Necessity is the mother of invention! We’re all hungry to move on from the traditional dysfunctional ATS towards a more productive future.

Our guest, Anil Dharni (CEO and Co-Founder of Sense), talks with us about the past and future of HR, and getting your hands on the least painful ATS.

For us senior recruiters, we remember the old days of whiteboards, file cabinets full of resumes, and contact information written on a legal pad. We’ve come a long way since the red pen days, but now we have a different beast to tackle: the ATS.

It’s so difficult to pick a functional applicant tracking system, as some of them come with well thought out HR suites but really lack power as far as candidate rediscovery engagement, and tracking, But there’s hope, as there are ways to get the best of both worlds.

Episode Highlights About The Dysfunctional ATS:

Now, We’re living in a candidate centric world. Please build consumer level, consumer grade apps and bring them to the job seeker. That will enable them to have a seamless experience with their company, and have a positive impression of your brand.

What people are actually looking for from an ATS is the engagement side and not the ATS part. The conversation needs to start there.

Digging the Sourcing School podcast? We have all sorts of interesting guest speakers in the recruiting and HR space. Check out here for all our content.

This HR Tech 2022 series is sponsored and made possible by our friends at Gem

Anil Dharni
CEO/Founder Sense

- Mobile development - iOS, Android, user acquisition, mobile analytics
- Expert in developing mobile platform tools that include creating beta products, A/B testing framework, app analytics & user behavior analysis, and Content Management Systems for mobile
- Social Games Mobile - Developing games for iOS, Android, Facebook

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Announcer (00:00):
School is in session. This is RecruitingDaily’s Sourcing School podcast. We’re recording from HR Tech in Vegas. Thanks to our friends and partners at Gem. Sharpen your pencils and get your sourcing pants on because we have the scoop on sourcing news, recruiting tech, and all the hot topics that you need to learn about. Here’s your professor, Ryan Leary with special guests, Shally Steckerl and Mike “Batman” Cohen.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (00:26):
Oh, welcome back guys. This is officially Day 2 of HR Tech Sourcing School recording podcasts with industry thought leaders and cool tech that if you don’t know, you should know. I’m your host, Mike “Batman” Cohen, and for the first talk today I’ve got a really special guest, someone I know personally, Anil, Sense. Introduce yourself, tell people what’s going on, man?

Anil Dharni (00:54):
Hi, Batman. Thank you for having me. My name is Anil Dharni. I’m the CEO and co-founder of a company called Sense. We are a talent engagement platform that basically sits on top of an ATS and automates a lot of communication that recruiters, sourcers, hiring managers have with their job seekers and candidates, and that in turn helps the company drive these candidate faster through the funnel and gets them fired, gets them hired faster. I didn’t mean to say fired.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (01:24):
Oh, I love that. No, that’ll be fantastic. I dig that. I was like, “Oh, no.” Yeah, this is my brain. No, it’s perfect, man. I wanted to bring you on specifically to talk about something we were chatting about yesterday and a popular topic among people, which is our ATS.

Anil Dharni (01:48):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (01:48):
Right, and this idea of when people are picking an ATS I feel, and I want to get your perception, that the topic isn’t, “Hey, what’s the best, most functional ATS for us?” It’s, “Hey, what’s the least painful ATS for us?” You’ve been doing this a while, so I’d love your perspective to talk to the listeners about maybe evolution of ATS, if you’ve got background on that vision and what ATS is in your opinion, right? You talked a little bit about this, and I know already, what they’re designed for and then maybe where a common miss is when people are choosing and using?

Anil Dharni (02:30):
Yeah, Yeah. No, I think that’s a great question and obviously lots of history here. I think at the start of it people thought, “Okay, I have recruiters, I have sourcers, I have hiring managers and I need a place for them to do their work.” I think at the start of it all, that’s where it began, but at the end of it has become pretty much a task management, a process driven platform. Then on top of it is also basically required for governance, it’s required for compliance, it’s required for fingerprinting.

We see the two basic needs of an ATS really around those two dimensions, which is number one is around compliance and governance, and number two is really where is my tasks lists and where do you need to log into just to check those tasks? Unfortunately, there’s so many legacy systems or systems that have been Band-Aided over time that it has one of the lowest NPS in the software industry. You think about what an ATS and NPS is, it’s terrible.

I think the new age platforms are coming in and trying to rework that, but there are the behemoths in the industry and what we hear from our customers every single day is, what they’re trying for is they want an engagement solution. They want something that brings that candidate record alive. They want a system where they can have conversations, not a system where they just move a candidate from one process or one stage to the next.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (03:59):
Yeah. Yeah, and that’s a great point. I think, interesting as you were talking about the creation of the ATS and the fact that the two main purposes of where it came from was that governance for compliance and then what you call task management, I call project management workflow of candidates and process. But interesting to think, and we didn’t talk about this, what was before the ATS?

Anil Dharni (04:25):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (04:25):
Because I have my thoughts on this, but what did people do before the ATS?

Anil Dharni (04:28):
Yeah. Notes, whiteboards, Excel spreadsheets. If you walked a hall back in late, at least for me, late 1990s of a staffing company, you would see them with whiteboards.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (04:38):
Oh, yeah.

Anil Dharni (04:39):
They managed their entire pipeline through whiteboards.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (04:43):
Where do they keep all their data?

Anil Dharni (04:44):
Yeah, Excel spreadsheets or Notes.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (04:47):
Then where do they keep the candidate data?

Anil Dharni (04:51):
Well, I’m trying to think now. I don’t know.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (04:53):
On resumes in red pen, alphabetically in file folders.

Anil Dharni (04:58):
Yes, in the files. Of course, file folders. Oh my god, you’re taking me way back.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (05:02):
I know, I know.

Anil Dharni (05:02):
Yeah, and that’s it, and they needed a storage system.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (05:05):
Yeah, yeah. How do you access that data without doing what we used to do? It’s just like, “Hey, we need a .NET 2.0 developer.” Dating myself, and you’re just like, “Okay, cool.” Filter through that folder. You’re like, “C# 2.0.” Take that big stack of resumes out. You’re all right, right? I think it’s important for people to know that because what preceded it dictates typically the solution. Invention is the… What is it? The offspring of need or necessity.

Anil Dharni (05:36):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (05:36):
Right. Whatever that is. I don’t remember the exact phrase.

Anil Dharni (05:39):
Invention is the mother of… No, necessity is the mother of invention.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (05:42):
Yes. Thank you. Yeah. That was way more elegant. Offspring should not be used in any of those sentences. I think this idea of, okay, so the ATS, and we’ve Band-Aided most of them over time and there are some good ATSs out there, right?

Anil Dharni (05:57):
Yeah, absolutely.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (05:59):
But for particularly large organizations, they’ve become ingrained typically, I find with their HRIS system.

Anil Dharni (06:06):
That’s right.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (06:07):
I don’t want to say any names because we’re not going to do that, but there are a lot of ATS’s whose HRIS system is awesome.

Anil Dharni (06:14):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (06:15):
It’s awesome.

Anil Dharni (06:15):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (06:16):
But the ATS side functions as a database, not in any way for candidate rediscovery, candidate engagement, candidate tracking outside of the task workflow process. We’re sitting in the Gem booth, and Gem is more of the outreach, sourcing CRM approach. We’re not going to pitch, but Sense is a more full cycle candidate engagement and designed not to have a tool to do a function that exists outside of an ATS, like a CRM.

Anil Dharni (07:00):
That’s right.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (07:01):
But instead, function on top of an ATS. When people are looking for an ATS, because this is a common conversation people are going through, what are the things you think they should be asking their companies who are doing the demo?

Anil Dharni (07:16):
Yeah, and I think that the trend that we are seeing is what people want from an ATS is actually engagement and not the ATS. What they’re actually looking for, let’s just frame it. It doesn’t need to be about Sense. The conversations that are happening outside the ATS. People can apply from your website. People can apply from the job booths. People are applying seeing your QR code and they’re applying. They’re seeing your text messaging number and they’re trying to text you back and saying that, “Hey, I want to apply.” The conversation needs to start there, and that’s where the conversations are happening.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (07:53):
Tell me more about that. Dive into that for a second.

Anil Dharni (07:55):
Yeah, yeah.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (07:55):
Because you’re saying the conversations need to start there and as a recruiter my mind goes, “Well, yeah. I mean, you need to screen the candidate.” But I don’t think that’s what you mean.

Anil Dharni (08:02):
Yeah. The job seeker expectations have dramatically changed.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:06):

Anil Dharni (08:07):
They want the companies to meet them where they are.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:11):
Love that.

Anil Dharni (08:12):
It’s a job seeker driven experience and not a company driven experience.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:16):

Anil Dharni (08:19):
Thank you. When I apply at 3:00 AM in the morning, I’m a nurse, I’ve just come back for my shift. I’m frustrated, I want to quit. They told me I’ll be at ER, but they placed me somewhere else. It’s a horrible experience. I go on the website and I say, “Hey, this hospital looks pretty good and I want to apply.” That’s where maybe she goes to the job website, the career website of the company and tries to apply, and there’s crickets. They take you through a 45 minute long forum and you never hear back from anybody, even though you’re hearing everywhere it’s the hardest role to fill, so you should be having 30 recruiters.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (08:59):
The mystical black hole, right?

Anil Dharni (09:01):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (09:01):
He sends his resume in for this nursing job and he’s so excited because he knows that he’s super sought after in the space and, boom, nothing.

Anil Dharni (09:09):
Exactly. I mean we are hiring at Sense. We hire hard to find engineers that build a product and I ask them, “How many companies did you apply to?” They’ll say maybe five or six. “How many did you hear back from?” One.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (09:22):

Anil Dharni (09:22):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (09:23):

Anil Dharni (09:23):
Right, and it’s shocking.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (09:25):

Anil Dharni (09:25):
How is that possible, right? Again, going back, candidates want you to meet them where they are and that conversation is happening outside of the ATS.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (09:33):

Anil Dharni (09:34):
These technologies don’t exist where I can actually tell you, “Hey listen, I’m a stay at home mom. I can do remote work. I cannot go to the site, so can you help me find remote job? Or do you have jobs that are remote?” These kind of conversations around job preferences, not about just a resume, but what have I done? What skills have I gained? What are my preferences? Can I do overtime? Can I not do overtime? Can I work on the weekends? Can I not work on the weekends? Do I have commute to actually take me to work? These are the conversations that the job seekers want to have and they’re not the conversations, have you ever heard an ATS can power those conversations? Well, no.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (10:15):
You brought up a point that I want to touch on this for a second because I love, obviously we were late on this, that’s why we do a bunch of stuff together. We were late on the idea of it’s a candidate driven experience, not a company driven experience. When clients, or even just referrals that I’m making, or it’s like, “Oh, can you send me the resume?” I’m like, “No.” They’re like, “What?” I’m like, “It’s not about the resume. I told you what they did, or you can check their LinkedIn if they’re on LinkedIn and if that’s not good enough, then please understand you are putting you and your time before them and their time.”

Anil Dharni (10:50):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (10:50):
I think the point you made, and this is interesting for people to pontificate on for a little bit, it’s not about applying for a job. It’s about communicating with an organization about their business needs and how you may be able to fill them? I think people miss that boat because they say, “Oh, which jobs did you apply to?”

Anil Dharni (11:10):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:10):
“Oh, did you look on our career board?”

Anil Dharni (11:12):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:13):
Not necessarily realizing that it’s a deeper conversation because most career sites powered typically by an ATS, don’t have the functionality to really dig in and have somebody go, “Oh cool, I am a software engineer.” Maybe even put in your technology. Put in the fact that you want to work remote. Put in the fact that you want to work full time and boom, 87 jobs. You’re like, “Okay, so are you going through 87 jobs?” No, you’re absolutely not going to. I don’t know who you are, but you’re not doing that, so your options are look at a few and apply to one.

Anil Dharni (11:48):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (11:48):
Or, way worse, quick apply, quick apply, quick apply, quick apply, right, all the way down.

Anil Dharni (11:54):
Exactly. I think, going back to your point, the ATSs will build with the resume as a core, with the job as the core system. That’s how you built it. The future and what’s happening in the world today is it’s not resumes, it’s skills, what have you done, and it’s your preferences, and that’s where the matching needs to happen.

Number two, around the job side, what we’ve learned from our customers is most of the time, 80% of the time or more, the job that the candidate applies to is not the right job for them, but yet they’re actually a good fit. Or probably the other jobs, few other jobs that the same company might have, but the job seeker doesn’t know. But the whole pivot of an ATS is around that job so that you are the candidate for that job, you applied for the job, reject.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (12:41):

Anil Dharni (12:42):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (12:42):

Anil Dharni (12:42):
Or never hear back from me.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (12:44):
Yeah, that’s right. “Oh, no. Doesn’t have the buzz words. Doesn’t look like that on paper.” Or “Oh, crappy resume.” Because this is going to surprise people listening to this, but hey, listeners, software engineer’s skill sets, technology, data, problem solving. Not software engineer skill set, resume writing.

Anil Dharni (13:01):
Yeah. Exactly.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:03):
That’s not a thing. Most recruiters are terrible at resume writing, right?

Anil Dharni (13:06):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:07):
What do you for a living? Yeah, I think it’s interesting and to bring that around to something that people really are talking about and is important on the forefront of people’s minds, which is diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Anil Dharni (13:18):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:19):
There are a lot of studies out there that show that men will apply to jobs if it matches a couple of their skills and they go, “I can do this.” Whereas females, in general, won’t apply to a job if it doesn’t match their entire skill set.

Anil Dharni (13:38):
That’s right.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:39):
What can typically happen that I’ve seen, men apply to jobs that may be one step or even two steps above where they’re at, and so they’re getting DQ-ed because they’re like, “Oh, boom,” and they’re not actually considered for jobs that they would probably take that’s a level below.

Anil Dharni (13:55):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (13:55):
Worse than that, in my opinion, women are being interviewed for jobs they’re overqualified for, which is leading for them not growing as quickly and not being able to make the fair compensation that they deserve, and it’s not their fault. It’s the fact that psychology is what psychology is, and your system isn’t set up to be engaging.

Anil Dharni (14:16):
It’s not.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (14:16):
It’s set up to be matching.

Anil Dharni (14:18):
Exactly. Exactly.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (14:19):

Anil Dharni (14:19):
I think, maybe a modern ATS is much more oriented towards less around the job, less around the resume. Really around the candidate, the conversations that we’ve had, and from their figuring out the best match for the company and the job role and the job seeker. It’s that matching and that connection that needs to happen, and it needs to, by the way in this today’s market, needs to happen fast. These ATSs is not built for fast, they’re built for clicks.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (14:49):

Anil Dharni (14:49):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (14:49):

Anil Dharni (14:51):
How many clicks do you need to do? I mean, I think people have done studies on ATSs and you can just do the click study of what it takes to move candidates? What it takes to reject candidate? How many clicks you need to do? We need to move away from clicks and build more intuitive user interfaces too.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (15:10):
Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny you bring that up. That hits a personal trauma point for me. We’re Internally at WayneTech changing technologies now, and an impetus for that is the project management tool that we use for tracking all of our clients and everything that is seven clicks to do everything. I have ADHD, so I’m just like, “No, no.” I can get two clicks, maybe three if I’ve got some custom fields. But beyond that, all of a sudden you need to add in, “Oh, I got to do these five tasks,” and you’re like, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, and it’s just, it’s too much.

Yay, funny, ADHD, but also the harder it is to do that, the less data you’re going to capture because every piece of data then, all your notes and processes and scheduling and feedback, take much more effort and time. As a recruiter, the SLAs that you’re held to aren’t about data integrity and posterity.

Anil Dharni (16:07):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (16:07):

Anil Dharni (16:08):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (16:08):
Which I think, by the way, is a faux pas, they should be.

Anil Dharni (16:11):

Mike “Batman” Cohen (16:11):
Lower those placements, increase data integrity, you’ll make more placements. Okay, we’re right at the top of this. I like to finish this the same way, Anil, which is outside of or within the context of this conversation, either/or, what is one thing you want to leave the listeners with that can hit them in the head, the heart, the soul, their professional being that you want them to walk away from here, really marinating it?

Anil Dharni (16:39):
Yeah, I think we all know, everybody talks about the war for talent and it’s a candidate driven market, but it’s a candidate centric world and it is here to stay. It doesn’t matter, even if there’s a recession, that’s here to stay. Please build consumer level, consumer grade apps and bring them to the job seeker because that’s what’s going to enable them to be delighted by the experience, have a seamless experience with their company, and have a positive impression of your brand.

These are people that are going to consume probably either your software, either they’re going to consume, if you’re a CPG company, your products. You need to understand that you build modern experiences and the brand stays strong, right? I would say it’s a candidate centric world, build experiences around the candidate, not around your company.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (17:29):
That was awesome. Thank you so much, Anil, for joining us. You and I will obviously continue this conversation for weeks to come. I know you guys are super busy, so I appreciate you taking the time out to come join us today.

Anil Dharni (17:41):
Always great to chat with you. Thank you.

Mike “Batman” Cohen (17:42):
Thanks, man.

Announcer (17:45):
Oh man, that means it’s over. You’ve been listening to the Sourcing School podcast live at HR Tech in Vegas, sponsored by our friends at Gem. For all other HR recruiting and sourcing news, check out

Sourcing School Podcast

Michael Cohen

Mike “Batman” Cohen is the Founder of Wayne Technologies, a Sourcing-on-Demand and Recruitment Training Organization. Wayne Technologies On-Demand Sourcing is a revolutionary approach that provides the most actionable data available, is based on deliverables – not time, and is based on access to more recruitment tooling than any organization worldwide.

Shally Steckerl

One of the pioneers of the sourcing discipline, Shally is the Founder and former President of The Sourcing Institute, where he has helped numerous F500 and mid-market organizations train and develop their talent sourcing capabilities for nearly 20 years. When it comes to innovative approaches to candidate search, Shally literally wrote the book. He is the author of the industry-standard textbook “The Talent Sourcing and Recruitment Handbook” as well as “The Sourcing Method: Tactics to Find Unfindable Talent.”

Ryan Leary

Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s our in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industries top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran to the online community and a partner here at RecruitingDaily.


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