I've seen a lot of questions recently about selecting an ATS and thought I would share an article I wrote a few years ago (2003, I believe) since much is still relevant - and what's not is good for a nostalgic chuckle. Unfortunately, it may also reveal how little has changed with ATS technology. The focus was on employment branding but I always saw this as being intricately linked to the ATS - selection and deployment. When this was written I was heading up employment initiatives and college relations for Federated Department Stores (Macy's Inc) and we had previously deployed a corporate wide solution in 2001. The vendor was WetFeet, who has since been acquired by Taleo.
Delivering a Balanced Employment Brand Experience
Beyond balancing the unlimited creativity and seductiveness of the Internet as a medium lies the challenge of
delivering on and perpetuating the employment brand promise. Moving forward with an online employment
platform without clearly articulating technology requirements can dilute a job seeker’s experience, impact the
employment brand, and ultimately expose the company’s consumer brand.
Leading employment initiatives during a time of incredible evolution in recruitment technology, coupled with the
Internet as a highly scalable medium, allows us to facilitate networks and relationships at an entirely new level.
And, perhaps it is this very evolution of compatible technologies that makes the challenge of maximizing the
candidate’s experience so daunting.
What is the primary purpose behind establishing an employment brand and moving the employment process online?
Positioning an online employment brand presence establishes a “Virtual Career Center” (VCC) accessible to job
seekers 24/7. While this presents an incredible opportunity to build a diverse pool of applicants and broaden the
company’s talent base, there is a critical risk to the long-term investment. If the supporting technology is not
applicant-centric, the risk in this case is directly related to the employment brand. Steve Pollock has also looked at
this relationship through his research at WetFeet and states that, “The online application is the place where the
candidate's interest in the employer and the employer's need for the candidate intersect. Ideally, the technology
system an employer uses will facilitate rather than impede this transaction”.
Certainly there is a cost-benefit balance to be realized in identifying a hiring management solution to host your
VCC. The cost-benefit decision needs to consider the applicant interface, recruiter interface and perhaps even an
HRIS interface, which all compete for functionality. Realizing balance between each interface is critical to the
overall return on investment in talent acquisition and the company’s employment brand. So how can balance be
realized without significantly impacting the budget, the value of a talent community, recruiter productivity or system
productivity? Identifying specific functionality needs associated with the objective for each interface and then
committing to delivering on your employment brand promise directs balance. Someone recently said to me that he
felt he had been successful in the business ventures his company pursued not because he was brilliant – which I
think he probably is – but because he was disciplined. If a company is talent-driven, meaning that the company
relies on attracting and hiring the best-fit talent to achieve a competitive sustainable advantage, then delivering on a
brand promise takes considerable discipline.
Robert Burgelman, author of Strategy as Destiny, defines strategy as “the consequential impact from consciously
taking action or the failure to take action”. There is a strategy in place that is being communicated to job seekers
regardless of any direct action taken. The question then becomes, how much influence and control do you want to
have in strategically positioning and communicating an employment brand? Infusing discipline into the
development of an online employment strategy and making decisions through the customers’ eyes will perpetuate
the employment brand.
How do you balance an online employment strategy so it is developed and seamlessly delivered “through the eyes of
the customer”? Taking a disciplined approach is just the first step. First consider the following:
1. Define a “candidate as customer” philosophy. Defining a “candidate as customer” philosophy allows for
a great deal of clarity in decision-making. And, by taking a balanced approach from the beginning HR can
anticipate any negative candidate experiences throughout the online application process.
2. Communicate your objectives to your IT department. The objectives of IT are not always aligned with
HR. The IT department may often lack the expertise to understand what a good applicant experience looks
and feels like? Yes, applicant traffic today is often at an overwhelming level. And, processing volume to
identify “best fit” candidates can certainly be daunting. However, the applicant interface does not need to
be compromised to realize functionality that drives recruiter productivity.
3. Develop a long-term strategy with benchmark goals and critical touch points. Regardless of where a
company may be in positioning their employment brand online along the continuum of moving from their
current state to a desired state, attracting and hiring “best-fit” talent for the organization is a long-term
investment. An investment that must be supported at critical touch points by the hiring management
solution in place. The transition of adapting to the medium takes time and the change management
component is enormous. Execution of the strategy is not over when the system implementation is
4. Establish a good method for communicating goals internally. HR needs to have a seat at the table, stay
on the agenda and position the value of balancing each interface competing for functionality. This is
important to deliver a consistent experience to the applicant and cannot be underestimated.
The next step involves defining what to look for, and may serve as a guideline, when considering the best-fit
Hiring Management System (ATS if you'd prefer) vendor for a company.
· Is the Vendor a fit with your company’s brand, philosophy and expectations?
· Is the Vendor client-centric and do they understand your needs and objectives or are they driven to
see how to fit your needs into their objectives?
· Have objectives been clearly defined and can they be articulated to identify any non-negotiables to
achieve balance through a disciplined, committed approach to an applicant-centric solution.
· Can the solution consistently deliver a positive experience to the applicant?
· Does the application process follow a logical process, with minimum steps and redundancy?
· Have you taken the Solution for a test drive? How does it feel? If you were an applicant would
the process have been a positive enough experience to:
> Allow you, as the applicant, to feel in control of the process?
> Respect your privacy
· Can you apply for a position or profile and provide only minimum information?
· Are you asked to provide sensitive information such as a social security number? If so, is the data being requested on a
> Sustain or ideally even add value to the employer’s brand?
> Encourage you to periodically return to the company’s web site and consider future opportunities?
> Be open to receiving future correspondences from the employer as opportunities become available?
These are just a few things that can lead to a disciplined approach. Staying on the right path can deliver added value
to an employment brand and not allow an HMS implementation to have a negative impact.