Conversational AI
4 min read
July 27, 2023

The reason traditional ATSs have failed us, and how AI has turned them into a success story.

Everyone wants hiring and getting hired to be a simple, efficient process. But turns out it's not, and it hasn't been for a long time. Since the inception of The Conversational ATS, things are ready for a change.

Article Quick Links

The applicant tracking system (ATS) has been around for three decades. I remember sitting in an office, wearing a suit and tie, at my first recruiting job and staring at a computer monitor that was “green screen” where I spent most of my day inputting information about a candidate who had manually filled out a checklist of skills. I did this to “easily” find this individual when the perfect matching job was found.

It never worked.

Turns out my first ATS was little more than a digital Rolodex. Not much has changed in three decades.

The one massive issue we see with modern, traditional ATSs is they are still considered to be a black hole by both the recruiters who use them and the candidates who apply to them. The ATS as a conventional system of record is still basically a big database where candidates go to die (metaphorically speaking, of course).

The broken promises of traditional ATSs

The promise of the ATS was that it was going to be the hiring machine we all desperately needed. It was going to save us time. It was going to be interactive. It was going to be personalized. It was going to deliver a candidate experience that wowed our candidates and shared our employment brand.

Candidates were going to be able to apply to our jobs with ease and even joy. In reality, most of us have a super low conversion of those candidates who visit our career site and actually become an applicant. When you study the behavior of why these candidates aren’t converting to applicants it’s almost always because they gave up during the arduous application process. The vast majority of candidates get into your ATS application process, and then they ultimately give up because it’s so awful.

For the most part, the ATS is basically the same system it has been since it was created. While features have evolved, the promise of becoming the hiring machine we all wanted never materialized. When you ask recruiters and recruiting leaders what they think about their ATS most will tell you they would change if given the option. They say this because we still hold out this belief that there must be a better option than the one we have. 

Somewhere out there is our true hiring machine.

Conversational AI came to the rescue.

The foundational failure of the traditional ATS was and is that it was built for white-collar hiring. It’s designed to hire individuals who sit in front of a desktop or laptop computer in an office all day. These kinds of people are willing to spend fifteen to thirty minutes jumping through hoops to apply for jobs. Or at least that’s the belief.

Most traditional ATSs still force candidates to “register” a profile with your company before allowing them to apply for a job. Can we be honest for a second? No one wants to deal with that nonsense! No one should ever have to register with your ATS to apply for a job. It’s a throwback to the stone ages that you force a candidate to do this.

But over the past few years, we are seeing a new type of hiring machine being built around conversational AI. This conversational ATS is built to be mobile-first. That means it was designed to have a candidate quickly and easily apply to your job via their mobile device anytime, anywhere, like they were having a text conversation with a friend. The conversational ATS is designed for all candidates you hire, both blue-collar and white-collar. 

Turns out everyone wants applying to a job to be easy. It transcends any and all demographics.

The difference in conversion rate I’ve seen in traditional versus conversational ATS is shocking. I’ve seen companies go from 10% conversion to 70% conversion. Paradox’s own data shows conversation rates increase by as much as 2,300% in some cases. Which sounds made up, but it’s not. 

This means you don’t need to attract more candidates or spend more money on job advertising. You simply need to get more of the candidates coming to your jobs to convert them into applicants. Conversational ATSs can do this at a rate that can’t be ignored by TA leaders.

Conversational ATSs also immediately schedule candidates for interviews within the flow of the application process. Again, this makes perfect sense. When is a candidate most likely to want to schedule an interview or screen? When they are making the effort to apply for your job! They are messaging back and forth with your company and the conversational AI sends them a link to schedule themselves. 

It can’t get more intuitive and simple.

Conversational ATSs take high volume hiring to the next level, giving your hiring managers the control and speed to make hiring decisions on the fly. Most high volume hiring managers are also working managers who “fit” hiring into their daily workload. They need technology that works with them and doesn’t force them out of their daily routine. They need technology that allows them to easily message candidates back from their mobile devices as they are running around during their day. 

The hiring machine we always wanted has finally been built and it’s called the Conversational ATS. It’s what we’ve wanted. It’s what we’ve hoped for. 

The ATS is no longer the black hole database we’ve been forced to work in for decades.

Written by
Tim Sackett
CEO of, Senior Faculty Member of the Josh Bersin Academy
Tim Sackett
Written by
Back to top

Every great hire starts with a conversation.

Demo Olivia now