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Applicant tracking systems can help employers with their campus recruiting needs. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted March 30, 2017 by

How to use your applicant tracking system for college recruiting success

 

It’s no secret the advancement of technology has changed the recruiting game. The use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) – software applications that enable the electronic handling of a company’s recruitment needs – are responsible for the technological recruiting revolution. As outlined by ICIMS, a provider of cloud-based hiring solutions, ATS recruitment “allow organizations to collect and store candidate and job related data and track and monitor the process of candidates through all stages of the hiring process.”

ATS recruitment is designed to enhance the overall recruiting experience for both recruiters and candidates. But forward-thinking employers recruiting recent college grads focus on the job seeker’s needs – the candidate experience – first.

“It’s important to make it as easy as possible for candidates to apply,” said Tim Mayer, Director of Talent Acquisition for Kraus-Anderson Construction Company, which uses BirdDogHR Talent Management Suite. “If your application is a time intensive process, people will drop out during the process or might not even try at all.”

There is some rationale for using the ATS to collect as much info as reasonably possible, including screening and ranking questions, but none of that matters if the candidate doesn’t hit “submit” adds Mayer.

“Interaction with the ATS could be the applicant’s first step in the candidate experience and can set the tone for a great, or poor candidate experience,” says Mayer.

What’s unique about applicant tracking systems is how they allow recruiters and hiring managers to customize their ATS for specific jobs, roles and even events. For example, a recruiter or hiring manager working a college recruiting fair or campus job fair could fully customize their ATS with functionality solely for that specific campus career fair, or hiring event.

SmartRecruiters is one example that allows recruitment marketing and collaborative hiring in the cloud. Bjorn Eriksson, Chief Marketing Officer of SmartRecruiters, offers some unique examples of how employers can customize an ATS for an event such as a college recruiting fair or campus job fair:

  • Prepare: Know which positions you are actively trying to fill. Be sure the representatives working the booth are familiar with the open positions and hard-to-fill niche career opportunities so they can speak to them when engaging with students. With some ATS’s, like SmartRecruiters, you can publish event specific job ads tailored for college job fairs.
  • Qualify: Prepare questions or a brief interview to pre-qualify applicants. Prepare questions to ask those who express an interest in your company to pre-qualify them. “It’s also a great opportunity to focus on providing meaningful information to students,” says Eriksson. “Don’t just recruit them, but ask their opinions, offer relevant advice and see if they are really a good match.” Make sure to capture students’ contact information so that you can continue the dialogue.
  • Connect: Respond to inquiries and follow up ASAP after the event. While the impression is still fresh, group your candidates into: Best matches, possible matches, and no matches. View each candidate as a potential customer or future client, and tailor your follow up message to each group.

Ultimately though, the success – or failure – an individual or employer has with the ATS isn’t solely technology-based, says Saïd Radhouani, Ph.D., co-founder of Nextal, a collaborative applicant tracking system.

“I believe that the ultimate success depends on how the ATS is used, and not on how it’s set up,” said Radhouani. “Yes the implementation and functionality has an impact, but even if the setup is good, it doesn’t mean that recruiters won’t make mistakes.”

When a recruiter starts using a new ATS, they often won’t understand all the features and functionality, says Radhouani. As time goes on, they sometimes fail to learn new functionalities, and don’t maximize the systems capabilities. So recruiters within the same organization who use the same system should meet monthly to collaborate and share experiences, functionalities, and tips on how to best optimize their applicant tracking system.

“Recruiters should also attend webinars put on by the ATS vendor,” said Radhouani. “If recruiters know other colleagues from different companies who are using the same ATS, reach out to them to see how they are using it to ensure they are getting the most out of their ATS.”

And if the ATS vendor has a community forum, be active in the forum, ask questions and provide feedback.

Recruiters should be sure to measure success – and failure – in their recruiting by using the analytics/metrics capabilities of their ATS.

“Most modern applicant tracking systems have analytics capabilities that provide very insightful metrics about the entire recruiting process,” says Radhouani. “If a recruiter doesn’t measure what they do, they’ll never know whether they’re improving their productivity or not.”

Over time, recruiters and hiring managers get frustrated if an ATS is not user-friendly, doesn’t have specific functionality and capabilities, and does not help enhance the recruiting process. Applicant Tracking Systems are not all equal, and as hiring managers move from company to company, and use different systems, they can find pluses and minuses of each system they use. The key however, is to take advantage of the functionality of the system that is in place, find what works, and align your recruiting needs with the capabilities of the system.

“If you don’t have what you love, love what you have,” said Radhouani. “Every ATS has its good and bad sides. Recruiters should focus on the good side and work with the ATS, not against it.”

Mayer agrees.

“Really embrace the entire suite of options your ATS provides,” says Mayer. “Automate where appropriate and make sure the ATS provides a candidate experience that aligns line with your employment brand.”

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