thumbnail_thumbSometimes you just need a scapegoat. For the staffing industry, the applicant tracking system (ATS) seems to be taking on that role as recruiting challenges grow and results disappoint. Why aren’t we beating our competition to the talent?

It must be the ATS. Why aren’t our candidates being selected? It must be the ATS. Why aren’t candidates saying yes to the roles we offer? It has to be the ATS. Doesn’t it?

At the staffing and recruiting industry conferences I have attended in recent weeks, a solid majority of the staffing business owners and leaders I speak with are looking to change their ATS in the near future.

Jibe’s 2014 Talent Acquisition Survey found that “64% of recruiting professionals expressed some dissatisfaction with or plans to replace their current applicant tracking system (ATS).” A year later, I can report that the ATS frustration Jibe identified is still running high.

These staffing industry professionals feel strongly that technology can help them edge out the competition and better find, engage and retain talent. And they are right.

Smart technology is essential to meeting that goal, but the ATS may not be the right system to focus on. Here’s why.

Garbage In, Garbage Out.

garbage canOne of the main complaints I hear about the average ATS is that their data is either weak or inaccurate (or in some cases, non-existent). Recruiters don’t trust the ATS data they have.

The irony there is that the majority of data entered into the ATS is being put there by recruiters. As they add candidates and job requisitions to the ATS, they are often missing or muddling information.

In the rush to move from data entry to candidate placement, recruiters (human as we all are) make mistakes. The greater the hurry the more mistakes and oversights there will be.

Recruiting has become a global high-speed competition for talent. Hurry is what recruiters have to do to compete, but that mad hustle leaves the ATS incomplete and its data unreliable. Garbage (bad data) goes in and that is exactly what staffing firms find they will get out of their ATS.

To me, it’s not a failing of the ATS but a reality of staffing workflows and the human and technical architecture beneath them, from job boards and vendor management systems to CRMs and ATSs. Each of these disparate systems has valuable sourcing, recruiting and candidate data. But as long as that data is walled off—whether inside or outside of the ATS—it’s of very little use.

Furthermore, as long as recruiters are designated the primary liaisons between these systems who must manually pull and parse data in and out, the data flow will remain limited and full of flaws.

Migration Is For the Birds.

bigbirdSwitching from one ATS or CRM to another is not a simple or quick transition, even in the best of scenarios. Sourcing and recruiting processes are disrupted and a business can quickly lose traction and talent in an effort to do just the opposite.

Before embracing another wide scale migration process, the staffing organization needs to consider the risk of the disruption and whether the gains will offset the losses. Often an ROI exercise is what is needed to determine if a new ATS will fuel greater performance and profits.

I have seen some cases in which staffing firms simply believe that the “grass will be greener” with another ATS. After months of migration and frustration, they then find themselves dealing with the same sourcing and recruiting challenges they faced with their old ATS. The goal is not simply to move on to a system that might be better.

Before considering migration, a staffing firm must first determine exactly how much better the new system will be and what will be gained.

The losses of any migration are clear–time, resources and costs. The hard work (work that can’t be ignored) is identifying and quantifying the true gains.

Deep Impact: Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better.

sesameWe are in a technological renaissance across the staffing industry and there are a myriad of innovations that can help staffing firms make big improvements in efficiency and performance no matter their ATS.

From time card systems to candidate importing tools, there are a lot of targeted fixes and strategic ATS add-ons that can make a big impact on efficiency, productivity and bottom-line results.

One area where innovation seems to be occurring at light speed is mobile recruitment. As recruiters and job seekers look to leverage their mobile technologies more and more, new tools and apps are launching nearly every day to increase the efficiency and improve the experience of mobile job searching and recruitment.

Automation tools are also helping staffing firms reduce the copious amounts of data entry that have long been associated with building talent databases and managing VMS clients.

In embracing automation, staffing firms are eliminating the time and cost of uploading candidate and requisition data while bringing separate systems and their data together. It’s one giant step closer to a seamless and end-to-end talent flow and it doesn’t require a lengthy ATS migration.

In recruiting and staffing, we all know that it can pay off in big ways to give an imperfect candidate a shot. Today, that imperfect candidate might just be your ATS in need of strong support tools that can integrate its resources and capabilities into the full talent life cycle.

My advice is this: before you start on the place to full replacement, take time to make sure you understand what you have and what you need. Sometimes a smaller approach will deliver the bigger, better results.

After all, size doesn’t matter. It’s what you do with your tool that really counts.

381be96About the Author: Tim Arnold is the CEO of Fyre, a cloud based software for staffing agencies and HR teams designed to bring recruiters the opportunity to harness big data in the recruitment process while accelerating lead generation and conversion by working with existing applicant tracking systems and sourcing sites to help find better talent faster, increase engagement and allow staffing firms to work less while making more placements.

With almost a decade of recruitment and technology industry experience, Tim has been named one of Orlando’s “20 Coolest People” by Axis Magazine and has been a speaker at TedXYouth. A native of Orlando, Tim is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

Follow Tim on Twitter @TimKArnold or connect with him on LinkedIn.