Coronavirus (COVID-19), Recruiting, Technology

Hire Like You Sell: Why the ATS is the New CRM

When it comes to managing relationships, most businesses are already familiar with customer relationship management (CRM) software. In the dark days before the advent of CRM, customer management was a painstaking, manual process.


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Back then, sales teams were drowning in spreadsheets and bloated e-mail in-boxes. Customer contacts frequently got lost, sales leads went unnurtured, and countless hours were wasted simply trying to keep an inefficient system afloat.

Businesses welcomed CRMs with open arms because it meant that finally, there was a way to use technology to manage customer relationships efficiently and effectively while saving countless hours (and dollars) each year.

But there’s another kind of relationship worth managing: candidate relationships. What if businesses could hire like they sell?

Hiring teams face the same challenges as sales teams of the past. Hiring managers who use e-mail or spreadsheets to manage the hiring process are burning hours each week. This is precious time that could be spent with current team members and customers. More importantly, it’s harder for Human Resources leaders and everyone on their team to stick to a hiring process without a centralized system to manage it.

Enter the hiring version of the CRM: the applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS is software used to manage all applicants in one centralized system throughout the hiring process. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the major benefits of using an ATS to hire.

1. Save Time on Administrative Tasks

An ATS serves as a centralized hub that automatically collects and stores everything applicants send you, including résumés, cover letters, samples of work, and any other documents you request from them. Plus, once candidates are in the hiring workflow, an ATS will also track their assessment scores and interview notes (even from multiple interviewers) throughout the hiring process.

Lastly, not only will an ATS store candidates’ contact information, but it can also allow you to e-mail or text candidates directly and schedule interviews without leaving the software. The time you’ll save by not having to juggle multiple programs for file management, e-mail, and calendar scheduling is time you can spend running your business instead.

2. Increase Your Applicant Pipeline

Any successful marketing strategy places your products where your customers will actually see them, right? Similarly, when creating a successful recruiting strategy, you’ll want your job opportunities represented in the places that contain the most active jobseekers.

This means you’ll need your jobs posted to all the major job boards like Indeed, which has been known to deliver up to 72% of interviews. A good ATS will allow you to, with a single click, post your jobs to all of the major job boards, as well as your own company careers page, and any other custom sources you’ve defined.

ATS users often report seeing an immediate boost to their applicant pipelines. As an added bonus, an ATS can also track your applicant sources so you can see which are producing the most candidates—and the best candidates.

3. Prequalify Candidates Better

A customer who accounts for 0.01% of your annual sales is not worth the same as a customer who accounts for 10% of your annual sales. You probably spend more time nurturing a relationship with the 10% customer than the 0.01% customer. It’s harsh but true.

When managing relationships with candidates, you need to prioritize your relationships similarly.

It’s important to prequalify candidates when they apply and immediately notify hiring managers when someone with the most desired traits and criteria applies so he or she can get instant attention.

An ATS should have the ability to allow you to add prequalifying questions to the application to fast-track applicants who check your most essential boxes and gracefully reject those who do not.

For example, if it’s imperative that a candidate possess a certain certification for a role, you can ask a multiple-choice question like “Do you have [x] certification?” and set up the following responses:

  • Yes
  • No but willing to obtain
  • No and unable to obtain

Applicants who select “Yes” can be fast-tracked, which means the ATS can send an automatic response expressing interest in them on your behalf. Applicants who select “No but willing to obtain” can be added to the normal queue of candidates, while applicants who select “No and unwilling to obtain” can receive an automatic rejection message.

This way, you can focus your efforts on higher-quality candidates and remove the legwork of sifting through countless submissions from applicants who don’t check your most important boxes.

4. Make Quality Hires Consistently

You might be wondering how a piece of software can make you hire better. But a good ATS should also provide the framework for a good hiring process. To return to the sales analogy: This is the equivalent of creating a strategy to guide a customer through the buyer life-cycle journey.

When you establish processes, you can drive predictable results. In hiring, it starts with things like the prequalifying questions mentioned earlier and extends to assessments (math and verbal assessments, personality tests, functional assessments like coding challenges, etc.), phone screens, multiple rounds of interviews, background and reference checks, etc.

Using an ATS makes a structured hiring process easy to follow for two primary reasons:

  • It allows you to evaluate applicants using the same measurable, objective criteria. The use of an ATS discourages hiring on “gut feelings” by providing the rubric to evaluate all candidates fairly.
  • It sets up a standard workflow that everyone on your team can follow. You’ll never again hear that a hiring manager on your team “forgot” to do a reference check if the reference check step is built into the software’s hiring process workflow.

5. Accelerate Hiring Decisions

A low unemployment rate (3.6% as of January 2020) means it’s a candidate’s market, but given the turn over events surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, this number is expected to change. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop hiring altogether if you still have vacant positions to fill. Qualified candidates who are searching for new opportunities have a lot of options and the freedom to be picky. It’s more important than ever for hiring managers to hire with urgency and build relationships with top talent quickly before they move on to other offers.

If you’re drowning in spreadsheets, in-boxes, and folders of résumé PDFs, you aren’t putting your organization in a position to win these stellar candidates. An ATS can consolidate and quantify your candidate metrics right in front of you, allowing you to make a hiring decision not only quickly but also confidently.

Keep in mind that building relationships with top talent also means communicating with candidates consistently throughout the hiring process. You would never be unresponsive to an eager sales prospect, would you? Similarly, if you go radio silent for a week while you mull over your hiring decision, your candidates may look elsewhere. As mentioned before, a good ATS will have messaging tools built right into the software. There’s no excuse for “ghosting” candidates.

A good ATS helps you improve your results at every stage of the hiring process. It should help save you time, attract more qualified candidates, and make better hiring decisions.

One customer might be worth a finite amount of revenue in sales, but one great hire can be worth much more than that over the years. Find a better way to manage your relationships in the talent recruitment process, and start hiring like you sell.

Desiree Echevarria is the Content Marketing Manager at CareerPlug, a hiring software company on a mission to solve the #1 challenge of running a business: attracting and hiring the right people. When she’s not busy creating content to help people hire better, she can be found outdoors, hiking, biking, and perpetually swatting mosquitos.

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