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The ATS Purchasing Process May 4, 2010

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking software.
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Hiring is critical to business success across all divisions and all industries. Well run companies consider human capital their primary asset. For years, applicant tracking software has been helping recruiting departments organize and optimize their hiring effort. As we emerge from the recession, hiring is coming back into style. If your company is looking to upgrade their recruiting program, new applicant tracking software is a great way to improve your process. Here are some tips to avoid any pitfalls during the buying process.

Getting Started

As with many purchasing decisions these days, the internet holds many of the answers. Get the ball rolling by searching for “recruiting software” on Google. Make sure you know which type of applicant tracking system you are in the market for. There are generally two types of ATS on the market; one for staffing firms and one for corporations. While recruiting software providers will make claims about servicing both sectors, it is always a good policy to know which system you need and making sure the provider offers a full service product for your needs. Once you know exactly what you are looking for, look at some of the vendors sites before making a decision to contact their sales departments. Make sure you only contact the companies that you are seriously considering. Sales people can be aggressive, so you will want to hand pick your contacts.

During the initial phases of your search, try to avoid social media as a direct influence on your decision. Many ATS companies employ full-time social media marketing teams to canvas sites like LinkedIn with false testimonials.

Know your needs

Once you have narrowed down your list of applicant tracking software vendors, take some time to determine the features that are most important to you. Put together a list of absolute must have functionality. Make sure you take into account your changing needs in the immediate future. Does your company require easy scalability and system expansion or do you often experience periods of downsizing that would require rolling back the number of users on the system? Don’t worry too much about fringe feature. While bells and whistles are nice, in reality you will get the most use out of a system’s core features. Once you have your personalized feature list, setup a demo and make the sales reps walk you through the functionality on your list. If the vendor has direct experience with recruiting, often times they will come up with implementations that server your needs and simplify the process more than you expected.

Once you have handpicked a vendor, take time to kick the tires. Most ATS providers offer a free trial period. If they don’t, then think twice about using them. During the trial get the most out of the test period; load the system with real information and actually work a few recruiting jobs with your key employees. The more actual experience you get with the software, the better equipped you will be when it comes time to deciding on moving beyond the free trial.

Major Considerations When Making Your Choice

Usability

Does the system emphasize usability and will your key decision makers be willing to use the software for collaboration? More often than not, usability is significantly more important than other features. If your recruiters love it, but your hiring managers can’t get over the learning curve then any potential efficiency gains are already out the window.

Short-term or Long-term

One of the major mistakes that companies make when purchasing applicant tracking software is to consider the product a short-term solution. Maybe there has been some heat from the upper management and the recruiting/HR departments want to show they are solving the problem by buying software. This short-term outlook generally leads to underutilization and long-term failure. If you are going to purchase software to help streamline your hiring process, look at the situation as an opportunity to increase efficiency across decision makers and ultimately hire better people for your company. A long-term outlook will have a more successful outcome. Take your time, get everyone on board and use the system.

Customization or Best Practices

The era of highly customizable software may be walking out the door. Solutions that incorporate best practice approaches handcrafted by providers that have direct experience in the recruiting industry are more likely to decrease your learning curve and better serve your needs. With the best practice approached the vendor is able to streamline the product over multiple use cases. This feedback provides significantly better efficiency gains than multiple one-off products that don’t directly relate to each other.

What’s the deal?

When money is tight, contract negotiation tends to lean the customer’s way. The recession effectively reshaped many applicant tracking vendor’s pricing modules to become more customer centric. Many recruiting software companies have created extremely low risk pricing models to help attract businesses away from vendors stuck selling their systems under per-user licensing structures. When striking a deal to purchase applicant tracking software, be aware of what is out there. Always be willing to negotiate. If they want your business, they will be open to different arrangements on support, training and implementation. Remember that complicated pricing structures are generally setup to take more of your money every time you need something. Watch out for vendors that bump your pricing each time you add a new user. Long-term contracts are also becoming a thing of the past. Simple, month to month pricing structures are inherently more honest. If you don’t like a product and you are under a month to month structure then it is easy to leave. Basically, trust the things that seem the most trustworthy when it comes time to purchase.

The more you know about the applicant tracking market, the more likely you will be to avoid buyer’s remorse. Despite the pitfalls, a well designed applicant tracking system is likely to improve your recruiting process and decrease your cost per hire. The long-term advantages of an uptick in your recruiting funnel are almost guaranteed to pay themselves off. Think of it as a means to more effectively target the best candidates for your key positions. Remember it is all about the human capital.

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