Avoiding The Black Hole: Where Your Employer Brand Meets Your ATS

Or maybe we should say, “where you don’t want your employer brand meeting your ATS?”

The “ATS black hole” is that dark corner of your ATS, the place some applicants go, never to be heard from again. And that’s the last thing your all-important employer brand needs: people you don’t even know out there ready to badmouth your company for something you might not have even been aware of.

You work hard to establish your employer brand. You create imaginative recruitment marketing campaigns to get the word out to potential applicants, you’re engaging on social media, and you’re producing great content that’s really landing with your target personas. So what happens when a potential applicant turns into an active candidate, only to be lost in that mythical black hole? Let’s hope you never find out. Read on for tips and tricks to ensure you never find yourself up against an unhappy, unidentified candidate who’s irate they never heard back about what they thought was the perfect opportunity.

But first, a quick description of the ATS black hole, to be sure we’re all on the same page. This is the name given to what happens when an applicant vanishes from the recruitment funnel, seemingly without a trace. There are several potential causes for this disappearing act:

  • The applicant gave up part way through the process, usually due to an overly complicated or lengthy application.

  • There was a breakdown in communication between the recruiter and the hiring manager and the candidate was never updated on their status.

  • There was a hole somewhere in the funnel that allowed the candidate to just vanish from the recruiting teams' radar, with nary a sound.

  • Your application tracking system’s user interface may be clunky and not conducive to retrieving the information you as the recruiter need in order to follow up with the candidate.

All of these are avoidable; the best practice is to address any holes in your ATS before they lead to lost applications and upset candidates. The key concept that runs through all of our tips today is simple: applicant experience matters.

ATS applicant interface: It’s the first taste of your employer brand many will get.

Your EB is the sum total of your company values, it’s how you treat your employees, combined with the office culture. And the first official taste many will get of this brand is the application process itself. Does it match up with what you’ve been presenting via social media and other recruitment marketing efforts?

If your brand revolves around respect for your employees and the streamlined process of bringing their ideas to the company product, why are you asking them to spend 45 minutes answering redundant questions when the answers are already in the resume they’re also being asked to attach?

Do they really need to enter each work experience individually (especially when you know they’re just cutting and pasting it from their resume? No, no they don’t. This is likely one of, if not the single biggest source of lost applicants. If your application process takes 45 minutes or more, and your competitors take 5, which one would you be more likely to finish?

Think it through, maybe at this early stage, can you get by with a simple 5-10 questions and an attached resume? Maybe a LinkedIn profile link, if applicable? This cuts the time the candidate is spending filling out questions and increases the number of high-quality applications you’ll receive. By treating them like they’re already one of the team, you’ll be reinforcing that EB from the first encounter, solidifying their already great image of your and your company.

Continue to impress your applicants by responding ASAP, and staying in touch when you say you will.

Does your ATS have an auto-response feature? If not, does your recruitment marketing software? One way or another, you need to respect your applicant's time and efforts by responding quickly with a thank you note. They took the time to research your company, find an appropriate opening, and submit their application. All you have to do is have an autoresponder set that sends a quick, “Thanks for your application! We’ll be in touch within x business days with information on the next steps.”

Seriously, that’s all it takes to keep up your reputation and keep the applicant happy with your service. Of course, this respect will be lost immediately if you don’t actually follow up within x business days, which brings us to the second part of this tip:

Use whatever autoresponder you have access to, or use calendar reminders if your systems don’t include this feature. Either way—keep the applicant updated. Does the hiring manager want to meet with them? Let them know, and provide a link to schedule a time. Do you need to do a phone screen first? Ditto. Are they just not a great fit at this time? Ditto, minus the scheduling link.

Use your ATS to nurture relationships with people at all stages of the funnel.

This applies to everything, from recruitment marketing directed at potential candidates to those in mid-funnel waiting to hear from the hiring manager, all the way through the new hire starting Monday. It also extends to those who previously got lost to the ATS black hole, like the ones who don’t fit an opening at the moment, but who might just be perfect for a future opportunity.

You can easily mine your ATS for contact info for rejected candidates. Comb through their resumes, see if the reason they were rejected was simply that they weren’t a good match for that specific opening, then compile a list of these folks.

Now you have a mailing list of people who already love your company and would love to hear about new openings that might be a better fit for their skills. By nurturing these relationships now, you’re saving yourself the time, energy, and budget of having to run a full-scale hunt when that next opening comes up.

And even if you don’t have any perfect openings, by keeping the communication channel open, you’re showing these people that you respect their time and abilities by keeping them in the loop. Now, when that opening does appear, you're both ready to start the process again with minimal ramp-up time.

Keep everything updated, everywhere.

It’s critical to keep your ATS and your recruitment marketing systems in sync. If they aren’t integrated on the back end, you may have to develop a workflow that your team can follow to ensure this happens. Why is this so important?

Think about this, how much time and budget are lost when you create a killer recruitment marketing campaign around an opening, only to find out it was filled last week?

Or if an opening is added to the ATS, but you don’t know about it and find yourself confused when a candidate asks about it online?

Both of these situations can be eliminated by keeping these systems updated. Now, when a job is filled, your marketing system finds out and removes that opening from your campaigns. And when you advertise an opening with a link to the job description landing page, that link will work because the marketing system knows the listing is still live.