Tag Archives: ATS

3 Things We’ll See in HR by 2022

On Friday of last week (10/20), I was a guest on Michael Cameron’s daily radio program “Win-Win@Work” and had the opportunity to speak about my favorite topic– building and leading a world-class recruiting team. It’s a wonderful thing when you find yourself leading a team that has hit its collective stride. It’s a magical place, a place where the beer flows like wine, and where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Building and leading a team is the most satisfying part of the job for me, and when things are good, they are really good.

But we know in this crazy Talent Acquisition life, every day is a snapshot – who knows what tomorrow will bring, much less what might happen in 2022. So when Mr. Cameron (makes me feel younger to call anyone “Mister”) asked me at the end of our interview, “where do you see Talent Acquisition in five years?”, I’ll admit I chewed on my tongue a bit ~ five freaking years??

Since, “I don’t have a clue, Mike” is a decidedly bad answer to a live broadcast question, the little man started rummaging my subconscious mind for those thoughts I have when allowed to be future-focused. To my surprise, I think I may have made a little sense, you tell me.

Three things I expect to see in Talent Acquisition by 2022:

  1. Talent Networks/Communities Will Explode ~ If you aren’t building a community already, you better get with the program. Building virtual connections by sharing meaningful information is definitely a “long” play, but when those crops start to come in, you’ll have a pipeline of engaged candidates.
  2. Speed Wins ~ The application process is an absolute beating. Everybody seems to know this, but even with technology advances the process takes, on average, 30 minutes. That’s garbage. Find the key to that door and the kingdom is yours. The huge ATS is going to go buh-bye, and the sooner the better.
  3. Blurred Lines ~ With the increased importance of building a people pipeline via talent networks, Talent Acquisition will continue to morph into a Marketing arm of the organization. Candidate or customer, what’s the difference? We’re just scratching the surface of how to maximize the time we engage with a potential candidate, why not also capture them as potential customers? What we have here is another way to tie Talent Acquisition to financial metrics – yay metrics. Same concepts apply – who’s your audience, what kind of persona are you targeting, and how do you most effectively reach them?

There’s also one other fundamental belief I have that isn’t universally shared. Fundamentally, I still see our job being relationship-driven by talented people in recruiting roles. There’s a swell of Orwellian thinking that technology will replace recruiters as time progresses. Here’s the problem –  the HR-Tech boon of the last several years has, in many ways, resulted in white noise. Too many tools, too many gimmicks (too many blogs, consultants, and “experts” too for that matter.) I still believe the recruiting function needs to be internally based and owned by actual employees of the company. The technology that succeeds will be the kind that frees up recruiters to do what they do best – recruit. 

If you want to listen to the conversation, here’s the link. And yes, I really do sound like that.

Six Seconds That Cost You Dearly….

It’s one of the great statistics in recruiting…”Recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume.” According to The Ladders, 4.8 of those seconds are reviewing four areas; name, current position, current employer, and dates of employment. It seems like a ridiculous statement (how, exactly, does one measure this?), unless, of course, you’ve spent time as a recruiter dealing with a motherlode of resumes – then it seems like a pretty rationale estimation.

Bad recruiting? No, it’s more likely a matter of bad habits, bad systems, over-appropriation of requisitions, or some combination of the aforementioned. But here’s the kicker – this lack of attention is only committed to the resumes that are actually seen. There exists another great statistic in recruiting: 80% of submitted resumes are never even seen by a recruiter.

Think for a minute about the impact these two trends can have on the overall talent of your organization. If these statistics hold true, a recruiter averaging 1,000 resumes a week is scanning 200 of them for a total of 20 minutes spent reviewing the qualifications of l,000 candidates. That’s the price you pay for allowing “paper” (realizing most of these are viewed electronically on an ATS) to speak for people.

You know, part of the occupational residue of being a recruiter is to expect resumes to be perfectly constructed to get to the point quickly, be SEO optimized (redundancy alert, thank you), properly updated and ripe for Boolean search. That’s not necessarily the case for a great number of people; those who are heavily tenured, or those who might be first-time job “shoppers” may very well have a pretty dysfunctional resume. Chances are it matches a rather spare LinkedIn profile – a lot of us (guilty) exist in a social media bubble where we expect everyone to have a user-friendly format, . Careful, or you’ll end up hiring a great resume.

So that’s the situation, but what is the solution? Is there one solution? Doubtful. So what do you address first?

First, let’s talk about what you don’t want to do —- resist the urge to follow your initial reaction. Do NOT try to minimize your resumé flow. As a matter of fact, open the dikes.

Next week: “Riding the Avalanche

John Whitaker is Vice President, Talent Acquisition for DentalOne Partners. For more than 20 years he has built and developed high-powered recruiting teams focused on developing a competitive advantage via strategic Human Capital positioning, planning, and practices.   

Recruiting “Leftovers”

Even as kids we all realized something… when you ask “what’s for dinner?” and the answer is “leftovers,” Mom was out of time, patience, or energy. No matter the reason, dinner was going to be, as they say, “sub-par.”

Edible? Sure, it’s edible, but so is tree bark. Leftovers just aren’t the same.


But guess what? [metaphor alert] You just described most corporate recruiting “menus.” Your recruiters are overwhelmed, out of time, out of patience, and out of energy. There’s no opportunity to make a home-cooked meal, only to utilize whatever short-cut is available. Give it a shot some time; take 70 requisitions, add 120 applicants to each one, plus a hiring manager yelling “What’s for DINNER!?”—it’s chaos. Options are limited, so into the fridge you reach and out comes Tuesday’s meatloaf.

How does this happen? It’s not hard to explain really: We post a job, blast it to the masses, pray for applicants, then begin the process of weeding through the chaff as quickly as possible. A recruiter finds 5 or 6 resumés that fit the profile, then moves on to the next requisition. A recruiter with only 10 open requisitions might even review the rest of the candidates in the queue to make sure no stone has gone unturned. Some might even contact them as a courtesy. But, like unicorns and Bigfoot, that particular recruiter remains elusive. More likely, your corporate recruiters are carrying 30, 40, 50+ requisitions tied to an ATS designed to capture as many candidates as possible. The result is an unmanageable flow of candidates, a frustrated recruiter, and a hiring manager left with cold pizza. That’s not even considering the candidate, who feels the impact of this issue manifested in silence. 80% of online applicants hear nothing in response, and half of those never had their information looked at, much less considered thoughtfully. The buzz term is “candidate experience,” but it might more accurately be called “customer experience.” Candidate, customer, either way—the result is bad for the company.

Imagine if you managed a Luby’s and decided to serve nothing but leftovers; you’d be shutting the doors within a week, right? Yet we perpetuate an obviously flawed recruiting process for our internal function, while paying a premium to external recruiters to cook from scratch. What’s a girl to do?


For the recruiter who discovers a solution to this problem, the world is your oyster.

And not the leftover variety.

The Waiting is The Hardest Part

How many sources of input does it take to make a decision? In the rapid-paced profession of talent acquisition, the answer is almost certainly “TOO many.” As the pressure to fill seats intensifies, the challenges in clearing that final hurdle continues to pad the cherished “time to fill” metrics valued so much by top brass.

CEB just released their annual report on “Top Insights for World’s Leading Executives” and it proves a good (if lengthy) read. And it offers a few revealing trends that may surprise you. [*Spoiler Alert:] The job of putting butts in seats is getting slowerHow much slower? According to this study, it’s over 60% slower than it was just five years agoHow in the…..???

"I got NEXT!"
“I got NEXT!”

We know the influx of resumés has increased steadily. We know that the ATS and the use of mobile recruiting offers additional channels for applicants. Maybe it’s because some internal recruiting teams are still operating with recession-level headcount. Maybe it’s additional Financial oversight in the requisition approval process that slows the pace. But, come on…does that explain 62% slower?

No. It doesn’t. So what else could it be?

How about consensus?

The ambitious and well-intended goal of “agreement” as it pertains to the hiring decision is blowing the tires off the recruiting vehicle. How much? “If an interview process expands from including three people to five [people], the length of time-to-fill doubles.”- CEB

 If you consider the hiring manager as one of the “three,” that means the inclusion of only two more colleagues in the selection process can actually double the time-to-fill. How does that stack up to your current interview gauntlet? I’ve worked for companies with 50 TOTAL employees and had candidates interview with 10 different people before a decision was made, so I’m familiar with how the process can be thoroughly confounding. Remembering all the while that “time-to-fill” includes this dynamic that is completely out of control of the recruiter.

Why is this happening?

  • Perceived Value – We (Talent Acquisition) are partly to blame for this. There’s no shortage of metrics quantifying the cost of a “bad hire,” so one unintended consequence is to offload some of the accountability for the decision.
  • Technology – Why do we do it? Because we CAN! Hey, let’s add Mike in Wisconsin via Skype; let’s get the Nashville group on via teleconference, or better yet arrange a Google Hangout. It’s fun! Not for the candidate, I assure you.
  • Can We All Get Along? – Human Resources, as we know, are the cobbler’s children, so we tend to take the additional step of including internal clients or even potential team members in the selection process. In theory, that looks like a completely rational decision, but in practice? A few reasons that could bite you (besides the time suck):
    • Potential Team Members could see the candidate as a threat to their own professional advancement. Why would they want a superstar joining the competition?
    • Internal Clients are important and valued, but do we want them making our hires? I don’t necessarily want a perceived co-ownership of my direct report; sometimes that muddies the waters, yes?

Ultimately, it also boils down to this – what is measured is what matters. If your focus is on expediency (instead of, say, quality) of the hiring process, you may be sacrificing that quality for expediency. But if you want time-to-fill to be the most important metric for recruiting, caveat emptor m’friend.

First rule about asking for opinions…be careful – you just might get them.

Arrogant Recruiting

(published on LinkedIn, November 17, 2015)

“Did I just hear that?” Yup, I did.

If they really want to work here, they won’t care if the application process takes an hour.

I had a friend call me recently to act as a sounding board. He is getting increasingly frustrated with his candidate pool, and began to inquire about the possible reasons “why?”

you want to work WHERE?
you want to work WHERE?

One thing he discovered rather quickly when discussing this situation with his recruiting team is that the on-line application process was taking a minimum of 45 minutes. That’s when he uttered the quote above.

As anyone who has applied for a job in the last few years can attest, the on-line process can be an absolute beating – even someone who is actively looking for work will often pass on filling out yet another redundant application. Replace that with a passive candidate, and you have an even bigger problem.

The concern of recruiters, of course, is that candidates are being lost before ever making contact with the company, due to a cumbersome on-line application process. And the numbers support this concern – 60% of those who begin the process drop-out before completing the ever increasing time-suck that is the on-line application process. If you want to lose candidates and disengage them from the beginning, then by all means keep your obstacle course of an application process untouched.

This is a candidate’s job market, so the mindset of “That’s just the way it is” in regard to your candidate experience can be a very expensive one, and it’s also a very antiquated way of viewing the hiring process. The goal of your company should be to attract candidates with a welcoming message – if your system is set up specifically to deter potential employees (consciously or not), you’re still sending a message – but it’s one of arrogance.

*Disclaimer – if your company does, in fact, embrace an arrogant culture, please disregard.

Resume Wasteland

Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”  Wall Street, 1987

Candidate sends a resume into the abyss, there’s no response coming back to him. At that moment, candidate gets more frustrated. And that is what keeps candidates in the abyss.”  Whitaker, 2014

Do you remember this “wtf?” moment in the movie Wall Street? “Bud” (Charlie Sheen, in an eerie foreshadowing of future events) is being hauled out of his brokerage, cuffed and crying, strung out on coke, greed, and stupidity. Right before he is about to meet this fate, the old sage of the office, “Lou” (Hal Holbrook) offers the aforementioned nugget of wisdom.

I feel like Lou these days, trying to explain to qualified job-seekers why they have been automated right out of consideration. But I’m not sure how many times you can repeat the same message while still believing it yourself.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are all the rage in the corporate recruiting world. lt’s no mystery why—an ATS is a critical tool when managing the ability to receive, organize, and automate the mass of resumes that flood most recruiting departments. A company has a distinct advantage in terms of compliance, record keeping, templates, boilerplates, documentation… looking for a tool to increase efficiency? This is your kinda product.

But what about the candidate?

In the conversations I’ve had with candidates (both hired and “rejected”) they all seem to agree with one thing—they hate the ATS. Hard to blame them… the ATS allows for recruiters to be human SEO machines, quickly scanning for a few quick keywords and the assurance that someone is actively employed. Fair? No. Reality? Yes.

I gotta get new hobby
I gotta get new hobby

Open jobs will receive hundreds of submissions; there aren’t enough hours (or recruiters) in the day to thoughtfully review each one. But there may be a few things we can do to improve the current state:

1. Limited Window of Opportunity – Close that posting one week after you activated it, review the candidates who have applied. Long-term postings are a graveyard for resumes.

2. Limited Channels – Instead of posting the job on ten different job sites, identify 1 or 2 sites that speak specifically to the audience you are seeking. You don’t want serial applicants—don’t use serial postings.

3. Better Job Descriptions – More detail into the details. Hard and soft skills, minimum years of experience, industry specific experience, location, and (this is the toughie) compensation information.

4. (Candidates) No More Serial Applicants – Applying to every available job only perpetuates the mess. I know when you are out of work, there is a primal reason for throwing your name in the hat for any and every posting, but be honest with yourself: “If I get this job, would I stay here a year?”

I really don’t know what the solution is, but I do know there is a perfect storm that perpetuates the problem: large numbers of quality candidates, ATS-enabled ability to accept all comers, limited “people” resources to actually engage with the candidates. We’re building a huge audience of people only to ignore them.

We’re lost, but we’re making good time, yes?