Is the ATS Dead?

Since it first came onto the scene 30 years ago, the applicant tracking system (ATS) has gone through dozens of iterations. Many of these were the result of technological advances, but few have directly responded to changes in the talent landscape.

With tectonic shifts now occurring, iterating on the ATS might not be enough. Does this mean the ATS is dead? Or does the situation call for the next evolution of the ATS?

Read on to find out.

Relying on applicants doesn’t work anymore

To state the obvious, we’re in the middle of a huge talent shortage right now. Unemployment is at a 50-year-low, and as a result, competition for top talent is fierce. That’s great for the economy and for employees, but it spells trouble for the recruiter.

Making matters worse for them, top talent is staying put. Research from LinkedIn shows that 70% of the global workforce is not looking to make a change, and therefore are not applying.

However, that same LinkedIn research also shows that 87% of the workforce is still open, in theory, but only if you come to them first.

Candidates aren’t applying, but they’re keeping an open mind. Instead of waiting for them to apply, you have to go to them. You have to proactively source to turn passive candidates into active ones.

Proactive, outbound recruiting is well beyond the capabilities of an applicant tracking system, which is only built to handle inbound applicants.

The workforce has changed, but the traditional ATS hasn’t kept up

Millennials and Gen Z now comprise 59% of the workforce. The recruiting strategies that have worked on previous generations are quickly becoming outmoded. For instance, previously relying on email was sufficient. Now, candidates expect to be able to communicate with video, text, and on social media. 

This new generation of talent is far more digitally sophisticated. They perform in-depth research on your company across numerous channels online, including Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Crunchbase, and crowdsourcing from their own networks. Companies have to be hyper-conscious of their talent brand and the way they communicate with candidates.

Applicant tracking systems haven’t kept pace with these trends. Recruiters on a traditional ATS aren’t nimble or sophisticated enough to build and maintain relationships with these newer candidates. Other hiring software has arisen in the meantime that is better catered to this next generation of talent. 

What’s the next evolution of the ATS?

Given all of this, the next evolution of the ATS shouldn’t rely on applicants and it should be built to manage candidate relationships throughout the talent lifecycle.

Under this paradigm, instead of waiting for applicants to come to you, you have to go outbound and source them. As such, the next evolution of the ATS needs to have built-in functionality for creating and automating outbound campaigns. The system should likewise be able to analyze these campaigns, allowing you to constantly innovate and optimize.

Getting candidates into your system is just the first step, though. Candidates want to feel wanted. They want to feel like people, not resumes. And the way to do that is by building and nurturing genuine relationships. 

The traditional ATS has no means of achieving that, but newer systems can give you a more holistic understanding of the candidate, thus paving the way for better and more consistent interactions. To build relationships at scale, your solution should also be able to deploy automated nurture campaigns with a series of personalized touch points.

Once you’ve sourced passive candidates and nurtured relationships with them, you’ll have a talent database of high quality candidates. Of course, not all of them will get hired. In an ATS, the candidates who don’t get hired are often lost for good.

The next evolution of the ATS has to be able to track these “silver medalists.” That way, once you start hiring for a new role, you can go back into your database and find those candidates. And since you’ve already done the work of building those relationships, the recruiting process becomes that much quicker.

Given all of this, the next evolution of the ATS should include:

  • Intuitive sourcing tools
  • Automated nurture campaigns
  • A/B testing for outbound campaigns
  • Full talent lifecycle management
  • Talent database for rediscovery

To learn more about new innovations in hiring software, join our February Demo Day where my colleague Darin Winter and I will be discussing how to automate screening, scheduling, and more. Hope to see you there!