applicant tracking tool

If you’ve worked in recruiting for a while, you might remember the days of keeping your applicants’ information in an all-powerful notebook. You might also remember when everyone upgraded their notebooks to Excel spreadsheets. 
In 2021, there’s no excuse not to have an organized applicant tracking system that meets all of your recruiting needs. Why? Because there are dozens to choose from — all of which have varying features that suit different industries at different stages of growth. 
According to recent LinkedIn research, one of the biggest pain points facing recruiters is a lack of time to complete an ever-growing list of tasks each day. But you shouldn’t have to work through all of them on your own — you can lighten the load with the proper applicant tracking tool. 
In this post, we’re sharing six helpful tips that will guide you in choosing the best applicant tracking tool for your business needs. 

1. Make sure it’s scalable 

When many companies are starting out, they’re often shortsighted about the potential for increased staffing needs. A small startup may be focused on finding essential key hires on a tight budget, leading their HR department to cut corners on resources. This blind spot will inevitably come back to haunt you when your business has become a global corporation with hundreds of open positions in multiple states or countries. 
Sure, this won’t happen overnight, but if you choose a tool that has the potential to grow with you, you’ll set yourself up for a smoother transition through the changes your company experiences. Rather than choosing a tool strictly designed for small businesses, consider the tool that offers tiered pricing plans for when your recruiting team grows and you inevitably need more accounts and more features.

2. Don’t downplay ease of use

On the topic of growth, it’s important to think about who will be using your applicant tracking tool on a daily basis. Many HR departments employ temp recruiters and coordinators as they go through periods of growth. Will the applicant tracking tool you’re considering be intuitive enough for short-term employees to learn? Or will a coordinator on a three-month contract spend their first few weeks agonizing over dropdowns and checkboxes they can’t quite get right?
Many applicant tracking tools offer training videos or 24-7 customer service lines that can assist with any growing pains. When choosing your software, check out what resources are available to new users and do some research on the learning curve. After all, the point of using an applicant tracking tool is to make less work for your recruiting staff. Don’t get caught up in a dazzling interface that might actually be more complicated than it’s worth.

3. Make sure you can customize automations 

One of the key ways your company can stand out to passive candidates is through a strong brand. You work hard to create a distinct company culture, and it’s important to make sure this shines through the slew of emails and LinkedIn messages you send each day. Many applicant tracking tools are highly automated, but this is only an advantage if you don’t lose your flavor. 
Highly desirable candidates receive dozens of cold-call messages a week, and the goal is to get them to actually read your note. Generic subject lines and pre-written blurbs just aren’t going to cut it with most candidates — you’ll need to spice it up. A tracking tool that allows for customization in all stages of the hiring process will get candidates in the door and keep them engaged until they sign their contracts.

4. Don’t focus on features for the hiring process only 

So you’ve finally made an offer on that role that was your own personal Everest — and the candidate signed! Is this where they officially drop out of your tracking tool’s pipeline? Ideally, no. 
Applicant tracking tools aren’t cheap, and the bigger your company gets, the more expensive your plan might become. It makes good budgeting sense to be sure you can put that money to work even after you bring a new hire on board. 
The most useful applicant tracking tools can double as an HR management system. For example, some cloud-based tools can automatically collect and organize your applicants’ data in a simple table view. Your team can manage everything in one place — from initial skill evaluations to onboarding paperwork. Once your new hires officially join the team, you can use the same workspace to schedule performance evaluations, manage daily tasks, grant time-off requests, and monitor employee productivity.

5. Ensure it can integrate with remote working tools 

If we’ve learned anything from the tumultuous year of 2020, it’s that our businesses need to be set up for remote work — and not just temporarily.  It’s becoming clear that our workplaces will be virtual for longer than anticipated — and for some companies, it could be forever. In an April 2020 survey, 74 percent of companies said they had a plan to shift some of their employees to permanent remote work. An applicant tracking tool that doesn’t integrate with the most common remote work resources puts your company at a disadvantage right off the bat. 
If you’re not able to automatically add Zoom meetings to your remote interview panels, this will consistently be a pain point moving forward. It might seem like a minor inconvenience, but you’ll encounter it every day for months until we’re able to safely interview candidates in person again. Even when that day comes, chances are some employees may still work from home or from geographically distant locations. Make sure your applicant tracking tool can keep the hiring process as seamless as possible from multiple locations.

6. Take a test drive before committing

The bottom line when choosing an applicant tracking tool is to make sure you’re choosing the right tool for your company’s needs. This might sound obvious, but sometimes reading through all the feature descriptions and positive reviews of a tool can get you so excited you forget to focus on the functionality you need. What worked great for one recruiting team might be a bad fit for another. 
Here’s an example: Perhaps you’re considering a tool that has features X, Y, and Z, but you only really use X daily and Y rarely; Z is just a cool feature you’ll probably never implement. Even if the tool is within your budget, these extra features might overcomplicate things. 
It’s never a bad idea to try out the software before committing, and if the company doesn’t offer a free trial on its website, try asking a sales representative. That way, you can let the main stakeholders at your company play around in the platform before you commit. If after two weeks you feel satisfied with the features and comfortable with the workflow, you’re all set to hire the perfect candidates with just the right tool for the job.

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