avoid. 

Best practices for better ATS implementations

It’s time to take a step back prior to implementation and take into account these four best practices before your team passes GO!

1. Bring the right stakeholders to the table

Bring people who understand your workflows and your hiring process to the table. Identify manual processes that can be automated, reports that can be automated and steps that can be improved. Recruiters should be involved from Day 1. Then pull in other stakeholders as their areas come up. This is an important step for ATS implementation, but will also be a significant part of effective change management.

2. Set up your ATS to according to your hiring processes

Out-of-the-box tools are great for some people. But your ATS should be customized and configured for you. Keep unique variations in your recruiting process in mind.

3. Integrate you ATS with other systems

Make sure your ATS seamlessly connects with your other recruitment tools and vendors, including your HR system of record, your background check and assessment vendors, etc.  The more integrated all workflows are, the more efficiently candidates can be moved through the hiring process.

4. Leverage ATS capabilities to the fullest

Today’s applicant tracking systems come packed with time-saving functions that could elevate your hiring process even further—if you use them. By setting up your ATS correctly on the front end, you’re in a better position to benefit from all its capabilities on the back end. This ranges from pre-screening questions to automatic statusing, scheduling, and communication tools that streamline that application process and support seamless handoffs to candidates.  

5. Train your team on making the most of your ATS

Don’t overlook training when it comes to your ATS investment. Training on processes and the consistent naming of steps and statuses. Training on: documentation and reporting; how to determine if a new system request could impact what’s already in place, and whether that means the request is beneficial or detrimental to your end goals.

Recruitment Scorecard: Questions to help gauge your ATS implementation

How your ATS is configured impacts your recruiting function’s success. As the talent acquisition command center, your ATS must be configured and implemented with care to ensure appropriate steps and statuses are built in from the get-go to support efficient recruiting, compliance, and reporting measures. To gauge how your ATS implementation scores, ask yourself these four questions.