How to Convert Your ATS into a Recruiting Machine

September 20, 2017

Recruiters need to become advocates for improving quality of hire. Unfortunately your ATS vendor is holding you back.

Advocacy starts by recognizing that there are two talent markets. One targets candidates who are willing to take lateral transfers and endure the demeaning nature of the traditional hiring process. This is the job market. It’s about volume, speed, avoiding mistakes, and efficiency. But it comes with a cost: It puts a lid on quality of hire. The ATS vendors have built their systems to efficiently process all the data management requirements of this job market.

The other market targets strong people who are interested in career moves. This is the career market and it’s the key to improving quality of hire. The process used to hire people in this market – and this is a bigger and more talented group – is much slower, more intense and more competitive. Some ATS vendors have begun addressing these differences, but I believe recruiters need to push them to accelerate their efforts. With this in mind, here are some ATS product design ideas that actually will improve quality of hire. (Contact me if you’re interested in learning which ATS vendors are moving in this direction.)

1. Implement a “Scarcity of Talent” strategy.

This strategy involves attracting people in rather than weeding them out. This requires that the UX (User Experience) for the career path option is based on how the best people change jobs. One big difference: Most people will be open to discuss the potential of a job switch if it represents a career move, but this is a much slower give-and-take process.

2. Don’t force candidates to apply.

Instead, offer people two options: one for careers and one for jobs. Eliminate the apply button for the career path option. While the career path is slower and requires a persistent recruiter and a fully-engaged hiring manager, time to fill and cost per hire is the same since you’ll be spending more time with fewer people.

3. Define a career move as a 30% non-monetary increase.

Be overt about this. As you begin your discussions with those in the career market, tell them that a career move is the sum of a bigger job, faster growth, more satisfying work and more important work. Some candidates will balk at this, wanting to know the compensation right away. Tell them it won’t matter if the job isn’t a career move.

4. Redefine the job description.

The 30% non-monetary increase is determined by comparing what you need done and where the job could lead, to what the candidate is now doing and where he or she is going. That’s why you need to develop a performance-based job description that defines the core challenges in the job and the upside potential to make the comparison. This step is the tipping point for opening the door to more top tier prospects. 

5. Consider the job posting marketing collateral.

Do not publish your internal skills, experience and competency-laden job descriptions for either market. There is no law requiring you to do this! Published job postings need to describe compelling customized career moves without the generic boilerplate. You’ll push your referred and direct sourced prospects to this posting to get them to instantly see the career opportunity inherent in your opening.

6. Let candidates disqualify themselves.

Your new compelling postings will attract a lot of people who are unqualified, but you can add a simple pre-step into your process to eliminate these people. As part of this, require interested prospects to submit a half-page write-up of a major accomplishment most related to the big challenge in the job instead of a submitting a resume.

7. Shift to a “small batch, high touch” process.

Done properly, you only need 10-15 direct sourced candidates and 3-5 referred prospects to hire one great person. The key is to cherry pick the people you target using “Clever” Boolean to pre-select people who would naturally see your opening as a career move. For example, an award-winning marketing manager at a big company would be open to discuss faster career growth at a mid-size company.

8. Metrics really matter.

Since you’re dealing with just a few people, you need to track why people aren’t responding to your messages and why they opt out. This instant feedback is critical for both process control and process improvement. As you’ll discover, most people opt out before fully understanding the 30% career move opportunity, or never engage in a conversation because it wasn’t clearly spelled out in your messaging.

9. Measure Quality of Hire pre-hire.

This Talent Scorecard measures quality of hire pre-hire using my two-question Performance-based Interview. The key is to evaluate the candidate’s major accomplishments most related to the performance objectives of the job. This is comparable to a pre-hire performance review. You need to measure quality of hire for every hire to ensure your process is actually improving quality of hire. If not, start over again with step one above.

If you look closely, you’ll discover that this “career” process is comparable to the one that’s historically been used to find and promote people internally or rehire people you’ve worked with in the past. It’s not a big leap in logic to suggest that you should find and hire people you don’t know the same way. What’s surprising is that the ATS vendors built a process to efficiently hire strangers at scale. It’s time recruiters and hiring managers stand up and fight for a better point of view: Hire for quality, not for cost or efficiency.  

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