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    Entries in ATS (8)


    The Applicant Tracking Number

    Last week I had a post about the limited differential and competitive advantage that most companies can realize from the implementation of commercial off the shelf software solutions that are readily available (and often implemented) by their rivals as well. The premise was (and still is) that if and when all the largest firms in an industry segment implement the same ERP or Supply Chain or Applicant Tracking System, then it is generally likely that none of them will have executed so much better than their competitors that they gain a meaningful advantage.  What would an application history look like?

    The point of the piece was that real and lasting advantage and long-term value comes from actually using technology to create something entirely new and not easily reproducible by competitors or by the software companies themselves, that would just try and sell this innovation to all the firms in the space. The example I used to try and make this point was the FedEx shipment tracking number - the concept, the associated software and hardware, and the popularization as both an internally and externally valuable data point that was pioneered by the shipping firm over the last few decades. With the package tracking number suddenly the shipping business was transformed - every concerned stakeholder could know the current status and history of every package at all times. Amazing.

    Why revisit last week's post? 

    Because in the comments the Recruiting Animal made a tremendous observation, (repeated below)

    Steve, are you saying that big companies should give applicants a tracking number for their resumes? Sounds like a great idea.

    I actually wasn't thinking about a tracking number for applicants, similar to the FedEx shipment tracking number, but it is an obviously great idea from Animal. Sure, most ATS at this point provide a way for applicants to log in and get a 'status' about the state of their application, and some even provide email notifications about status changes, but these are almost never as detailed and informative as they could be. They will let an applicant now their application is 'received' or they are in 'first interview' status or if it is 'no longer being considered', but those statuses or stages can be pretty broad and vague.

    But what actually happens to an application is much more rich, detailed, and nuanced. Applicants are screened, they are reviewed by potentially a dozen people, and for varying amounts of time. Their details are forwarded, they are classified or tagged. Then if they interview, notes are taken about them and shared. References may be called and a background check might be done. These processes will sometimes kick off more notes, tags, and internal conversations. An offer could be extended, a counter offer made, and additional data points created.  You get the idea, in an active and thorough process lots more data is created than what is shared (and not even always shared), with applicants.

    But if as Recruiting Animal suggests, a job application had a tracking number similar to the FedEx shipment number, and the organization was brave enough to make the applicant tracking data visible and available to applicants, then questions, doubt, and the basics of candidate feedback would be solved. Just like you know where your books from Amazon are at any point in the process, and who participated in the process, and how long it took for each step, an applicant tracking number could let the applicant know when their resume was opened and reviewed and forwarded. The applicant would now truly know how long from the time of resume submission to when their credentials were even assessed, and how long after that the first critical 'Yes/No' decision was taken by the recruiter.

    Remember the famous 'recruiters look at a resume for 6 seconds' story? Well with an applicant tracking number potentially we'd really know how true that was.

    They would know just about everything they would want to about the process. And all it would take would be a clever application of a new kind of tracking number technology - meant for candidates and not just stuff bought online.

    What do you think? Does anyone actually do something like this today?

    Or is it too transparent for most organizations to consider?


    Yes! Automation! Now let's hope the volume picks up

    This weekend while perusing the Human Resources news and headlines, (in the almost unusable 'new and improved' Google Reader), I came across this story from the Wisconsin State Journal:What's the URL again?


    City's Job Application Process Goes Online.

    The 'city' in the headline is Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. Madison has a population of about 230K, and employs about 3,000 or so people in a number of professional, technical, service, and administrative positions. And the linked story describes Madison's transition to a new system for posting available jobs and for accepting job applications.


    While in late 2011, a city and employer of that stature and size to finally move to an automated online job application process might paint them as being a little late to the HR and Recruiting technology party, it still is a move that should be recognized and congratulated. Progress is progress, and it stands to reason that whatever the new technologies being implemented would have to be an improvement over what was likely a combination of paper, email, and disconnected databases that would have been used to keep track of job openings and applications.
    So being the curious guy that I am, and interested in checking out the new applicant tracking system and process, I hit up the City of Madison's Human Resources and Employment page here. If you visit the page you will see a normal, if uninspiring career information page, with links to the different areas of employment, pages to get additional information, and a front and center 'Welcome' message that is kind of too long, (about 300 words), and does not really do anything to 'sell' the city as an employer.
    But to check out the newly designed and launched online application system, I actually had to perform a search for open jobs, to see the search functions, how the open jobs present, how the registration and application process would work - things the average HR Tech geek finds fascinating. So I clicked the link titled 'Job Openings' to do what I figured was a 'blind search', one with no filters or screens entered so as to return all the open jobs at the City.


    The new system immediately returned the list of open jobs. All one of them, an opening for a 'Streets Superintendent' with a pay range from $84,616 - $114,231 - not a bad gig at all. But that was the only job listed on the site. Pretty disappointing even for me, who only wanted to check out the new system and process, imagine what a real Madison, Wisconsin job seeker must have thought after reading all about the new online technology, and how it would be sure to streamline and improve the job application process. Streamline and automate? For one entire open job?

    I get that times are really hard, particularly for cash-strapped cities and towns. And eventually, hopefullly, the City of Madison will soon be able to resume more 'normal' hiring for a 3,000 employee organization. But after reading about the new system and process only to find that the shiny new process is essentially useless, (unless you are a potential new Streets Superintendent), you're definitely left a little disappointed and perhaps even angry.

    New systems for online job application and posting aren't free, and installing a new one, and then issuing press releases and statements indicating the same, at a time when there is almost no practical application for the system strikes me as a little unwise. Let's hope the new system was put in place at a downtime in hiring so that it will be ready and have all the bugs ironed out for when things turn around.

    Until then, Madison you better make sure each and every candidate for Streets Superintendent gets the A-treatment. 


    Candidates are Talking

    A day or two ago  noticed this news item from Inside Higher Education - Johns Hopkins Shares Too Much Information in Faculty Search.

    Essentially, someone involved in the hiring process for a Faculty position in early modern European History at the school sent a 'Thanks for Applying' type of e-mail to 120 candidates for the position, but inadvertently failed to use the email program's 'blind copy' feature thus exposing the names and email addresses of ALL 120 candidates to the entire applicant pool.

    Needless to say many of the applicants were a little ticked off that what they had felt was a breach of privacy, particularly for those who are not 'open' or 'public' about their job search. 

    To me, much more interesting than the initial story about the e-mail gaffe, was one of the sources mentioned in the Inside Higher Ed piece, a 'history jobs wiki' where candidates for various Faculty positions post (anonymously) about institutions, openings, and the status of the various searches.

    Real candidates, in competition with each other for the same position, posting informative status updates on the search, the communication (or lack thereof) from the institution, and offering opinion and commentary about all aspects of the process.

    It is quite frankly, cool as hell.

    Here are just some of the best comments from the candidate's wiki:

    For a position in European History at Ball State University:

    That is bizarre. So obviously none of the applications received (and subsequent requested dossiers) were deemed worthy by the SC. I'm not wasting anymore time...

    And this gem from a search for a 'collateral' Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University:

    I don't blame you - it was one of the most poorly written job ads I've seen and it took me a long time to puzzle it out. I still don't know what they meant by "collateral" professor, either.

    And one more from Queen's College for a Professor of French History.  Apparently a phony 'search' was conducted, but there was already a wired internal person for the spot.  Numerous applicants weigh in and express thier frustration with the time and effort spent to apply for a position they had no chance of getting.  This quote sums it up nicely:

    I'm consoling myself with the fact that this is evidence Queens would be a crappy place to work.

    This particular thread about the Queen's College position has at least 50 individual entries and comments from various applicants expressing various forms of displeasure and outrage.

    Scanning through this wiki site it is impossible not to notice a couple of important things.

    Candidates can and will congregate online

    I know the candidate pool for these jobs is kind of small, many of the candidates know each other, they attend the same events, etc; but the ability for candidates to use wikis, forums, or social networks to talk about their application experience is incredibly easy. 

    These sites will effect your brand

    Look again at the candidate remark about Queen's College.  The way this particular search was handled did do damage to the brand and potentially to the individuals in charge of the search.  One posting in the comment stream actually calls out the professor in charge of the search by name, with the express hope that this negative comment would appear in a Google search result for the person's name.

    Employers can take advantage

    Every so often on this candidate's wiki, a rep from one of the colleges chimes in to give a status update on the search, or to try and address questions or concerns that were raised by candidates.  These updates are almost always seen as helpful and are welcomed by the candidates.  In this job market, with so many candidates actively discussing your specific organization and position it only makes sense to actively monitor and engage there. 

    If you as an HR or Recruiting pro saw these kinds of open and frank discussions happening about you organization and hiring processes wouldn't you feel compelled to jump in to clarify, correct, expound, and yes at times even apologize?

    If you know of any other similar 'candidate community' sites like this one for History professors let me know.



    Zoho Recruit - Small Business Applicant Tracking

    Last month the online productivity applications vendor Zoho launched yet another new service meant to continue to build out its offerings for the small business market with the introduction of Zoho Recruit, a solution for Applicant Tracking and Resume Management.

    Zoho Recruit is targeted to small business as well as small third-pary agency recruiting firms that need a simple, inexpensive, and flexible solution for the management of job postings, applicants, and resumes.

    Standard and expected features like job posting creation, applicant management, interview scheduling, and ability to add individual notes to jobs and candidates are included. Additionally, resume parsing and import using the Resume Grabber product from eGrabber. Companies can also leverage Zoho's forms configuration capability to add/change/enhance forms and processes in the application to better align the solution with their specific requirements.

    The video below provides a quick overview of Zoho Recruit, additionally there are detailed screenshots and feature descriptions on the Zoho Recruit site.


    Zoho Recruit offers a Free Plan for an individual recruiter, and it's Standard Edition is priced at $12 per recruiter/month.  Meaning if you had 5 recruiters using Zoho, the license fee would be $60/month.  A separate license with Resume Grabber is needed to enable the automatic parsing and import of resumes from Outlook, Social Networks, Google Search, etc. into Zoho Recruit, and that cost is approximately $500 yearly.

    With the emergence in the last year or so of a number of simple and low-cost ATS solutions for small business (The Resumator, Choosy, Simplicant, etc.), there is almost no reason why even the smallest, least technically capable organizations and HR departments can't take advantage of at least some level of automation to better manage the recruiting process. 

    Zoho Recruit is definitely worth a look for small business with these needs, and in particular if the organization is interested in leveraging some of the other online productivity tools Zoho offers (CRM, Documents, Project Management, Wiki, etc.).

    Still accepting all your resumes via e-mail attachments and storing them locally, or on a shared network drive?  Maybe it is time to consider a better way.


    All candidates are equal, some just a little more equal

    We are in the (seemingly perpetual) process of trying to re-design our University career site to make it more user-friendly, more engaging, and to make it better articulate and communicate why we think our school is a great place to work.

    Very important goals, and I do think eventually I can convince the organization to move beyond Web 1.0 and embrace the modern world of technology and recruiting, (maybe).Flickr -Jenny Downing

    But one issue that keeps coming up is the notion of having separate application processes for Faculty jobs compared to Staff and Administration jobs.  It actually is fairly common still in higher education to have applicants for Staff jobs follow an online application process via whatever ATS the school uses, and have faculty applicants simply e-mail CVs and other documents directly to search committee chairs, bypassing the ATS if not entirely, at least initially.  As you would expect, anecdotal evidence from Faculty candidates clearly indicates they prefer this method of applying.

    The 'logic' behind this is that since in general applicants for faculty positions dislike the online application process, many feel it is 'beneath' them, most ATS (including ours) don't do a great job handling all the different files required for many faculty applications, and lastly and perhaps most importantly, the search committees (which are almost completely made up of current faculty) hate the ATS for reviewing applicants and documents. Let's see, the candidates just want to e-mail their information and the hiring managers hate using the ATS and want to keep the candidates happy. So, should we 'let' applicants for these positions simply revert to this 'old-school' method of applying?

    Personally, I am torn between designing a system and a process based on anecdotal evidence or perceptions of what our target candidates want, and a coherent and consistent design for our career site and application process that certainly benefits the 'back-office' as well and supports any possibility we have of building a 'talent community'. We can't capture centrally all the candidate information that is sitting in 50 different search committee chair's e-mail inboxes. We will not have a way to systematically reach out to this community if in fact, we make no attempts to aggregate and centralize this information residing in e-mail inboxes and paper files.

    So here is the question : Should we have 'different' application processes for different constituencies? Or should we design a system and process to the best of our ability and require that all applicants to comply?