I have made a decision. I think I am going to write a book on the safest way to skydive. Now, I've never been skydiving, nor is it likely that I ever will as I am afraid of heights. But really, how hard can it be? Stick a parachute in a backpack - hitch a ride on a plane - open the door - jump - scream - then pull a cord and let the parachute do the rest. Easy, right? I should be able to write a best selling instructional guide with no problem.
Or instead I could become a survival expert and I could start taking people on adventurous trips around the world where we experience extreme situations! Yeah, that would be awesome! Granted, I have no medical training. I have no background in extreme sports or survival situations. However, I have watched Man vs Wild, Naked and Alive, and Survivor. I'm sure I've picked up enough knowledge from that to do okay.
As absurd as it sounds for me to undertake either of those scenarios based on my background and lack of experience, and even more absurd that people would trust me in either of those endeavors, I have found that there are some in business who have made equally absurd assumptions and created products to market to an industry they know nothing about. While I'm sure there's a list of things we could name here, my culprit today is Applicant Tracking Systems.
In a discussion yesterday with a long time friend, former manager of mine, and mentor who has taught me many things regarding the recruiting industry, our conversation turned nerdy quickly and we started talking Applicant Tracking Systems. We both feel the same pains from the ones on the market and agree that there are a few common sense things that could be done to them to dramatically improve them. If you want to see my list of those things, you can read a previous post of mine here. But our discussion took a bit of a twist and focused on WHY so many of these ATS companies miss so many obvious things that would benefit recruiters. The answer: Most often, in our experience, the people who start these ATS companies are software or technology people, not recruiters. Their perspective is unique to the world that they live in and requires assumptions to be made regarding what a recruiter would need or want.
User interfaces, bells, and whistles are not what makes an effective ATS. It's knowing various recruiting models that are out there and being able to customize your tool on the fly to fit any of them. It's counting clicks to see how many steps it takes to get from point A to point B, because that may not seem like a big deal in your demo sessions led by other non-recruiters, but for those of us who have to click those buttons thousands of times a week and wait for the page to load - it matters. Speed matters! It's knowing the unique needs of a corporate recruiter vs an agency recruiter. What about the metrics we need? What about including a CRM and accounting suite to it so everything can be done seamlessly within a single tool?
Obviously, I have made a sweeping claim here. I'm sure that not every ATS company has people running it with no recruiting experience. I'm sure most have someone on their team that has done recruiting at some level for some period of time. Product Development teams should have a well-seasoned person with a stellar track record of establishing strategies and processes for teams of recruiters as a critical piece of their teams. This person should have experience using a variety of recruitment tools and technologies in order to know what the competition has and how it can be improved. And you CEOs of these ATS companies - this person should be your most trusted advisor and best friend, not the CFO!
Once your Product Development team has that person in place, the next thing would be for you to actually go find sales people who know what in the world recruiting is and why our questions matter. I would be a very wealthy man if I had a dollar for every time a sales person said to me during an ATS demo, "I don't know but I can find that out for you."
I guess I have two points for this post:
1) If you don't have a background in recruiting, please quit trying to create tools for us that do.
2) If you ignore #1, then please go find extremely qualified people with a recruiting background to talk to us and build the products for us.