Monday, March 14, 2005

Application tracking systems

A conversation with the resourcing director of a very large European company late last week about staffing systems, and why so many firms are unhappy with their choices.

We both agreed that fundamentally they are all 'much of a muchness' (we're talking about the enterprise level) however there are a few parts that few corporates consider when selecting a system, the prime being usability.

What I mean by usability is how easy it is for a candidate to use the system. This doesn't just mean how nice it looks when the sales guy demonstrates it but how easy it is for the average, system illiterate user to use it.

Another of my complaints is that all too often systems seem to be built around Internet Explorer and users of other browsers struggle. Try using a small laptop screen (yes, I hate frames, especially when you have to scroll back and forth in a frame to get to the controls)

A good way of looking at how users are using the system is to look at your statistics. Look at how many complete the process, where they fall out etc. Several systems require the applicant to fill in an online 'CV' form which can take 30 minutes. Is that 29 minutes longer than your competitor requires?

You also need to think about what are the most important things to know about an individual before bringing them in. Is that CV the only thing? Could you get more value from job specific questions? Does your system allow this? How about integration with external testing (again job specific)?

Overall, however, similarities are more common than differences. So why are so many firms considering changing?

Well, it's not the systems (in general) it's their users. How many firms contracted with a clear strategy of what they wanted from their information - that's right, information not the system. How is the information that they store delivering competitive advantage?

What they've bought is a big contact system. Sure it lets you process applicants but it really adds value when used as a relationship building tool. That's where you get the value, and guess which part is overlooked?

And who is using the systems in these ways? Well it is all-too-often the recruitment outsourcers who, on average, are a few laps ahead of the main corporates (because they often come from competitive recruitment company backgrounds with the mentality this develops?) Push a ATS provider and they will probably concede this.

So, before you've ditched your current system for another one consider this - will the change actually help, or would you be better off using what you have better?