E-recruiting: Applicant tracking systems for better applicant management
Making personnel recruitment easier for all involved – that’s the aim of e-recruiting. From job ads to applications all the way to the final hire, e-recruiting is intended to alleviate the process both for the applicant and the hiring company. Digital tools are used to simplify complex processes, make them quicker and more streamlined. Various forms of e-recruiting can be applied for this purpose.
What is applicant management?
Almost every company is on the lookout for new talent from time to time. In the best case, plenty of applications are received – with varying degrees of quality. It is important to maintain an overview and respond appropriately. The solution is applicant management, a clear system that can be used to take care of organizing applications. And the benefits shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, inadequate management can create two problems for your company.
- First, you might lose the best candidates: if you lose track or respond too slowly, the top talent may slip away and end up working for the competition.
- Second, your professional image could suffer: if you don’t act in a manner expected of a professional company, you risk harming your good reputation. Employees are often networked better than it seems, and criticism of your application process can quickly spread through the industry.
E-recruiting and applicant management are often used synonymously. In fact, the term “e-recruiting” only refers to the technical/digital aspect of applicant management. In theory at least, applicant management could take place without the use of recruiting software. But IT solutions are definitely a big help with this kind of work. There is also a risk of confusing the concept with the similar-sounding “application management”. However, this only refers to how applicants themselves organize their applications.
If your applicant management is adequate, you can benefit from major advantages:
- Time and cost savings
- Consistent data protection
- Strengthening of the employer brand
Good applicant management encompasses all steps of the process and is considered to be a holistic concept. Plan each step to lead directly into the next to obtain an effective system.
Write an informative job ad as the first step. An appealing and suitable text is important in applicant management, but the right timing is absolutely essential. Only publish the job ad once you and your company are ready to carry out the application process in full. Also pay attention to the status of contracts, public holidays, and vacation periods in this regard. Before publishing, you should also consider the channels you want to use to share your job ad.
As soon as the ad is published, the first application documents can be received by the company. Here, it is important to maintain an efficient system to ensure no applications get lost. Bear in mind that you may receive applications through a variety of channels: in writing, by mail or email and in some cases even verbally, depending on your requirements and company structure. Also consider sending the applicant a confirmation of receipt. By doing this you can open a channel of communication at an early stage.
Once you have received all the applications and the deadline has passed, you can start to sort the cover letters and resumes. Selection usually takes place over several steps. A first quick look at the applications will give you an initial impression of which candidates are suitable and who can already be excluded from the process. By comparing the applications against the requirements profile, you can then select the candidates you consider eligible for an interview. After the interviews, you should have found one or more suitable people for the job, providing everything went well.
How extensive the selection process is and how many stages it contains – for example, whether an assessment center forms part of the process – strongly depends on the advertised vacancy, the quantity of applications, and the company structure.
After you have sorted the applications, you will need to contact all the applicants. You will have typically sorted the candidates into three categories:
- Those who are not suitable at all
- Those who are very interesting but are not suitable for the position
- Those who can be considered for the job
The latter group will then either be invited to the next step of the application process (such as an interview) or will receive an offer for the new job. The first group, in contrast, must be sent a rejection. Do not make the mistake of simply neglecting to respond to the rejected candidates. Not only will this give you a poor image as an employer, but it may even result in additional work for you as many of the applicants will contact you with an inquiry.
The second group, comprising people with interesting profiles and resumes, which unfortunately do not suit the advertised position, should be kept in mind and considered for any job vacancies in the future. Let the applicants know about this situation and ask them for consent for their applications to be included in your talent pool.
The possibilities of e-recruiting
Applicant management can be very complex; the risk of losing an overview of applications can therefore be considerable. For this reason, it is advisable to handle the full process – or at least parts of it – using computer tools. Effective applicant management software should support both sides of the process: the applicants and the company. You will mostly notice the benefits of e-recruiting during the actual recruitment activities – i.e. the job ad, employer branding and talent management. The overarching goal of e-recruiting is to attract the best talent for your company. The actual administrative work involved is not completely ignored in this respect, but is ascribed a subordinate role.
E-recruiting is not a clear-cut term. Although it describes the use of recruiting software to support of recruiting processes, sending application documents by email, for example, is not considered an aspect of e-recruiting but rather a standard part of the process.
Job ads – online and mobile
E-recruiting measures most frequently take the shape of job ads. There are still companies that exclusively or additionally use offline channels for their talent search (newspapers, magazines or posters), but the majority of job offers can be found on the internet. A range of channels can be used for this. Online job boards are particularly popular among HR staff. Any company can use these to publish vacancies. Potential candidates can then use search queries and sorting mechanisms to find appropriate job ads.
While some platforms only provide information on the department or person responsible for the position, including their contact information, others enable users to apply directly via the portal. In general, no costs are incurred for applicants, although companies often have to pay fees for their ads. Some online job boards are completely open to any company, while others focus on certain industries.
Besides job boards on the internet, social media websites are also being increasingly used as a tool when searching for talent. Social media recruiting allows people to be reached who do not use online job boards. Maybe because they have not even considered switching employer yet! Companies mostly use professional networks like LinkedIn for this purpose, but employees can also be found via Facebook or Twitter. The right choice of channel has a lot to do with the industry and advertised position.
However, social media recruiting also serves another function of the HR department: image management. Social media can be used to conduct marketing measures for consumers. What's more, the employer’s image can also be cultivated using a social media strategy, making the company more attractive to potential new employees.
Online behavior and therefore job searches are increasingly transitioning to tablets and smartphones: mobile recruiting is becoming more and more important. This begins with optimizing the company website for mobile use and ends with the company’s own apps that can be used for all communication with the applicants. The advantage here (for both sides) is that people carry their smartphones with them and are able to respond quicker. If a push service can also be used with an app that offers job boards and social media platforms, those interested can also be informed even when they are not actively looking for new positions.
However, the uncontested leader when it comes to displaying job ads is still the company’s own website. Large companies especially set up their own career section on their website for this purpose. It can even go so far that companies build their own online platform for entirely handling applicant management. Other companies may not have installed such an extensive system but may still work with applicant management software.
Applicant management software
A software-based applicant management system's primary advantage is that it makes it easier for the HR department to efficiently optimize the whole process. Nonetheless, it should also improve the candidate experience during the application phase. Ideally, this software should cover every step of applicant management from the job ad to the personnel file, which the applicant management system then connects with other HR systems.
The publication and administration of job ads can involve a lot of work, especially when the vacancy is placed on multiple channels to reach as many potential candidates as possible. Good e-recruiting software should take over this work: you can use the software to create the job ad and publish it on a wide range of job portals, the company website as well as in the careers section and emails with just a few clicks. After viewing the ad, visitors should ideally be able to access the online application form, where applicants can enter their data, upload documents and in some cases even link their application profile to accounts on other platforms like LinkedIn.
Some software is even capable of performing resume parsing. Each applicant has their own resume with an individual layout – typically saved as a PDF file. For HR, it is more efficient to define a uniform format using an entry form, but this creates additional work for the applicants as they now have to re-enter all the data from their carefully crafted resume into the entry form. Resume parsing simplifies this process: the software independently extracts the information from the document and enters it into the correct fields. Afterwards, the applicant only needs to check to ensure no errors have worked their way into the resulting document.
The advantage of an extensive applicant management system is that all applications are stored in a structured database and do not have to be manually collated in one place. Moreover, it results in a standardized model, since every candidate uses the same format. This makes it much easier to find key information. Since contact information is also included in the system, the software can also conveniently dispatch invitations as well as offers and rejections.
As all the steps are software-supported, an initial selection can even be performed using algorithms. Using the previously created requirements profile, the applications can be evaluated by the software itself. Of course, this cannot fully replace the personal selection of candidates; HR staff must decide how much trust they are willing to place in the algorithms. But there’s no harm in running the software calculations at least for the first shortlist.
Once you have decided on a candidate, many of their details have already been digitized and can easily be transferred onto the employment contract and personnel file without much additional effort. Furthermore, rejected yet interesting applicants can be added to the talent pool and contacted as soon as a suitable position becomes open. However, it is important to respect data privacy in this regard! Firstly, you need to ask the applicant for permission before you store their personal data for the long term. It must also be ensured that no third parties have access to the data.
A final advantage with this far-reaching system: since all the steps are performed via a single system, the entire process can also be analyzed. Good applicant management software can be of particular help in measuring the success of job ads. How many people viewed the vacancy? How many of them decided to submit an application? An analysis of the measurement results can provide key insights for preparing job ads.
If you decide to use e-recruiting software, you have a range of options to choose from. Either you opt for a finished product that can be used in many different sectors, or you work with a manufacturer to produce a software program tailored to your individual needs. Since the second option is probably much costlier, this course of action is best suited to larger companies. It is also important to have some initial experience with e-recruiting so that you can describe your own requirements precisely.
Recruiting trends: Digitalization on the rise
There is clearly a trend in the use of e-recruiting. The various measures are applied in most companies – with varying degrees of consistency. According to recruitment statistics, 80% of employers say social recruiting helps them find potential candidates. 75% of potential hires aren’t actually actively searching for a job, but are contacted by recruiters that use social media to find them. 70% of hiring managers praise this type of recruiting since they have successfully recruited new employees with it.
One tool that is still relatively unused in e-recruiting are chat bots: the ability for applicants to directly communicate with the company (albeit virtual communication based on artificial intelligence) could become a major future trend. 50% of applicants would use such a feature and obtain information about the application process from a chat bot. Conversely, only 2.8% of the top 1000 companies currently satisfy this wish.
Some programs, such as Pymetrics, show what else the future of e-recruiting could hold: greater use of artificial intelligence and the integration of software-based assessment. Here, the software not only handles the organizational part of applicant management, it also plays a key role in the assessment process. The applicant undergoes a test and the computer program then decides whether the person is suitable for the advertised position. But this may not be the ultimate solution. After all, mathematical algorithms can also operate on the basis of prejudices. However, the manufacturers claim that these factors play a smaller role than is the case with people, and that algorithms can be trained to provide more neutral assessments.
Each company must decide on the extent to which it is happy to pass on this responsibility to software. Nevertheless, it’s clear that e-recruiting can provide a positive application experience and thereby improve the employer brand. What’s more, it can result in cost and time savings. This means that when it comes to applicant management, digital tools will become even more commonplace in a growing number of companies in the future.