High Volume Hiring
5 min read
June 16, 2023

A buyer's guide for a frontline ATS: What features to look for in 2023.

After 25+ years of implementing HR software in various industries, Jennifer Giusti shares her guide to purchasing a frontline applicant tracking system — here are the features to look for and what to avoid.

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The applicant tracking system (ATS) has long been the bane of recruiters and hiring managers alike. 

Outdated technology, held back by rigid structures and limited functionalities. Companies are creating groundbreaking innovation for their customers but are stuck in the past when it comes to hiring. This is particularly true for frontline hiring, where the location manager typically IS the recruiter: instead of getting a hiring machine that is designed to be simple and carry the understaffed, they are saddled with heavy, complex technology.

But sometimes all it takes to start a business-changing TA transformation is just one recruiter saying, “there has to be a better way!?”

Well, yes there is. Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes plenty of times.

I've been working with HR Technology for over 25 years implementing systems in various industries like healthcare, security and aerospace, and food and beverage. 

Now I am helping create the future here at Paradox.

Here are my pointers for anyone going through the scary (but rewarding) journey of implementing a cutting-edge frontline ATS.

1. Ditch the emails and landlines.

Mobile-first solutions are the only technology built for the modern candidate (and recruiter). I remember the days where our teams would return hundreds of calls just to update candidates on the status of their application. The amount of time wasted and energy depleted by the TA team was debilitating, and we couldn’t guarantee a consistent positive candidate experience. 

When the talent acquisition team at my last company heard about conversational software, one of the first questions I received was, “do they have texting?!”. In its simplest form, yes it’s texting. But when broken down into all of the high-touch experiences it's actually automated candidate screening, interview scheduling, re-scheduling, candidate Q&A, and everything in between — all through a simple text conversation. 

Not only will you be saving your talent acquisition teams the dreaded task of calling every candidate, conversational software will allow you to provide the best possible candidate experience. Which, as a buyer of HR tech, should immediately get you excited about what technology can do for your organization.

2. Human-first experience.

Take a look at your career site. Is it inviting? Does it properly portray the culture and values of your organization? Most likely not. Now compare it to the customer's experience in your store or on your website — I’m sure there's a huge difference. 

Most of the career sites I have seen in the past make candidates login to apply with a user ID and password, have jobs buried deep throughout the site, and send cold auto-generated emails to the candidates. The flatness of traditional career sites reduces candidate conversion and hurts your chances of attracting the top qualified candidates from the beginning. 

As a buyer, one of the most intriguing things about conversational software was realizing how candidate rejections didn’t necessarily have to end those relationships. Especially if you work in the Food and Beverage or Hospitality industry, there's such a large overlap between your candidates and customers and you  would never want a customer to experience amazing service as a customer and then see how awkward and clunky the hiring process is. This would become the long lasting perception of your brand — and not a good one. 

Rejection doesn’t have to feel bad. With an engaging career site, high-touch experience, and mobile-first communications, you'll make sure the candidate leaves off with the best possible feelings about your business — and maybe they’ll even come back for dinner.

3. Vendors don’t always mean partners.

Implementations have never been simple, for a lot of good reasons. Whether you are introducing a new technology to a multi-brand organization, global TA team working in different languages, or an extremely secure organization, there are going to be hiccups. But luckily when your vendors are also trusted partners in your hiring transformation, the implementation isn’t as scary. It’s honestly exciting. 

What do I mean by partners?

While vendors play a transactional role in offering you a service, partners help shape the solution from day 1 all the way through to business success. At Paradox, we like to call it, “The Art of the Possible”. As a buyer this should be a necessity when choosing a transformational technology, as the partner would be working deeply with your team to create the best solution possible. In my experience, that meant designing a solution that was configurable for multiple brands and thousands of locations — sometimes that meant allowing uniqueness and other times, it meant ensuring consistency.

Typically the process is driven by the standard way of implementing with little thought given to the unique needs of the client. For Paradox, working through the solution meant listening to multiple stakeholders and perspectives within the organization but also providing best practices to consider. I had never seen this type of collaboration possible with a traditional client/vendor relationship.

4. Compliance and data security.

Data security and privacy looks different at each organization but all Talent Acquisition teams should be thinking about how they are managing personal information of candidates and employees. When I have looked for new technology it was always one of my initial requirements to find an organization that had values of security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy — and even better the certifications to validate that security. 

In a previous role, the organization required a security audit as the first step in the RFP process. Maybe your organization doesn't emphasize this early in the process but it's a great way to reduce the number of technologies you are considering. If the technology isn't secure, why waste your time? 

5. Hiring insights and ROI.

What’s your average time to hire? What’s your candidate flow by location or position? Or how many candidates are screened after work hours?

If you’re not tracking these or similar metrics, how are you making informed decisions on when you need to make a change? If you want to measure success, it requires understanding trends in your data, finding actionable items to share with key stakeholders and developing action plans when you discover opportunities.

It doesn’t matter where you are at in the stages of developing these insights, when looking for a technology partner make sure that they make consistent use of hiring metrics and analytics. It will show you which vendors can prove ROI, back up their value propositions, and which may fall flat after implementation. At Paradox we like to focus on a wide range of hiring metrics like candidate conversion, time to hire, and of course cost savings. And when you choose to implement conversational software you will open a world of visibility for your TA team to see every area that they can improve and exactly how to do so.

In a previous role, there were lots of decisions being made on 'gut feelings' instead of data. Using data that was readily available, we were able to create dashboards and other reporting which allowed multiple teams across the organization a view into reality. They no longer had to make decisions based on assumptions, and opened up avenues for TA to impact the business as a whole.

“HR finally got it right!”

The moans and groans of clicking through non-integrated technologies are long gone. I've seen first hand what implementing a conversational ATS will do for a team, and an organization. The weight lifted off talent acquisition teams, relief knowing candidates are taken care of, and the limitless access to hiring metrics can transform any TA process.

It’s easy to be complacent with your current technology. Changing HR systems is hard, especially when what you have is "working."  But you don’t progress by being complacent - you have to move outside your comfort zone and explore the possibilities.  When you make the investment in technology to improve the experience for your teams and candidates, the rewards far outweigh the journey through implementation.  And at the end, you might also hear that you finally “got it right!”

Written by
Jennifer Giusti
Sr. Director, Product
Jennifer Giusti
Written by

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