Does your heart sink whenever the topic of Recruitment ATS systems is brought up? I know mine does. It’s almost as if all the logistical problems surrounding the ongoing management of data within a recruitment firm have been deliberately made all the more complex on purpose, just to drive agency owners round the twist.

In all likelihood, every recruitment agency owner and director will have had at least 10 years hands-on experience of a variety of ATS systems, which have been designed specifically for the recruitment market. In that last decade, the software, the platforms and the hardware have evolved meteorically. In fact, the software itself has probably been the slowest of those to evolve. Fast broadband is now central to the workings of any new system, and not only because cloud-based platforms give a company freedom from a dusty old server room. Cloud based solutions can give scalability, flexibility in locations, freedom to use almost any device with a browser, and interactivity with candidates, clients, recruiters and a huge range of additional bolt-on functions and services.

So what does this evolution mean for the long established software providers, and their legacy systems? As you might imagine, these operators have a huge wealth of experience working with the recruitment sector, and all the challenges it presents. Well, thankfully most have migrated their products, but in some cases they are literally too invested in methods that were not designed for the cloud, social media, or indeed how recruiters work in 2013/14.  Frankly, with an established client base that doesn’t always want to upgrade, those providers are finding themselves supporting products of the past, and aren’t always as free to innovate as they’d like.

I shan’t bang on about specific functionality, and what your priorities should be when looking to invest in a new system, but bear in mind these few points.

  1. Are you losing business currently due to an antiquated system, which isn’t capable of supporting your business plan?
  2. How migrate-able is your current data? In what format can you export this information?
  3. Having done some window shopping, and based on your own experiences, what is the minimum specification and functionality you require?
  4. How many current, and planned for users do you have, and plan to have over the next 3 years? Consider also staff locations – branches, at home recruiters, client-site recruiters etc.
  5. Browser based systems shouldn’t need enormous hardware investment, but plan for what kit you intend to upgrade or acquire.
  6. To what degree is the software you are considering upgrade-able, either by the supplier or by your own company? How do they charge for upgrades and customisation?
  7. How secure is the software company as a business? You don’t want them either going bust, or being taken over, as your software support might disappear with it.
  8. Does the software supplier have an intimate knowledge and understanding of the recruitment sector – and particularly your market; perms, temps, contractors etc

As with any agency owner, I need a new recruitment ATS to solve problems, not add to them. I absolutely need my recruiters to buy into this too, as without their commitment, it’ll be a big waste of money, and far more importantly – valuable time.  Lastly, I have a word of warning. Consider ALL costs involved in the project, but please don’t let cost be your deciding factor.  As I’ve said before, a simple solid reliable system that your recruiters love to use, can have a far bigger positive impact on your bottom line than a flashy system with all the bells and whistles, and promises of more to come.  As we’ve seen with yu:talent, forward thinking suppliers can be flexible on costs and welcome an active partnership with clients that drives continual development. 

When considering a new ATS, what is most important to your business?

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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