The Tragedy of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) - How to Avoid the Talent Graveyard

Recently, Jessica who is a highly qualified data analyst with great experience and skills for the position for which she was applying, was invited for a face to face interview with members of the division, after going through three technical interviews by phone with the managers and director of the team.  She was ultimately rejected, and based on internal information, likely was passed over based on a certain bias by one senior member of the team.  

This article’s intent is not to address bias issues still problematic today in spite of a vast majority of organizations aggressively trying to address it.  Rather, Jessica and her resume, like thousands of others, have now disappeared into the deep dark depths of the company’s Applicant Tracking System, potentially never to be resurrected again. 

It is highly possible that next week, next month, or next year that same company will once again require someone with Jessica’s skills and experience and this time she may be the perfect candidate.  She could even relate well on a personal level with those who interview her and to whom she would report.  However, because of antiquated technology or time constraints on the part of the recruiter to capably query the applicant tracking database, Jessica will continue to languish in the bowels of the ATS.

This is a story that is happening every day, everywhere.  And it is a tragedy for both companies and candidates alike.  Currently and on average, an individual applies for one unique position.  They are considered for that position and either get it or, for the vast majority, are rejected.  They then have to move on and continue to troll the job boards and apply over and over again for similar positions in different companies.  If the company is a large organization, they may apply for similar positions in the same company.  There is no automatic consideration for other roles within the same organization unless the applicant applies for each one individually.

Sound crazy?  Well, it is. 

In a different world and different time, what if candidates only had to apply once but be considered for all opportunities not only with the company they first applied to but to a whole slew of companies that subscribed to a Universal Database?  And, what if they did not have to continually troll and turn job hunting itself into a full time job?  Instead what if every time their skills and experience matched well to an open position they were notified and could decide whether they wished to put their name forward for consideration or not? 

We are in that different world and different time now.  The technology exists as a total solution and can radically change how job hunting is managed today.  Not only is this a game changer for candidates who would only need to apply once and be potentially matched for hundreds of jobs, but companies could greatly benefit by being able to be presented with candidates who had been rejected for a position within their organization and is the ideal candidate for another.

The WorkForceConnexion Digital Talent Acquisition Platform provides this solution through technology to improve the recruitment process for companies and job search for candidates.  WorkForceConnexion Recruiting Solutions (WFX) has spent years identifying and building solutions to make the entire talent acquisition process more efficient, smarter and cost-effective.  WFX has brought together onto one automated platform all the key transactional elements of talent acquisition that helps hiring organizations avoid adding various costly and manual tools to support the ATS. 

It is here now - one platform that manages the entire recruitment process from start to finish and its seamless, efficient and cost effective.

How Talent Acquisition Automation Optimizes the Human Factor

For too long recruiters have been bogged down with the time consuming and arduous tasks of the talent acquisition process. From writing the job description (responsibilities and requirements), posting it to job boards and the company’s career page, to reviewing hundreds of resumes, and screening “promising” candidates on the phone to try and drill down to their skills, competencies, and experience as they relate to the position.  Oftentimes a thankless and tedious exercise.

As attracting the best talent becomes more and more competitive, it is becoming increasingly important that the first human contact a candidate has with the company, which is for the main part the internal recruiter, is positive, welcoming and represents the culture of the company.

Right now, recruiters are so overwhelmed with managing so much of the process manually, they don’t have the time to be a corporate ambassador by promoting the company’s brand and answering the many questions candidates have when applying or being considered for a position.  Instead, out of necessity, the communications tend to be hurried and one sided.  The recruiter has to sift through applicants who on the surface look as if they may have the right skills and experience, but are difficult to assess from a resume.  They then have to reach out to each one to set up a screening interview and spend the traditional 30 minutes to try and find out as much as they can about the applicant, often not even understanding the in-depth technical details and requirements for the position themselves.  Then, it’s move on to the next one from the pile of resumes before them.

Because of the still somewhat rudimentary nature of resume filtering/screening tools, recruiters end up with a large number of unqualified resumes which they need to review and telephone screen. A vast number of HR professionals have admitted that because of the time and pressure constraints imposed, that once a pre-determined number appear to “make the grade” for submittal to the hiring manager, they halt the process and move onto the next open requisition and pile of resumes to review and screen.  A never ending cycle. The result of this is that often the best prospective candidates are not even reviewed or considered but instead, along with those who were rejected as unsuitable, are vanquished forever to the deep dark depths of the organization’s Applicant Tracking System, as if to the grave, to wither and die. 

But in today’s age of digital automation there is hope and the paradigm can be changed.  Talent acquisition can be made more efficient, effective and smarter through the adoption of automated transactional processes using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

We know that innovation is fundamental for companies to stay relevant in this digital era, but few organizations have prioritized and carried this through to their talent acquisition groups. In today’s talent driven economy, it is imperative that organizations make a paradigm shift if they are to attract and retain the best talent.

By doing so, organizations can first and foremost improve the human experience and interaction between recruiters and candidates with internal recruiters assuming the role of ambassador for the organization, but also:

·         Increase speed and efficiency

·         Enhance talent pool

·         Select superior candidates

·         Reduce costs and resources

·         Decrease cycle time

·         Advance predictability through analytics

·         Improve the candidate, recruiter, and hiring manager experience

 So, contrary to the fear that automation will replace the person, in reality it improves the role. Recruiters can be freed up to take on responsibilities that only humans can do:  communicate on a personal level with candidates and engage with them and make them feel good about the company they have applied to work for.  The technology has already established that the people selected have the skills and the experience to handle the responsibilities of the position and now the recruiter can focus on not only “selling” the opportunity and the company to the candidate but also sense whether they would be a good cultural fit too. 

The result is that recruiters are no longer immersed in minutia and in things which technology actually does better.  They are less likely to burn out and get greater satisfaction from the job.  And, candidates are made to feel more human themselves and not just another applicant being prodded to determine “suitability.” 

So automation should be embraced as the entire experience only enhances the humanity of talent acquisition, for everyone involved.

Comment on Forbes Article: How AI Can Make Recruiting More Efficient – Published August 16, 201

It amazes me that articles are still being written on this subject and that a vast number of companies have not yet woken up to what should be “standard procedure’ and “order of business’ when it comes to what companies should be doing today when it comes to recruiting and their talent acquisition practices.

The article states that “the impact of artificial intelligence on the business world has not been lost on leaders with 80 percent of enterprises investing in AI” (Vanson Bourne Survey). The article further goes on to discuss that many businesses focus on “how AI can change their approach to getting work done from automating processes to learning customer’s behavior and tailoring offerings.....” 

The acceptance and wide adoption of SalesForce.com is a classic example of this – with the entire sales process being managed efficiently and effectively through this now widely embraced platform.

However, talent acquisition and recruiting are coming late to the party.  Many HR executives and recruiters are resistant to change.  They tend to stick with the known, such as antiquated Applicant Tracking System (which for the main part is no more than a depository where resumes are assigned to wither and die).  And, as for “intelligent” technology;  they still cannot quite grasp the concept that it can do a better job than a bevy of recruiters swarming each day to troll resume databases or review the mountain of incoming resumes and then spend countless hours on the phone trying to screen applicants who through the tertiary review, look promising.    More time needs to be spent and accepting the thesis that there is a better way to getting the right people in the right seats.   That is where AI stands to make the biggest impact today.

Why does this amaze me?  15 years ago I developed and launched a web-based technology called ApplicantAnalytics™ which was designed to match every applicant position specific against an “ideal” candidate profile for each unique position. This totally obviated the time consuming tasks of resume review and screening interviews in order to uncover qualified candidates.    It was my intention to license the platform and for companies to manage it themselves.  However, resistance was great – but more understandable 15 years ago.  It was a hard premise for them to accept and adopt a technology to manage processes which historically had been handled by humans.  They were just unable to comprehend and accept there were just some tasks that are better and more efficiently managed by technology.

The consequence of this was that for 15 years I employed the platform as my back office in my search consulting firm.  It handled the entire resume / applicant assessment process – creating detailed candidate profiles – and producing a ranked list of the best matched against the ideal candidate profile.  I could be “interviewing” hundreds of candidates simultaneously for any number of open positions for my clients without having one human being involved in the process.  Once the ranked list was provided, human interaction could begin – but only with those candidates that the technology had identified as having the necessary experience, skills, certifications, education, etc. required by my client companies for each of their open positions.

We have further developed the platform, its intelligence (both Applied and Artificial) and added a great number of other significant differentiating functionalities which allow it to manage the ENTIRE recruitment process from beginning to end through robotic and transaction process automation.  The WFX Digital Talent Acquisition Platform is a game changer – checks all the boxes of what recruiters and candidates alike, say they would like to see in a solution to fix the broken recruitment process.

The economy is good – and according to the Forbes article – that can be bad.

Currently there are far more jobs available than people to fill them – it is now a job seekers market – and they are sick and tired of being ignored and not treated with respect by hiring companies.  The mindset and policies of catering to a more select and discriminating pool of candidates who are now driving the train, is something that companies must wake up to and address. 

Communicating with – and human interaction by recruiters – needs to be brought to a whole new level.  Tasks which previously bogged recruiters down need to be turned over to automated digital processes – including matching candidates to each unique open position in an in-depth and superior way using complex algorithms – and  not just Artificial Intelligence, but Applied Intelligence based upon the hands - on experience of professionals who have been placing people for many years.  Based on human experience – what the norms are – and who is right and who is not for a job – takes years of practice to attain.  All of this has been built into the WFX Matching Engine. 

While others tout they have the best and brightest AI tool to match candidates to jobs, they are still employing basic key word matching (albeit at a more sophisticated level), Boolean search techniques or binary questions.  Result:  recruiters still have to spend an inordinate amount of time qualifying what is being presented as a “candidate shortlist” without any in-depth knowledge of their skills or true qualifications for any given role.

However, in spite of the vast number of enterprises investing in the new digital age and AI technology, HR is resisting and close minded to adopting new platforms and digital solutions that would make not only the ability to make better hires – but to make them more quickly, efficiently and cost effectively.

In fact, the challenge to get them to open the door – learn and listen – has not advanced significantly from 15 years ago.  Can companies afford to continue to let their HR and recruiting practices and process continue to lag behind the rest of the enterprise?   Technology may never eliminate the human touch, but it can help move the needle to a far better process – identifying and engaging with the right people faster.

AI, as the Forbes article clearly states, is changing the approach to getting work done.  Now it is the time for HR to step up and allow it to influence human jobs today – both in terms of their own internal recruiter’s productivity and efficiency, but the candidate experience too.

The Impact of Today’s Visa Restrictions on the Already Tight US Talent Pool

What is already becoming a dire professional talent shortage which is severely and negatively affecting companies across the United States, is steadily becoming worse as the Trump administration continues to roll out its anti-immigration policies.  Policies which are making it increasingly difficult for foreign born scientists and engineers to gain H-1B visas and other employer-sponsored visas in order to gain legal and gainful employment in the U.S. 

The national aggregate level of inflows of foreign Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics workers between 1990 and 2010 coincides with a 30%-50% productivity growth that occurred in the US during that same time frame.  And, in fact, studies show that the entry of H-1B visa holders actually increases the wages of Americans and not, as many claim, lowers US wages.

Approximately 80% of full-time graduate students in computer science, electrical engineering and other STEM degree courses at U.S. universities are international students and would continue to provide enormous benefits to the country moving forward.  However, soon after the Trump Administration took office and the “Buy American and Hire American” presidential executive order on April 18, 2017 came into effect, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) start to increase both the Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials for H-1B petitions for high-skilled foreign born professionals, according to a report issued by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). 

The impact cited by the NFAP for the period since the order was signed through the end of the second quarter of 2018 is as follows:

H-1B Petition Denial Rate

3rd quarter 2017                15.9%

4th quarter 2017               22.4%

1st quarter 2018                 30.5%

2nd quarter 2018                29.2%

However, another new policy that was recently implemented by the USCIS would allow their adjudicators to deny applications without a Request for Evidence or giving employers a chance to correct information on applications.

The entire policy is an attempt of a broader based administration plan to prevent high skilled foreign nationals to work in the United States.  The harsh consequences of this and other polices, such as Notices to Appear, are many and affect both US companies and worker alike.  

--  Corporations will lose a highly skilled talent pool with competencies that in many cases are prevalent in a certain ethnic groups;

--  Foreign-born scientists or engineers being placed in deportation proceedings if their H-1B or other application is denied – and due to longer and longer processing times, their status expires

--  The H-4 visa rule which previously allowed an H-1B’s spouse to work, being rescinded – which could hit tens of thousands of Indian women in the US, especially.

Companies are already finding themselves in a highly precarious talent shortage economy.  The impact of the visa restriction policies that have been implemented thus far are already being felt and this will only be exacerbated as the policy takes full effect and rains down on the 80% of STEM graduate students as a significant number will be denied H-1B visa status to work in the US.

Candidate Discontent and Pushback in a Tight Talent Economy - Shifting Sands as the Tide Turns

 

Hiring companies are finding out to their cost that the tables have turned in today’s full employment economy.  They are no longer in the driver’s seat when it comes to being king pin in hiring professional talent today.  Candidates are now in control and dominate the space in which historically they have been ill-treated and dismissed for too long, being perceived as yet another commodity.

Three years ago, my company, as so many others in the talent acquisition business, recognized that the recruiting process was broken and something needed to be done to change the paradigm.  Although, from our first-hand knowledge and experience, thought we knew what was wrong, we also acknowledged it is never wise to assume anything.  Consequently, we undertook a major research project to better understand from both sides, recruiters/hiring managers and candidates, what they felt the biggest challenges were and what they disliked the most about the process from their respective viewpoints.  But also, what they felt was right with it too.

From the recruiters’ and hiring companies’ perspective, it was all to do with the process.  Other areas of their organizations were being rapidly digitalized and becoming more efficient.  The most commonly cited was SalesForce.com which they thought had revolutionized the sales process in terms of efficiency and productivity.  In the recruiter’s world the Applicant Tracking System was their primary tool but it lacked all the necessary functionality for them to efficiently and effectively operate and they were being bogged down having to use a number of different disparate tools in conjunction with the ATS systems to do their jobs.

Of the 1000 plus professionals we surveyed, the number one complaint to a person was the total disrespect and dismissive attitudes of recruiters and hiring companies towards them.  The primary example of this was that when they applied for positions that were advertised either on job boards, the company’s career page or even when they were referred by a current employee, the chances of ever hearing any acknowledgement or communication whatsoever from the company were likely to be zero; and even if they did get to a telephone screening interview, again there would be a reign of silence and the candidate would be left in a state of limbo if not purgatory. 

The Applicant Tracking Systems amongst candidates have become known as the “black holes’ into which you disappear never to rise again.  Buried for eternity!

The second most common area of criticism centered around the fact that hiring companies and recruiters alike did not seem to care what a candidate’s needs were.  It was “all about them”, the company with no consideration whatsoever about the candidate.  They were being sent on interviews where ultimately, after an investment of time and energy, they would discover that the position was going to be located in an area of the country they had absolutely no desire to relocate to; the compensation was significantly out of the range they had been earning or would consider; it was not the type of employment they were seeking (contract versus permanent, for example) and so on.  But first and foremost amongst these areas of discontent, was that they were being sent on interviews where, once they got there, found that they were not qualified or experienced for the role.  Time and opportunity once again lost.

No one had ever asked them what their needs were, or the position they were being sent to be considered for was misrepresented.   In other words the old adage that was once so prevalent in recruiting, “throw enough at the wall, something will stick” – even if you have to deceive to achieve the objective, was still ever present.

With all of this data and knowledge to hand, we set about to develop a platform to address all of these areas of dissatisfaction – from both sides – recruiters/hiring managers and candidates alike which has resulted in the WFX Digital Talent Acquisition Platform.

However, the situation has now reversed in what has become a very competitive environment.  Today it is the candidates who ignore the companies.  Three years ago, companies were known to “ghost” candidates (ghosting is a newly popular term for the practice of disappearing from a relationship and ignoring texts, phone calls and other attempts at making contact). Today, the shoe is on the other foot and candidates are “ghosting” companies – either not showing up for interviews, or, in extreme cases, not showing up when hired.

It is a wake up call to hiring companies to change their habits and attitudes.  Companies that will succeed and are able to attract and keep the best talent are those who quickly recognize they need to base their talent acquisition programs on 3 Cs - Communication – Consideration – Care.  And, above all, “Communication”.

The first line of communication a qualified candidate has with a company is the internal recruiter.  Today, that individual is bogged down with time consuming tasks that could be better handled by digital technology – robotic process automation and automated transactional process.  The recruiter would then be freed up to manage only what a human being can do – make the candidate feel welcome – promote the company brand and all the positive aspects of working for this particular company. 

Companies that embrace the power of today’s digital world, will ultimately win out and be ahead of the competition in terms of the quality of the people they hire.

Indra Bazaz Turnbull

WorkForceConnexion

 

One Entrepreneur's Journey - A Female Perspective

Every entrepreneur has their own story as to what drew them into the dangerous and roller coaster world of entrepreneurship.   Mine started some 25 years ago when I was dragged somewhat reluctantly to run my husband’s technology company when he was diagnosed with cancer – the first time. 

After a somewhat successful career in corporate America, on meeting and marrying my late husband, I I thought that life was behind me having now assumed the role of supportive wife and gloating mother,  However, that was not to be and circumstances and life intervened when I found myself once again sitting in the corner office instead of the nursery.

However, this time, it was not a world of corporate mergers and acquisitions where I had spent a large part of my career, but in a leading edge technology company that had pioneered bar code labeling and intelligent computerized printers.

Not one to be daunted, I embraced the challenge – and the technology – and soon became a true believer of the power this medium can have over every aspect of our lives.  In fact, my late husband once said he had created a monster that knew no bounds to what she thought she could do with this new, at least to her, phenomenon”.

And this is where my journey started and ultimately influenced where I find myself today.

After selling that particular company – or more specifically, its intellectual property, I came up with another way in which I believed technology could be leveraged, particularly as it related to the burgeoning popularity of the Internet.  However, a major area of contention between myself and the CEO of the newly formed company arose in terms of how and with whom we should staff this new entity.  He was someone who truly valued loyalty and insisted on bringing along the employees of his prior venture even though they did not have the experience and skills necessary to immediately hit the ground running to execute the requirements and responsibilities to get the company and its innovative and game changing technology swiftly and efficiently developed and to market.  I truly understood first hand and to our detriment the cost “square pegs in round holes” can have upon a company.    That CEO was my late husband but the good news was that we did remedy the situation after he realized the lost opportunity and financial costs – and we could leave our disagreements at the office door.

So, a few years later, it was this experience that created my passion and purpose to put the right people in the right jobs which led to the next and current chapter of my entrepreneurial journey as a woman in what is still a predominantly male dominated technology space.

As someone who has had to hire people throughout my career I was extremely frustrated with agencies that inundated me with resumes with the hope from their side that if they threw enough at the wall, something would stick; with Boolean and keyword ineffective resume searches; and the ever time consuming and thankless task of trolling through hundreds of irrelevant and ill qualified resumes.  There just had to be a better way to do it.

I wanted to know what was beneath the covers – not only what skills and experience an applicant possessed but also their proficiency levels and hands on experience in those that were required for the positions I was seeking to fill.  I wanted to quickly and efficiently identify the round peg for the round hole!!

And that is how my first HR technology, ApplicantAnalytics™, came into being whereby every applicant was matched specifically to each unique position they applied for.  That technology was used to identify and place candidates in companies such as British Petroleum, Heil Manufacturing, Georgia Pacific, Internet Security Systems and many more for some 14 years.   But as time and needs have evolved, that technology has been further developed and is now embedded in my latest technology venture, the WFX Digital Talent Acquisition Platform that has been designed and developed to manage the entire recruitment process – from beginning to end – working in concert and adding significant functionalities and differentiating disruptive technologies to a company’s existing Applicant Tracking System.

The key to my entrepreneurial journey has been driven by circumstance, passion and my love affair with technology.  Technology can handle process more efficiently, effectively and productively thus allowing professionals to manage areas where human interaction is critical and cannot be displaced by technology.

It is also my belief that women can look at the use and implementation of where technology can play a role through a different prism than our male counterparts and therefore the value we can bring to the table is too often overlooked in what is still very much a male dominated sector.