Five Flaws in Your ATS

flaws, applicant, ats, hr tech

The face of recruiting has changed greatly over the last decade, but the tools our industry uses have essentially stayed the same. While there are a few that are able to offer what a recruiter really needs the same old standard ATS that most of us use has been around for decades. This creates a major problem for our industry as the abilities of an ATS don’t match up with the way recruiters work now and what we need it to be able to do.

Of course there was a time when an ATS did almost everything a recruiter needed it to do. It was created for applicant storage and compliance and it does a great job at those things. However, it’s not a marketing and engagement engine, which presents limitations in what you can do to ensure candidate experience and engagement. You can get creative and piecemeal together multiple software products to get what you need, but after adding MailChimp, Gmail or Chrome extensions and your typical ATS to the mix, you have a patched together system that is inefficient, flawed and probably still not capable of all that you need.

Five Flaws in Your ATS

The future of recruiting is changing and the systems we use must evolve as well. A recruiter’s job goes far beyond what an ATS can do. We source, engage and build relationships, and we need a system that supports us in those areas. Take a look below to find out about the five main flaws in your ATS.

No Dynamic Search

Recruiters are juggling more than ever before as they work to find the best candidates for multiple job openings. We need our system to assist us in this area by providing a dynamic search and job matching that does the initial dirty work for us, identifying candidates that are qualified for a position without us having to weed through resumes. Most standard applicant tracking systems don’t have this capability, but it’s a must for the ATS of the future.

Ability to Add Notes

Recruiters today are more focused on the candidate experience and fostering relationships, which means there’s more communication happening in recruiting than ever before. It order to make the most of this groundwork you lay, you’ve got to keep track of those conversations. Unfortunately, that’s not a capability most ATSs have. Recruiters should be able to add notes from a phone call or social interaction with ease.

Profile Sharing

Your standard ATS probably doesn’t give you the ability to connect a candidate’s social profile with their ATS profile with ease, or share those within your system. Since so much of the recruiting we do happens through social, this is a big hindrance and something that a modern ATS absolutely must allow for.

Scheduling Reminders

We’re all busy, but following through on what you tell your hiring managers and candidates is so important. Applicant tracking systems may help you keep things organized, but most don’t support you in being timely. Of course you can use your Google or other email-connected calendar to set reminders, but this is a perfect example of how integrating a capability could save time and cut down on mistakes.

Modern Workflow Management

The standard ATS was created before we began using multiple channels to help manage our workflow. The days of using just a desk calendar and phone are over, but that’s what your standard ATS probably supports. Now we use text message, phone, automated email and more, so an ATS that helps manage workflow on multiple fronts just makes sense.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Human worker not "resource" says

    What you didn’t mention and that seems blatantly obvious:

    ATS must stop being the point of entry for applicants. Period.

    ATS screens out good candidates.

    ATS if it exists at all should be a tool for the recruiter not a hammer the company uses against applicants.

    Asking applicants to create accounts and wade through tedious multiple screens transcribing their resume and CVs field by field, using “mandatory” fields to force candidates to disclose salary history that is none of the company’s business anyway, all for the opportunity to be “screened” for the recruiter’s convenience because they didn’t spec the job correctly and think they are inundated with inappropriate applicants, is why your ATS is filled with unusable junk.

    Good people confronted with horrible ATS experiences when they would like to express interest in a position just click away and never apply.

    Why would a good candidate waste 15 to 30 minutes of his/her life filling in an ATS record that would probably never be looked at by a human being?

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Hi commenter,

      Since you didn’t leave an email or a name, I can’t respond directly to you. The ATS or candidate relationship manager system must be the entry point for applicans. This is because an ATS isn’t just for the candidate but employers to maintain candidate records for compliance purposes.

      The ATS sometimes screens out good candidates. Think of it like your spam email filter. Sometimes emails and people slip through the cracks. That doesn’t make it right but sometimes it is because of the setup of the ATS either knockout questions that are added at the front end of the application or due to the recruiter or some unseen circumstance the candidate isn’t told about. Unfortunately, employees aren’t required to give candidates feedback or even a response if a position if filled, remains unfilled. This causes a lot of frustration from candidates which I can absolutely understand.

      The ATS is absolutely a tool for recruiters but remember what I said about compliance. It was developed and used first and foremost for this. Only now are companies looking at candidate engagement as important in the last 3-7 years. Candidates are screened because it is not possible for them to contact every candidate meaning that physical people to reach out candidates are extremely expensive and the company is looking at eliminating costs and the number of engagements a recruiter receives. I can’t possibly as one recruiter contact by phone every single candidate in person to let them know that an employer won’t be going forward with them for an opening.

      One solution to this challenge that exists which I think will help increase engagements with candidates and updates is the use of artificial intelligence. A bot will be engaging you as the candidate, answering questions, providing you status updates and asking more clarifying questions either before, after or during the application and selection process. This is in addition to the ATS or CRM technology and will provide more information and touches that candidates deserve and need.

      One suggestion for you is to apply for a job using the ATS and also tap into your network to see if a friend or connection also works at that company to increase the likelihood that you are contacted or your application is considered for the opening. This is the best way to avoid the ATS black hole.

      While I appreciate your comment, I wish you had left your contact information so that you could receive an update and my response. I’m sorry you have had frustrating situations in the application process. My suggestion for you is that instead of being the victim, to proactively reach out and engage recruiters and connections instead of just leaving the application process to chance. You are selling yourself and sales sometimes is a long and ongoing process requiring many emails, phone calls and engagements before a prospect even considers you for the sale.

      Best of luck to you. I hope this gives you some more insight based on your comment.


  2. Michael Gabos says

    Hi Jessica I agree with your observation on ATS. My 22 years in the business and 17 as the President of a staffing company, I’ve seen many recruiting tools, software, come and go. ATS’ have stuck around as a disappointing necessity, instead of me elaborating on the negatives. Have you found an alternative that works?

  3. Ji-A Min says

    Great summary, Jessica. I believe this is why there’s a growing industry of complementary ATS integration tools that solve a lot of these frustrations.

    In your experience, do you find the more recent ATS companies (e.g., SmartRecruiters, Lever, Greenhouse) are better at including features that address these workflow problems? Or are these still some glaring gaps?


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