SmartRecruiters Blog

5 “Must Ask” Questions For Applicant Tracking System Vendors

I’ve worked in HR technology for the last eight years as a recruiter, buyer, product manager, and success leader. Unfortunately, one of the common threads across every ATS customer is the fact that they have walked into their systems purchase half blind.

I’ve worked in HR technology for the last eight years as a recruiter, buyer, product manager, and success leader. Unfortunately, one of the common threads across every Applicant Tracking System customer is the fact that they have walked into their systems purchase half blind. 

There isn’t an RFI or RFP out there that could cover every situation you will face as a user, and it’s highly unlikely you would get enough time in front of a sales rep or sales engineer to assess every single workflow and button in the product prior to making a buying decision.

Here are 5 “must ask” questions I would highly recommend you ask any ATS vendor you are looking at:

1. Can this ATS help me find & identify quality candidates?

Don’t be be fooled by sexy workflows, conditional screening questions, and pretty sample career sites. Don’t get me wrong, these can be an integral part of your recruiting strategy but they are meaningless if the right candidates aren’t knocking at your door. Your recruiting platform should house your jobs, distribute your jobs, track the source of your applicants, and analyze data so that you can make real-time decisions on where the best candidates are tracking from by job, manager, department, location, function, brand.. The list goes on. Automation, transparency, and predictability are key, and it needs to be in the DNA of your next recruiting software platform.

2. Can you provide a customer reference from a hiring manager user of your platform? Perhaps a VP of Marketing or Director of Engineering?

If you aren’t asking your vendor to send you a customer reference that’s NOT on the recruiting team, then you’re missing the mark. Your time to hire is a minimum of 3x faster when you’re hiring managers actually approve reqs, screen applicants, rate candidates, and make hiring decisions without your recruiting team handholding them through every step in the process. This means that they need to love the product as much as you do – and immediately. It can’t be hard to use. It can’t be hard to train. So, hear it from the horses mouth – it’s a logical ask!

3. How can I track my cost per hire? Show me.

Oh, reporting. You love it, hate it, and inevitably need to learn how to use it at the eleventh hour as the CEO is demanding that an obscure metric be delivered before he leaves for the day. What’s even worse is when you need to pull data from your HRIS, ATS, job distribution, and assessment tools in order to get the answer. Newsflash: It should all be there, in the recruiting platform. Cost per hire is as important, if not more, than time to fill. With all the tools out there today, it’s shocking that not one ATS has been able to give a customer that metric without saying the word “integration” or “custom fields.” Not cool. So do yourself a favor and know what you’re getting into – how hard will it be for you to get what you need?

4. What are the three things you were hoping you wouldn’t need to show me?

Every sales rep is hoping and praying that you don’t ask to see one (or two) things. It’s impossible to be everything to every customer, and though platforms can come close, it’s important that you know exactly where those gaps are as they relate to your organization. So ask, and ask more than one person on the vendor team. Guessing what the weaknesses are for each vendor on your list will surely lead you astray.

5. How do you define hiring success?

If the vendor can’t define what hiring success means to them and their existing customers, you’re already in trouble. Isn’t that the point of the tool? What should be more important, is how you will be able to know and report on whether or not you’re being successful. It should be embedded into every corner of the product, visible to hiring teams helping you engage candidates, and easily accessible by executives that may need to be giving more attention to areas of the business that are struggling to hire quickly. Quality should be clear, measurable, and consist across every internal team, and the results should be celebrated. Look for real metrics, product features, and specific explanations from your vendors. Vague, hypothetical answers aren’t going to get you anywhere or make you look like a rockstar when literal, actionable hiring success is the only thing you care about once the tool is live.

A company’s true value rests almost entirely in it’s talent, so your ATS should and can be how you find, assess, and hire that talent as efficiently as possible. It is an invaluable asset to an organization of any size. So, ask the tough questions and demand honest answers.

Rebecca Carr

SVP, Growth & Hiring Success at SmartRecruiters.