I started studying the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) market twelve years ago. At that time, there were only ten providers worth talking about and very few up-and-comers. Multilingual configuration, high-volume and onboarding were key differentiators and the user experience was pretty ugly (And…I’m being nice). Selecting a system, at that time, focused on the right workflow and basic administrative functionality. And, although most companies spent time complaining about their ATS, it was still something they could not live without. It managed the requisition process, job posting, the career website, offer letter generation and everything in between. All activities that were too overwhelming to do manually.

Today, the ATS is still the foundation of any recruitment function but a lot has changed. Buyers have more capabilities, services and differentiators to consider. Today’s modern ATS supports both the tactical and the strategic aspects of recruiting including branding, quality of hires, and candidate experience.

Over the past month, I have taken a closer look at many of the leading providers that will be included in our upcoming Aptitude Index report and I have learned a few things. First, the ATS market is not boring. Second, it is not being replaced. Third, selecting the right provider is about much more than product capabilities.

Here are a few observations and differentiators I have observed:

  • The Platform. Recruiters, candidates, hiring managers – whoever is using this system- should not have to leave the platform. It sounds basic but in years past, this was not the case. If you wanted to schedule an interview, conduct a background check or look at a LinkedIn profile, recruiters would need to leave the system. If candidates wanted to send the job to a friend, check out the company’s Glassdoor rating, or connect with friends at the company, they would also need to leave the system. Today, leading providers are making sure that everything can be done on the platform – making sure that partnerships and third-party providers can also be accessed from their platform.
  • Candidate Experience. It is hard to talk about talent acquisition without focusing on the candidate experience. It has become a tagline for most ATS providers and a priority for selection. It is amazing how far the technology has come to support the candidate experience and yet, how far it still needs to go. It was interesting to see which providers started with the candidate career page compared to those that focused mostly on the recruiter and hiring manager experiences.
  • Communication: We are calling this year…the year of communication. Communication with candidates, employees, managers, stakeholders, and peers. Companies need a better strategy and better technology to enable communication and the ATS is no exception. Organizations are looking to their providers to offer different options for communicating with candidates – through a library of email templates, automatic messages that inform the candidate of their status in the application process or content to engage candidates throughout their journey.
  • Recruitment Marketing: ATS providers have recognized that recruitment marketing has become a staple in any talent acquisition function and an opportunity for investment. So far, every provider we have met with is making a play at this market- offering a more complete end-to-end picture of talent acquisition.
  • Services: Services have become ingrained in HCM technology. Companies want a partner not a vendor and they need support, training, and insight to make the most out of their technology investment. Leading providers are offering services throughout every stage of the customer journey from needs assessment to implementation and beyond.

We will continue to share the findings from our Aptitude Index research over the next month and keep an eye out for our strategic talent acquisition survey launching next week!