Tag Archives: applicant tracking system

Usable HR Technology Doesn’t Mean Less Clicks

In the late 90s when usability first came to software developers’ attention, a lot of focus was made on the number of clicks a user made and the tracking of the eye on a software interface to reduce user memory.  While these are still important considerations, the science of usability has advanced to include the persuasion of a user to accomplish a specific goal.

In recruiting, the goal is to find a good match for a job.  While efforts to reduce the number of clicks for an online application are admirable, they are not necessarily meeting the end goal of the application.  The focus should be on an easy to use interface that allows an applicant to show whether or not he fits the job.

“The future of design is about creating engagement and commitment to meet measurable business goals.” – Dr. Eric Schaffer / Founder and CEO Human Factors International, Inc. in his white paper “Beyond Usability”

When applicants are polled regarding what they do not like about online job applications, they don’t complain about the number of clicks, but rather the lack of information about the job, the irrelevancy of the information collected,  the limited data formats accepted and the lack of follow-up.  Most of these are soft areas that relate more to content than technology.  However, in both applicants and recruiters minds, all of it is technology.

candidate experience

From The Candidate Experience Monograph by Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, with others.

HR tech vendors can help assist their clients by providing suggested content, best practices information during implementation and staying on the cutting edge of consumer focused technology.  The end goal of a talent management application must be to find the best fit for the job, while leveraging technology to save as much time and effort as possible, and to enforce compliance.  The end goal often gets lost within the latest industry buzz words and trends, but it must stay in the forefront in order to create truly usable hr technology.


Job Applicants Want a Touchable Application Process – It’s Time to Give it To Them

touch table at SXSW

I heard a lot of frustration in their voices.  A very tech savvy crowd yes, but still unsure how to present themselves as a job applicant.  “I have a beautiful resume, but the online application is asking me to cut and paste my resume,” laments one job seeker.

“I fill my resume with keywords, but never hear a word from the company after filling out the online application.”

“How do I link up to my online portfolio when they just want me to type in my work experience?”

The questions during the SXSW 2012 session on “Online Personality Disorder: Resumes and Profiles” highlighted the gap between the expertise of the applicant, and the technology of the average applicant tracking system.  I had to raise my hand and admit I am with an applicant tracking system (although one of those that does allow portfolio uploads, online profiles, and formatted resumes), and suggest that when a cut and paste resume is required (by an ancient system, ahem), make sure to put a link to your online profile/ portfolio at the top of the resume text.

In this age of TVs that change the channel based on your hand motions, video enabled vending machines that measure your smile, and touch table computers, basic electronic resume applications fall flat.

The truth is that applicants want to reach out and touch the application process.  They want to put their unique mark on their application – they want to demonstrate their passion and their skills.  They don’t necessarily want to apply with just “two clicks,” they want to interact with the organization and provide relevant information.

And the truth is, hiring managers want to let them.  But too often time constraints and technology get in the way.  The solution isn’t to go back to the paper resume or in-person hiring event.  The solution is to adapt applicant tracking technology to let applicants express themselves, while automating as much as possible.

Here’s some ideas on making the online application and the hiring process “touchable” for the applicant, and still protect the hiring manager’s time:

  • Allow the applicant to upload digital portfolios, images, and formatted resumes as part of their online application
  • Provide easy ways for the applicant to link to their online professional content
  • Give applicants status updates throughout the process – via email, text or a self-service portal.
  • Word status updates and email communication as personally and warmly as professionally possible, so applicants realize they are communicating with a real person
  • Consider using a company like Send Out Cards to send out recycled paper thank you notes with a status update after a phone interview.
  • Provide a kiosk in the employer’s lobby to allow applicants to apply online and/or check their status.  It’s relatively inexpensive to do with an ipad kiosk.
  • Use in-depth job descriptions and basic pre-screening questions to allow applicants who aren’t a fit to self-select out.  This allows more time for the hiring manager to review the information of qualified applicants.

Technology doesn’t have to be impersonal.  In fact, most innovation in tech sectors over the last few years has focused on making technology more and more personal.  Talent management systems and HR can provide a touchable application experience for applicants.  We all just have to try harder.

The Job Search: Some Paper Airplanes Use the Right Airport

There’s been a trend within the last couple months of national news media focusing on the black hole of the applicant experience, sending out the vibes that all applicant tracking systems work the same, and basically, suck.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing to me for my industry to be represented this way.

While I’d concur that there are some popular applicant tracking systems that serve as resume black holes, not all ATS’s are made the same.  A good ATS can ensure that the hiring organization follows a structured process that ensures every applicant is reviewed, whether by machine or man, for the jobs.

When users of our applicant tracking system post a job on their career site, a short questionnaire is attached to the job.  That questionnaire has been customized by HR based on the requirements of the job, and usually contains around 4-5 questions that can easily screen applicants out or in.  One Fortune 500 user who hires engineers includes questions such as “Are you at least 18 years of age – AND – able to provide proof you are eligible to work in the country where this position is posted?” and “What is your highest level of education?”  Simple answers to these questions can screen out 20% of the applicants up front.  Applicants are presented with a kind message letting them know they don’t meet the basic criteria – a great example of software narrowing down the applicants the organization has to wade through and providing instant feedback to the applicant.

Next, the applicant answers a couple more specific questions about the job that may not filter them out of the running, but provide valuable feedback to the person reviewing the app.  For example, many companies will ask an open ended question such as “Why are you interested in working for us in this position?”  This type of question provides an opportunity for the applicant to shine – to communicate his enthusiasm for the job, and outline why he is a good fit.  Lastly, the applicant provides a resume or fills out structured information about his work experience and education.

When the application is submitted, it is put into a queue for the hiring organization to review.  Most of our users ask a HR Generalist to first step through and review each application.  The generalist then flags those that are the best fit for the hiring manager to review, and with a couple clicks, sends all the top applications to the hiring manager via an easy to use web portal.  The hiring manager will then review the best applications and note which applicants should be invited for an interview.  Those applicants that are not a fit are updated to a not-qualified status.  The ATS automatically sends them an email informing them of their status.

Only when the above steps do not provide great candidates do our users begin to search across resumes using keywords.  And when they do, they are searching across job titles, essentially offering applicants a second chance at being matched to a good job.

Intelligently using an applicant tracking system in this way provides feedback to applicants, saves HR and hiring managers time, and provides a way for applicants to demonstrate their best fit to a real person.  Our clients don’t have to worry about their applicants’ resumes falling into a black hole, or paper airplanes finding no place to land.

Jennifer Brogee
Certified Usability Analyst
CIO, myStaffingPro

The Evolution of a SaaS Applicant Tracking System

I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane, and give a short pictorial history of myStaffingPro applicant tracking system.


Our first product as a company was DialApp, an interactive voice response system that companies could use to automatically collect job applications over the phone.


Within a year, we built a web portal for reporting the applicant data collected over DialApp. We called the web site DialApp.com. I can still clearly picture the brainstorming meeting we had to choose the web application name. I don’t think that name lasted a year!


Here we are in 2001 with our expanded application – this is our Build a List of Applicants feature. Notice we’re searching for a new name already. Kind of looks like fashion from the past, doesn’t it. But hey, we were proud of it at the time, and the functionality was robust.


New logo – new name!


In 2003 we streamlined the look of Build a List of Applicants a bit, added some shading, made it less crazy. We’ve still got the Quick Tools. Of course, there’s a lot more functionality not pictured here. We added a Requisition module, Sourcing module, and enhanced Reporting module.


In 2004 we released our Fast Track Edition, a SaaS applicant tracking system that could be implemented by the customer with no technical support needed. Previously, implementations required support from our client services and technical departments.


Fast forward to 2006 – the same Build a List of Applicants feature is displayed. The design is better, but we haven’t gotten rid of that awful teal color yet.


We’ve replaced teal with blue – hooray! Build a List of Applicants:

Plus, a new logo:


And now, we have a SaaS applicant tracking system with 10 years of feature rich development that offers over 75 add-on modules.

Build a List of Applicants:

Build a List of Applicants

5 Hiring Process Time Killers (And How to Fix Them with Technology)

Sometimes it just feels like there’s a lot of waiting during the hiring process.  Does this sound familiar?  Applicants apply online.  Someone in HR reviews the applications and pushes them to the hiring managers.  HR waits for feedback.  HR calls the hiring manager to try to speed the feedback process along.  The hiring manager decides on an interview.  Now we need to coordinate schedules.  Got the interview scheduled – great applicant!  Submit a background check.  But wait, we need more info from the applicant.  Wait for the applicant to fill out the forms.   Wait for the background check to be complete.  Try to get a hold of the applicant to submit the offer.  Wait for the applicant’s response.  Wait some more.  You get the picture.

A good applicant tracking system has tools to help speed all this along, and that will make everyone involved happier.  Check them out:

Time Killer # 1: Waiting for Feedback from the Hiring Manager

OK, so you’ve got a great career site and the applicants are flocking in.  HR shares some great applicants with hiring managers, but getting good feedback can be painful.  To speed things along HR can use email and an online portal to automatically push the best candidates to the hiring manager(s) for feedback.  The hiring manager simply clicks a link in an email, reviews the applicant information, then fills out his feedback about the applicant on a web portal.  All the feedback is recorded, and immediately submitted back to HR.  If the hiring manager takes too long to reply, he’ll receive an auto-email reminder. 

Time Killer #2:  Coordinating Schedules for an Interview

At the same time the hiring manager submits her feedback about the applicant, she can also indicate if she wants an interview scheduled.  If so, she can immediately enter her scheduling availability into the feedback portal.  An email is generated to the applicant, inviting him to an interview, and asking him to pick the best time available.  He picks a time, receives directions, information about what to bring, and an email reminder.  Both HR and the hiring manager are notified via email about the appointment that has been scheduled, and can easily add to the appointment to their calendars by clicking a link.  Multiple days are shaved off the hiring process by automating the feedback and interview scheduling.

Time Killer #3:  Collecting Information for a Background Check

Getting a signed background release form can be a major time killer, but it doesn’t have to be.  Upon scheduling an interview with the applicant, ask him to complete an online background check collection process before his interview date.  The applicant can enter his previous addresses, contact information, date of birth, SSN, and electronically sign the background release form, all in a secure, private online repository.  The information is ready and waiting to electronically submit to the background vendor after an offer is made.  NOTE:  Depending on state laws, the information might have to be collected after an offer is made, but it can still be automated.

Time Killer #4:  Communicating the Offer

Now you’ve found a great candidate and you want to make an offer.  Sometimes it feels like a game of cat and mouse to effectively communicate the offer to a candidate and get an absolute response.   Solution = build an offer workflow into your hiring process.  Not only can you configure a more traditional internal Offer Approval Workflow, you can also deliver the complete offer letter to the applicant through an Offer Portal.  Simply give the applicant a call, letting him know you would love to bring him on board, and instruct him to expect the offer letter via email.  He can then review it at his leisure, contact you for a counter offer, or electronically sign the offer letter, saving a lot of time and voice mail.  Plus, you end up with a complete, signed offer letter attached to the applicant’s record.

Offer Letter Review 

Time Killer #5:  Ordering the Background Check

Integrate the background check ordering process into your ATS.  If you’ve collected the information ahead of time, it can be pushed to a background vendor without having to duplicate data entry.  Results can be imported automatically into your system, making the process even slicker.

These are just a handful of pain points in the hiring process that can be addressed with technology.   Be creative, research technology providers, and ask their support teams to help you solve problems.  Often software providers have built in solutions you haven’t even heard of yet.  Tackle one problem at a time, and one day you’ll realize you have shaved days or weeks off your hiring process!

5 Easy Ways IT Can Help the Environment

  1. Slim Down Your Servers
    Those old, boxy servers you’re hanging on to are probably power hogs. Upgrade to newer servers and you’ll not only save on energy, you’ll also benefit from better performance.
  2. Virtualize
    Cut down on the number of servers through virtualization. If you have an application that needs its own server but doesn’t take up a lot of memory or CPU, it’s a perfect candidate for co-locating with another server on the same piece of hardware. With virtualization, you can run different OS’s on the same equipment, and as an added bonus, backup and restoration are very easy.
  3. Help HR Go Paperless
    Save trees and make HR happy by switching from paper job applications to a SaaS applicant tracking system, complete with web-based career site. Go even further and setup paperless new hire paperwork, such as the I-9 and W-4, through an online onboarding process. Digitize all those annoying health insurance enrollment papers by upgrading to an online benefit enrollment system. AutoZone documented their savings by going paperless in just the hiring process, and discovered they save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in paper, mailing and faxing costs (source).
  4. Don’t Trash, Donate
    Before you trash that old IT and telecom equipment, call your area non-profits. In our area, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore (resale outlet) will accept old computers, racks, etc. as donations, then turn around and sell them, or break them down and sell off reusable materials. You get a tax deduction, and the warm feeling of helping another organization, all while reducing waste.
  5. Embrace the Cloud
    Whether you go to the cloud by utilizing managed services such as Azure, or by taking advantage of the many robust web-based systems available, using online services reduces our combined environmental footprint. By leveraging web-based systems, resources are shared. Instead of one thousand companies each maintaining their own HRIS system, for example, they can each purchase licenses on an HRIS solution hosted by the vendor, maximizing server space and bandwidth. Another advantage is that good SaaS vendors are experts in their line of business, allowing IT to leverage best-practice systems without having to become experts themselves.

How to Create a Branded Career Site in Minutes, For Free

There is a little known online wizard, offered by applicant tracking system myStaffingPro, that allows organizations the ability to setup a branded, SEO (search engine optimized) career portal with just a few clicks.

Steps to Create Portal:

  1. Enter your organization’s contact information via this link: http://mystaffingpro.com/freetrial/freetrial.asp
  2. Click the Proceed to the Next Step button
  3. Now, you’ll be prompted to enter information regarding your profile. In this example, I am setting up a career site for the coffee company, KaffeeScape:
    1. Choose the job site URL. My example: kaffeescape.appone.com
    2. Enter a default location, category & job title
    3. Upload a logo (jpg format)
    4. Choose if you would like to collect EEO information from applicants (Gender & Ethnicity information)
    5. Choose from a variety of web site templates. (I choose the beige “full” layout, 10 different layouts are available, as identified below), and click Submit.

Branded Career Site

Soon, I receive an email letting me know my new career portal is live:

Search Engine Optimized (SEO) Career Site

With a back-end user name and password, I can add jobs and post them to the career site. The jobs are also automatically posted to free job boards Indeed and SimplyHired.

New users can use the portal for free for 30 days. After the 30 days, a user can choose to become a monthly subscription customer of myStaffingPro for as low as $60/month and maintain the portal, as well as gain access to a variety of applicant tracking tools.

It’s a great way to get your own career site up and running quickly, no IT support needed.