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The Story of the Corporate Applicant Tracking System

Peter Gold

Founder, Storifyd

Which came first; the job board or the e-recruitment system? The Monster Board was first created in 1994 with most of the early ATS vendors not appearing until 1998/9.

Since those exciting late 20th century days the market has ducked and weaved all over the place. I still remember Recruitsoft, Recruitmax, Brassring and many others that have since renamed, acquired or simply disappeared.

Some of the older products that still exist today are now in their 14th year. Imagine pulling a 14 year old mobile phone out of your pocket; assuming you could fit it in your pocket! Yet some organisations are still using an ATS that is of this ilk.

Back then it was all very much the Wild West and vendors had to pitch a missionary sales message as recruiters were not convinced that the Internet would ever become relevant for mainstream recruiting. IT jobs maybe, but your average shop worker or plumber would never apply for a job online.

Job boards continued to explode rapidly destroying the print media industry who clung on as long as they could but as recruitment advertising moved online it created a global platform for job advertising. This in turn forced the recruiter to look to the e-recruitment system to help automate the processing of all the (irrelevant) candidates. Many companies adopted a "screening out" approach to their online job application forms with branched screening questions becoming the de rigueur from 2005 onwards.

Whilst all the vendors continued to change their names the e-recuitment system also became known as an Applicant Tracking System or ATS which suited it well. Applicants were forced through a bureaucratic online process, inherited from an old paper based process that just didn’t work online. Candidate experience was hardly considered and ATS vendors provided a clunky experience that did nothing but frustrate everyone.

Arrival of Web 2.0

Then Web 2.0 came along followed shortly by social media and now mobile. Some industry commentators still like to proclaim that recruitment is (now) broken although I would argue it was never fixed. The basic premise of moving a paper based process online is not a fix; far from it. Yet some of the older ATS’s still follow this clunky route hence it is still broken for many organisations.

Candidate experience is on the agenda of most HR Directors. Social is a conversation piece at every recruitment conference and mobile is catching up fast. The candidate is more active online now than ever before due to the likes of Facebook (albeit not actively looking for a job on these channels). Social media has created a new way of using the Internet and most people involved in any business process is comfortable with sharing, commenting, liking etc. The market is way beyond the "end of the beginning" yet many of the ATS vendors are still peddling systems that may as well have been built 100 years ago as far as recruiters are concerned.

Meanwhile recruiters have been waiting patiently for social functionality to be added to their existing ATS yet still they wait. Posting a job to Twitter or adding share code to a job description is so far from what social really means. Social and mobile have placed a new imperative on the recruiter and they cannot and will not wait for the ATS vendor to catch-up. Why should they and what should they do now?

The next post in this short series "What is a social ATS" will cover how social is being weaved into the ATS.

In the meantime and in case you didn’t recognise the names:

  • Recruitsoft ~> Taleo ~> Oracle

  • Recruitmax ~> Vurv ~> Taleo

  • Brassring ~> Kenexa ~> IBM

Or if you remember any other ATS names from yesteryear please tell us.

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