screen candidates

Using ATS Software to Screen Candidates

By: Dave Rietsema
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Applicant tracking system (ATS) software has been regarded as a time saver and hiring aid for recruiters, HR professionals, and managers. The software can be very helpful when it comes to several recruitment tasks, most notably resume parsing. However, it must be used carefully to avoid potential technical downfalls that can cause great candidates to be overlooked while allowing less skilled candidates to “beat” the system.

ATS software uses keywords and phrases to filter through resumes and sort applicants thought to be more qualified from those that are less qualified. Unfortunately, the software can make mistakes, such as overlooking wording or phrasing that is synonymous with keywords or highlighting a candidate that favors a specific keyword. To add to the trouble, many applicants have figured out this keyword system and begun to use it to their advantage.

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Loosen Restrictions Where Possible

Some ATS software will filter out resumes because of simple incompatibilities that are inconsequential to the job. Try to spot and correct restrictions on font, format, and style that may cause certain resumes to rise or fall with no regard for the actual content within them. It may help to loosen restrictions on keywords or to list as many synonyms as possible to avoid filtering out candidates because of unusual wording.

Ask Pre-Screening Questions

Some ATS solutions allow employers to set up pre-screening questions that are submitted at the same time as a resume. These pre-screening questions can help you to filter out candidates that are ineligible to work in the country or that don’t meet the required qualifications for the position. These questions can also help you to get a better feel for the candidate’s fit than a resume alone.

To optimize the use of the pre-screening questions, use a variety of question styles such as open text, check boxes, and drop-down lists. Ask questions that are specific to the types of tasks that the candidate will be responsible for and that will give you an idea of how he or she will fit with your company culture. Be thoughtful when devising questions and try to gain as much information as possible in as few questions so that you don’t overly tax candidates at this stage of recruitment.

Analyze the Effectiveness of the System

Using ATS software is never a “set it and forget it” type of situation. There are always ways to improve the recruitment process. With this in mind, it’s important to track results and analyze the effectiveness of the system.

If an ATS comes with reporting and analytics, review metrics like time to hire and new employee turnover to see if these statistics improve over time. If there is no improvement, or worse, an increase in these numbers, make changes and see how they affect the metrics.

Additionally, it may be worthwhile to review some resumes the old fashioned way in addition to running them through the system. See who gets filtered out and who comes up as a star candidate to see if the machine is choosing the same candidates that professionals would.

ATS software can be a great tool for screening candidates, but it’s imperative that steps be taken to ensure success. If you are considering using ATS software to screen candidates, we can help you find the right solution for your organization. Visit our vendor match page to get started.

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