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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
Applicant tracking systems (ATS) aim to make the recruitment and selection process more productive. The process starts with "the job" – its job description and/or employee specification. This is handled within an ATS by the use of standard templates to impose an organisational discipline onto the creation of such documents. The ATS should make this part of the process relatively painless by ensuring that the creator simply has to use drop-down boxes, simple menus, etc. or has to take a standard description/specification and amend it. This will then be sent (on a workflow basis) to the HR or personnel department for review (and for other organisational activities – such as job evaluation and sizing) and for dissemination in whatever media are appropriate.
Details of the job are passed to a database – and subsequent activity is logged on this database. This may collect applications, CVs and other documents – either where it originates electronically, or via scanning/optical character recognition of submitted paper documents. Of course, the "trick" is in matching applicant data to appropriate job vacancies. Where applicants are applying for a single, advertised post this is relatively easy. Where an applicant submits a general, open application, either someone must scan applications to carry out this matching or the software needs to be a bit "smarter" and include a process for matching requirements with attributes. (This may involve some manual input of basic data from the application to a part of the database.) The application form can the be distributed to the selection panel (or individual) who can update data directly onto the (distributed) database, fill in a form on the company's Website or send a simple e-mail for the HR department to carry out the updating.
Many ATS interface with a range of standard HR/payroll systems – or provide facilities for the organization to create such links themselves. This should eliminate duplicate data entry when an applicant turns into an employee – and reduces HR staffing costs! Of course, the larger HR system vendors are now building applicant tracking into their own systems as an additional module or value-added service.
An ATS will have a set of reporting functions offering summary information on the recruitment process. As a minimum, this will consist of a set of standard reports to be run daily, weekly, monthly or whatever. The better ones have more flexible reporting – and the effective database-based models offer provision for downloading into local office software such as Excel or Access, or for a standard database reporting tool (such as Crystal Reports or Business Objects) to be used to provide customised, and ad hoc, reports.
Such reporting should enable the organisation to satisfy itself that the recruitment process is working – in terms of helping the selection of appropriate candidates – and that it is cost effective, compared to previous clerical systems of applicant tracking.