Everything You Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Systems and Why They Shouldn’t Be Used

Searching for a new hire can be a stressful time for any hiring manager. The short-staffed department is always pressuring us to find someone quickly, but coordinating the application process can be frustrating.

Searching for a new hire can be a stressful time for any hiring manager. The short-staffed department is always pressuring us to find someone quickly while coordinating the application process can be frustrating.

Given the deluge of applications that inevitably come in via LinkedIn and other websites, you may be tempted to use an applicant tracking system to simplify the process. However, try to avoid this if you can! Here are eight reasons why using an applicant tracking system may not be the best idea.

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1. You Will Be Using the Same Process as Your Competition

This reason is probably the most obvious, but it’s also the best. Enjoy getting into competition with other companies for a new hire? Well, we almost certainly will if everyone is using the same applicant tracking system and the same prospect appears on everyone’s radar. You may find yourself bidding against multiple companies in order to snatch that new hire, simply because the applicant tracking system likes his resume. That alone is a good reason to avoid using an applicant tracking system.

2. Applicant Tracking Systems Ignore Experience and Stability

An applicant tracking system may be useful when trying to find people who are proficient with a particular software program. However, it won’t help too much when determining experience. A job prospect may have twenty years of experience in assisting customers, but if the prospect doesn’t have the resume keyword that the system is looking for, the entire resume will be discarded.

This tends to hurt older, more stable job hunters and puts the spotlight on young job seekers with a lot of keywords used in their resumes. Unfortunately, the results can be a “turnstile” office, in which people get hired, work at a company for a little while, and then leave. For a hiring manager, this outcome is never desirable.

3. It’s Too Easy to Fool an Applicant Tracking System

Even if applicant tracking systems worked well, unfortunately, job seekers are catching on. Many of them now are deliberately loading their resumes with the types of words that they know these searchers are looking for. Whether these resumes are factual or not is inconsequential to them. These job seekers are trying to game the system, and applicant tracking systems are a weak link of that system. Increasingly, applicant tracking systems are simply being bypassed by savvy job seekers.

4. The Applicant Tracking System Is Not Flexible Enough

For certain types of skills, applicant tracking systems are adequate. Listing a particular computer language or software program will usually be possible with these systems. However, what about softer skills? For example, suppose I need a technical copywriter with a background in storytelling? Do I use “writing” as the keyword, or do I use “storytelling”? Perhaps I need “technical writing” as my keywords. However, suppose the ideal candidate uses “technical writer” on their resume and the tracking system ignores it because the keywords don’t match. There are probably fifteen possible keywords for this position alone.

Also, many positions require the knowledge of basic software packages that aren’t even listed on resumes anymore. Setting an applicant tracking system to look for “Microsoft Word” is futile. Most applicants won’t list that they know Word, because every job seeker is assumed to know Word. Trying to run a keyword search with “Microsoft Word” will only give confusing results.

5. The File Formats Can Be Limiting

For a while, advice given to job seekers was to submit all resumes in .docx format so that applicant tracking systems could check them. This advice has changed recently, but applicants who submit resumes in .pdf and other formats could still see themselves being disadvantaged in the job hunt due to applicant tracking systems.

Completely dismissing all resumes not submitted in Word format is arbitrary and limiting. While some applicant tracking systems may be able to read other file formats, not considering .pdf or .odt resumes is unfair and could be hurtful to the company’s goal of hiring the best employee. Many job applicants are being dismissed simply due to the software program they use to type up their resumes.

Also, consider the applicant who drops off a typewritten resume. This applicant is most likely more ambitious and motivated than the applicant who simply clicks a button to provide a resume, but an applicant tracking system will never see it. So, the applicant is at a disadvantage.

6. Extra-Curricular Activities and Interests Are Also Ignored

Using an applicant tracking system makes anything not covered by the search useless. This includes any relevant activities and interests.

Need someone to adjudicate meetings as well as code? A prospective employee’s service on the student judiciary may be overlooked by an applicant tracking system.

Need someone to make presentations? A resume listing five years of public speaking experience may be completely ignored by an applicant tracking system.

7. Applicants May Not Be Able to Submit Resumes for Two Open Positions

Many job tracking programs actually will not allow an applicant to apply for two open positions at the same company. Instead, it will discard one of the resumes submitted as a duplicate. This can have a negative effect on extremely qualified applicants and should be taken into consideration by any hiring manager.

Just this negative feature alone should be a reason why many companies decide to avoid using employment trackers and do the hard work themselves instead of attempting to automate.

8. Employment Trackers Eliminate the Feel of the Job Market

Hiring managers should be familiar with resume and applicant trends. If managers decide to automate their jobs with employment trackers, they lose out on valuable sources of information as to how the job market is changing. Trends in resumes will be unseen and shifts in hard and soft skills will be unnoticed. This will create a lag in adaptability to the market, and the hiring manager’s company may be caught flat-footed if a change happens quickly.

Avoid Employment Trackers!

While trying to find the perfect candidate for employment may be daunting, the savvy hiring manager should avoid using an employment tracker. Instead, with a little sifting and some hard work, a hiring manager can conduct a job candidate hunt that is both successful and informative.

If you’re a hiring manager looking to connect with qualified applicants, contact us at Mapertunity! We’re here to help.

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Lonnie Ayers

Lonnie Ayers

On a mission to help every job seeker find a job. Co-inventor of mapertunity, the most advanced graphical job search tool in existence. A 21st century tool for jobs and businesses.

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