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Selecting an ATS Comes with Options

Two business people sitting at a table looking at a laptop.

​Should HR executives choose a standalone applicant tracking system (ATS) dedicated to managing and automating the hiring process, or should they use the ATS module of an HR information system (HRIS) responsible for all HR functions?  

That's the question that confronted CloudBees, a San Jose, Calif.-based enterprise software company. CloudBees chose to abandon its standalone ATS and implement an all-in-one HRIS, payroll and ATS platform from Paylocity, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based company that provides cloud-based payroll and human capital management software. 

CloudBees is centralizing its HR operations to serve approximately 600 employees. At the beginning of 2022, the company had 180 new positions to fill; it has now filled more than 90 percent of those positions.

Karla Porter, senior talent acquisition partner at CloudBees, said many HCM or HRIS platforms that have ATS modules don't always have the capabilities recruiters are looking for.

"Resume parsing, on-demand video interviewing, outbound recruiting, sophisticated scheduling and direct messaging are a few examples of features that are typically not included in an ATS module of an HRIS without third-party subscription and integration," she said.

Knowing that, Porter said, CloudBees intends to overcome some of the ATS features that are lacking in the new Paylocity system by engaging software companies that can provide more features to enable Paylocity's ATS module to meet CloudBees's specific needs. 

"Paylocity was ultimately adopted because of its integrated modules, one of which is an ATS," she said. "We will meet further talent acquisition needs by supplementing native features the platform offers, with external providers that offer additional functionality beyond its capabilities."

In an employment marketplace that has labor shortages and fierce competition, companies are turning to recruiting automation software providers such as Paradox, iCIMS Talent Cloud, SmartRecruiters, Calendly, SeekOut and others for software that has artificial intelligence capabilities; mobile apps; text messaging; interview scheduling software; diversity, equity and inclusion tools; and video capabilities; depending on which vendor you choose.

The Great Resignation, remote work and other demands on recruiting staff in the post-pandemic era have pressured many companies to engage separate recruiting automation software partners to integrate their tools with existing HRIS technology to ensure they meet the needs of different staffing requirements—such as customizing an ATS for hourly front-line positions.

"In a high-volume use case where speed is everything, candidates are applying to maybe 10 jobs at one time," said Joshua Secrest, vice president, marketing and client advocacy at Paradox, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that provides recruiting software and services.

"Candidates are applying at night, some don't have a computer and typically [they] use their mobile devices. Some candidates might be applying in Spanish. The capabilities you need to win and provide an amazing candidate experience for high-volume front-line workers is very different," Secrest said.

Brian Kropp, managing director at Accenture, said a decade ago companies used multiple systems to manage different parts of the HR functions, but those systems didn't talk to each other and weren't capable of moving data back and forth between each other. 

Several years later, companies like Oracle and Workday created integrated systems that could move information from an ATS to an HRIS and to a learning management system, but integrated HRIS or HCM systems come with other problems.

"When you have one integrated system you had to accept all the good and bad associated with that system, and sometimes the unique features were exactly what you wanted, sometimes not," Kropp said.

He added that in recent years the integration between separate systems has improved with the use of application programming interface software, and companies are now no longer forced to buy an integrated system that incorporates different human capital technology needs and be stuck with it.

"Now companies can buy a series of point solutions, and they have people that actually integrate those point solutions on the back end to let the data move back and forth," he said. "One of the biggest shifts in the HR technology space is just that—the point solutions now have the ability to be integrated where several years ago they didn't."

Kropp also said buying different point solutions to manage various aspects of the HR function and integrating these systems on the back end makes the tools seamless for applicants.

"In the past, from a candidate perspective, you had to enter your data when you apply, then enter the same data when you are onboarded, then enter your data again when you apply for health insurance or whatever it might be, but with integration it's much more seamless," Kropp said.

For the company, however, buying different point solutions to handle various aspects of HR can be more expensive than working with the same vendor for all your HR technology stack.

"You are likely to be able to negotiate a better price for everything put together, whereas if you are putting together a series of point solutions it's harder to negotiate on price. The net savings that you get by just working with one company under a much bigger contract tends to be greater," Kropp said.

As companies upgrade or replace their ATS systems, Secrest said recruiters should assess how automating the recruiting process helps them spend more time on other tasks such as sourcing candidates, aligning their recruiting efforts with the needs of company managers or assisting training their recruiting team.

"A key part of selecting your ATS technology is to highlight what other things can or should be automated so that you can be spending the most critical time in the right places," Secrest said. 

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.


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