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9 Questions To Ask When Selecting Your ATS

October 9, 2016

More and more growing companies are turning to applicant tracking systems (ATS) to manage their expansion. These systems can help the human resources department manage the volume of applicants they have for each position, assure compliance with EEOC and other measures, and protect a company against litigation. These systems can be a great advantage, though selecting a partner can be a complex choice.

If you’re considering the adoption of an ATS, there are a few questions you should ask about each potential platform vendor. Much of this information is available on the Internet from company websites and user reviews, but it is best to have your list of questions in hand, and speak to a company representative in person. Reps provide the best assurance that the information you have is accurate and up-to-date.

At deverus, we want to help you pick the best solution for your needs. We’ve created Hubworks to allow our Verocity background screening system to work with the many ATS platforms in the market. Hubworks is built to understand the many different languages that third-party ATSs speak, and translate it to a common language for Verocity. This means Verocity and Hubworks both have you covered.

With the growing complexity in the market we’ve put together these questions to help get you started and make a smart choice for your next ATS.

Does It Meet My Needs?

The best place to start your review of applicant tracking systems is to define the needs you have and make sure an ATS can address all of them. If your operations need a specific type of compliance, such as OFCCP or EEOC, you’ll want to ensure that your ATS of choice can help you stay compliant.

We think that you should look for as diverse a protection set as possible from both your ATS and your background screening partner. deverus eases concerns by allowing you to safely check address history, criminal records, sex offender registration, social security information and much more, specifically at your request. These allow you to search only what you need and remove worry from compliance concerns by reducing risks. That means you can incorporate only proper information into your ATS and overall considerations.

Start with the very specific needs of your operation and your industry and build out a checklist. This list will help you quickly remove certain ATSs from your list of potential partners so you can decide between those who have the best set of additional features and support. After your fundamental needs are met, it’s time to review the structure of the software, the support from the company, and how it can help your operations down the road.

This checklist is also a great place to explore future questions. Whether you’re looking mainly for EEOC compliance or want to delve deeper with a continuously updated system, this will help ensure you get what you need and that it operates well with your background screener.

Do I Need a Cloud-Based Service?

Much of the computing world has moved to the cloud, and many ATS systems have followed suit. Cloud platforms allow for an easier delivery of information and cloud architecture allows your ATS vendor to update software as it’s needed. Cloud systems change the way you interact with the world outside, so there’s a lot to consider. Thankfully, cloud systems are extremely positive in cases such as employment checks and application tracking.

In the world of ATS, cloud systems are important for almost all use cases because it can help to remove two major burdens: security and updates.

Cloud Security

Data security is of the utmost importance for ATS because of the legal requirements companies must adhere to when transmitting this kind of information. There are also significant liability concerns around this type of data because lost or stolen personal information can be used for many different crimes. Cloud platforms address this because it is the software and server of the ATS provider that are used to store and transmit the data.

We think all of your IT partners should make the same type of promises. It’s the responsibility of any cloud platform to keep your data and system safe, so these are guarantees that you must ask for in your considerations.

System Updates

While less on the scary side of things, removing the need for you to manually check for updates to your system – and the information it uses – is also a significant benefit of going to the cloud. Cloud systems can update over time, so you don’t have a major cycle of upgrades that strikes every year or so and causes a disruption to your service.

Cloud-based updates also allow your system to dynamically adapt to new laws when they go into effect. The updates are based on your ATS vendor, so the second part of your cloud question should be: How often does this ATS vendor provide updates to meet compliance regulations and laws? The best answer is a set of regular updates that can keep your system compliant.

In today’s space, there are very few reasons for using a non-cloud service. It increases your risk for security breaches and the possibility that you may perform an illegal check. While you will have more direct control over the software you use, most find the potential harm to be too great.

Can I Learn It?

All new software comes with a learning curve, but some ATS platforms focus on data over usability. You’ll want to select a platform that meets your user-friendly needs, both in terms of general computer use and how the system itself works.

If you’re moving from a very simple fax-based plan, platforms that rely on a dashboard and a slow, even flow are a great bet. This type of system also works well for people who won’t have a lot of time to dig deep into the data, and want reports that are automatically generated.

If you’re looking to use this type of check to provide a deeper set of information and statistics that you use for hiring decisions, look for an option that lets you create custom reports.

Hubworks by deverus is designed with this sort of framework in mind. We think it’s a great value for a vendor to reduce what you need to learn. That’s why Hubworks is designed to quickly integrate with the majority of third-party ATSs in the market. Pre-integration and support allows you to incorporate background screening into your overall application process but removes the need for extra training, coding or in-depth support each time you want to use a new ATS.

Your best bet is to always ask for a free trial or test period so you can see if the system is easy to understand and use. This also provides a great way to check and make sure it works with your existing software, and that you can use the files it sends back to you.

How Easy Is It To Get Help?

“Free” is a big draw for many new ATS providers, but that benefit evaporates at the first sign of a problem. When learning a new system, we all need some support and training. If you include training time and support requirements in your plan, you’re less likely to hit that nasty surprise of selecting an ATS that takes days or weeks to get back to you.

In the hiring world, those delays can cost you good candidates or even cause your search to run afoul of local or regional compliance laws. To counter this, go after online and onsite training services. Try to find an ATS that offers access to live trainers as you set up and practice each process. Online programs allow you to experience training without travel costs and can be initiated as soon as your software is up and running.

Onsite training and recurring schedules allow you to easily onboard new employees and answer specific questions relating to your deployment and industry. This approach has served us well in both the platforms we offer and those we use.

The best options are vendors who provide online communication and support, a 24/7 help line, and a suite of training materials. Training materials help you do a better job using the software and reduce the instances of direct support, so many vendors are beefing up their libraries to make the support situation better for everyone.

Whether you’re requesting one-on-one training for a future date, submitting a trouble ticket, or calling directly for immediate assistance, the tech support staff should be ready to assist you.

Who Owns the Data?

An ATS vendor should not have any final ownership of your information, meaning that you should always have the option to save all of the information you’ve collected. This includes candidate resumes, interview records, and information about when people were added or removed from the hiring process.

Most vendors will allow you to download this information, but there may be some hidden requirements. Make sure you know exactly what you can download and how you will receive the documents. You want to be able to get them in files that your computer can use without the ATS vendor software.

Ownership of data is important for your records and if you ever need to change service providers. Also, you’ll want to make sure that no one is charging you for a data download. If those fees exist, other somewhat hidden fees may also be around.

Will It Scale With Me?

Businesses aim to grow, that’s exactly why you’re hiring and looking at an ATS in the first place. Your software should support this goal by growing with you, instead of creating new bottlenecks that you struggle to overcome.

Talk to your vendor about scalability and make sure that they’re serving clients that are bigger than you. Ask about how easy it is to grow the system and expand users, noting the cost of this growth. Cloud systems make scaling much easier since you won’t need any additional hardware on your end.

While growth can seem amorphous, it can easily be quantified if you think about what the hardware means. For example, deverus currently runs more than 1 million transactions each month but our existing infrastructure can support up to 20 million monthly transactions without any major hardware redesigns.

When you ask about the ability for a platform to grow, ask about both its growth in relation to your business and their overall customer base.

Scalability is essential, especially when you’re talking about response times for complex or mission-critical reports. You want the buffer for growth pre-built into any system you’re plugging into, and not to have to wait for some third party to upgrade their equipment to meet your demands.

Does The Software Integrate Well?

Many application tracking systems are paired with background screening platforms, because it makes the process of choosing the right candidate that much easier. The better these two pieces of software play together, the easier your life will be during the hiring process. Many ATS vendors will note that their software integrates with common background screening platforms, but that’s just dipping a toe in the water – you want to swim.

The key to software integration isn’t just communicating, it’s communicating well. Many will require some software development or form tweaking on your part to get the two systems to accurately trade information.

Think of it like learning a new dialect. If your ATS speaks English with a British accent but your background screener has a Texas twang, some information will get lost in translation when they have a conversation. By taking that approach, deverus was able to pioneer a process that makes integrating as simple as getting online.

Hubworks from deverus operates as a one-to-many ATS connectivity platform by translating requests and results so your platform only needs to speak one language. By working as a translator, Hubworks can reduce the cost for additional ATS integrations and speed up future integrations because you no longer need developers to come in and write original, unique code for your deployment.

We offer Hubworks to help connect your ATS to the Verocity background screening platform so there’s nothing lost in translation. Even if your ATS uses a non-standard data format, we’re here to support that selection if it makes business sense for you.

Are Extra Features Supported Safely?

Many ATS have started to add in social media tools to help judge candidates based on their public persona. These options move past just a public search of Facebook and LinkedIn posts or information to broader applications around potential candidate discovery, job postings, and even recommendations from talent communities.

These social network programs can be a significant benefit to your service, but they don’t fit every position. Make sure to ask about how easy it is to turn social information on and off, plus any additional costs or reporting requirements that may be involved.

When you’re considering moving into the mobile space – such as an ATS that adds in a video interview option – be cautious and ask a lot of security questions. It is not always possible to secure these connections, so you need to ensure that information being transmitted over them is not a potential risk.

One sub-question about new feature support is: do you need them?

All deverus clients also have the ability to submit enhancement ideas at any time. Every idea is reviewed for inclusion in the regular system updates that deverus provides free of charge to everyone on our system. We think adding extra features needs to be more than what’s trending in the industry, they need to be what users want and need.

Is The Company Stable And Reliable?

Integration actually plays a big role in this list twice because your company is best served by an ATS vendor that is reliable and secure in the industry. Newcomers can offer better prices, as can those struggling, but they may not be able to keep up with the rigors of the ATS market.

Every time an installed vendor goes out of business, your company is forced to do a new installation and integration. That means easier integrations are preferable in every case, as is a company with a long track record. These characteristics of a system and the company that runs it provide a great way to differentiate options and judge companies for that final choice.

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