MountainThere are a lot of reasons you love your applicant tracking system (ATS). It makes things easier on your HR staff, it helps you find candidates from an array of sources, and it keeps the hiring process organized.

But, if you’re like many others — that is, fighting to find the most talented candidates in today’s competitive job market — you may also have reason to hate your ATS.

In Jibe’s “2014 Talent Acquisition Survey,” published in December, 64 percent of the HR and recruitment professionals surveyed were either dissatisfied with or planning to change their ATSs. Respondents cited frustrations with clunky reporting, data extraction processes, and customization. If that sounds like you, you’re clearly not alone.

Another common issue that many recruiters are facing with their ATSs is that, at times,the software seems to reject even the best candidates due to things like resume formatting issues, poor keyword recognition, and vague prescreening questions. If that’s the case, how are you ever supposed to find the right candidate for the job?

Here are four tips you can implement to get the most out of your ATS:

1. Train (or Retrain) Your Staff

Typically, ATS training happens the week the system is installed, and then it’s up to the staff to train new employees. But, there’s no guarantee the employees who originally learned the system will remember every feature, process, and nuance — or that they’ll even stay around long enough to transfer their knowledge.

If your ATS isn’t living up to its potential, start by training or retraining your staff. A two-day training session with the ATS manufacturer’s trainers can get you up to speed more quickly than thumbing through the manual ever will.

Once everyone is up to speed, designate one or two subject matter experts who will stay up-to-date with new features, liaise with customer support on bigger issues, and organize team trainings when they’re needed. The key going forward should be to ensure continuous, easy access to training materials and manufacturer support for everyone on the team.

2. Update Your System

WorkingATS platforms have changed over the last few years. Many now include features like social-media sourcing tools, mobile-hiring support, and advanced reporting functions. If your system is lagging behind, it might just be that you haven’t looked into some of the newer bells and whistles for it just yet.

Before you lobby to spend thousands on a new system, call your ATS manufacturer and see if you’re missing any key updates, especially if you’re working with an older model. While many newer ATS platforms offer cloud-based services like automated, consistent update releases, they aren’t all quite as advanced. It’s possible you’ve missed an update that can help you take your ATS to the next level.

Talk to your manufacturer and determine whether or not your contract includes free system upgrades that you haven’t taken advantage of yet — updates that could mean the difference between landing the most qualified candidates and missing out.

3. Streamline Your Process

An ATS is designed to make the hiring process more efficient, but that doesn’t always happen overnight. In fact, it can take weeks — even months — to get everyone firing harmoniously on all cylinders.

If your organization is missing out on candidates because it’s taking too long to get back to them, you may have an ATS/recruiter workflow problem.

Analyze when and where your ATS is pulling new candidates from, how quickly you’re reviewing shortlist candidates, and other key efficiency metrics to make sure your process is as streamlined as possible.

For example, if you’re noticing that your ATS is generating candidate pool reports twice a day, but the current workflow is to review the shortlist once a day before the second search, your workflow is inefficient. Make changes to your ATS or review schedule that allow you to maximize your review time.

4. Take Advantage of Automation

No matter how many positions you’re looking to fill or candidates you have in your system, manually tracking them in Excel is never the answer. That’s what you bought the ATS for, isn’t it?

Once you’re up to speed on all of yoWorkflowur ATS’s features, start automating as many processes as you can.

Set up auto-responses for new applicants, automatic candidate prioritization, and candidate status tracking across the entire system. This way, you can be sure you know what candidates are in your system, what part of the hiring process they’re in, and when you have to take action. By implementing these automated processes, you’ll have a lot more time to spend on assessing and interviewing the best talent on the market.

In the end, the key to getting the most out of your ATS is regular maintenance. That is, regularly maintaining your institutional knowledge of the system through training and regularly maintaining your actual system through software updates and process evaluations.

Where does your ATS lag behind? What have you done to get the most out of it?  

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