When pandemic demand led Pattern Brands, an NYC-based e-commerce retailer of items for the home, to double its team and hire 27 full-time employees in the past six months, co-founder Suze Dowling opted to speed up the process with an applicant tracking system (ATS).
And why not? Ninety-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted such a system, the benefits of which include automating tasks such as follow-up emails, uploading résumés, and updating career pages with available roles. And a combination of software from HR tech companies Greenhouse and Lever can typically get the job done for around $150 to $300 per person hired. “It’s been vital to helping us scale with a pretty lean team,” Dowling says.
Still, it’s not quite as easy as pushing a button and waiting for the perfect hire to walk in the door. These tips will help you make the most of automated hiring.
1. Consider your filters.
Among the primary benefits of an ATS is its ability to sift through a high volume of applications to help you find candidates with the right experience, education, or location. But those filters can miss great candidates. Say you’re looking for a particular keyword, and it doesn’t happen to be found in a well-qualified applicant’s résumé, notes Tim Rowley, CTO and COO at PeopleCaddie, a Rosemont, Illinois-based platform that helps hiring managers find contractors. That’s a problem.
Additionally, you may pass up a perfect candidate with four and a half years of experience if your filter is set to five years or more. Bias also comes from inputting data incorrectly and weighing one variable–like a specific skill or demographic–disproportionately over another. To guard against that, Rowley recommends setting parameters outside expected ranges, involving your diversity and inclusion teams to avoid racial, gender, and age bias, and personally reviewing applications before making cuts.
2. Get the best price.
Whether you plan on hiring continuously or only a few candidates, Dowling strongly suggests negotiating with your ATS provider on terms. Dowling herself saved 10 to 15 percent on the overall cost by signing up for multiyear contracts. And though pricing is typically based on total head count and within tiered ranges, certain software makers may offer variable pricing depending on the size of your company.
3. Onboard your system.
While an ATS is only as good as the information you put into it, the constant updating of that information can become onerous if it falls to just one employee. Dowling admits that’s one of the primary reasons she has put off doing it herself.
And while machine learning systems have progressed markedly over the past decade, Nate Smith, CEO of San Francisco-based hiring platform Lever, notes that they still require an effective team to manage them. To guard against their misuse–or a lack of use–Smith advises that staffers beyond just those in HR learn the basics of the software, and that your entire firm discuss how the technology will be implemented and by whom. Otherwise, you might end up realizing: That ATS you hired for the job? Well, things just aren’t working out.
From the Winter 2021/2022 issue of Inc. Magazine