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Applicant Tracking System

Keys to Selecting an Applicant Tracking System

April 5, 2018
6 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged


ClearCompany is excited to welcome Louie Lugo to our blog team. Every few months Louie will share his knowledge and advice on HR best practices gleaned from his career as a seasoned HR practitioner. We’re proud to have Louie as a blog contributor, and as a partner in Talent Management.

In the ever-changing world of technology and talent acquisition, staying up to date to remain competitive in the labor market relies on knowledge and awareness of the most effective methods and trends. When I started my position with FirstLight Home Care as Senior Recruiter & Human Resources Business Partner, I walked into an office full of paper: initial contact forms, background check authorizations, I-9’s, W-4’s and interview question forms. It looked much like a recruiter’s office from the 1970s. I sat down, settled in and started learning how their talent acquisition process had operated up to that point.

After performing an environmental scan, I quickly realized that everything was a manual process, save from a small handful of independent candidate sources. I immediately had a flashback to my interview the previous week when the Chief Operating Officer said they needed to hire five caregivers per week. So, the question became, “What is the shortest path from ‘Point A’ to Point B’?” ‘Point A’ being the current situation of one hire every other week with a timely and costly manual process and ‘Point B’ being a talent acquisition model that allows for cost-effective, efficient and quality high-volume recruiting that could allow the marketing team to freely grow the business.

Searching for an #ATS? Seasoned HR practitioner, Louie Lugo explains the successful selection process he used for @FirstLightCare:

Search for a Solution

I immediately began my selection process to find a cost-effective platform that met specific criteria for our new talent acquisition model. The criteria were comprised of the following: the ability to easily link several custom candidate sources to one platform, an extensive reporting function to track talent acquisition metrics and related KPIs, an intuitive platform that could be customizable to our specific business model and a knowledgeable and freely-accessible support team with a dedicated customer success manager. I started this search with five different Applicant Tracking System platforms.

Platform 1 offered a simple, easy-to-use interface. Although the aesthetic appearance was somewhat juvenile and basic, it offered an effective talent acquisition workflow. The representative was friendly, professional, and well-versed in the capabilities of the system. Additionally, this platform had the lowest price point. However, the reporting center wasn’t developed to the extent I needed to measure essential metrics and KPIs.

Platform 2 was an exceptionally advanced applicant tracking system. The reporting center was extensive, but the workflow and interface did not appear intuitive. The biggest downside was the salesperson who was pushy and rude. This appeared to be an indicator of how their company operated which was a significant turn-off. Furthermore, the price point was easily the highest of the five platforms.

Platform 3 was an average applicant tracking system. It offered a lower price point than some of the others, but wasn’t the cheapest. The reporting function was adequate but not exceptional. The salesperson demonstrated the platform, but I found both the salesperson’s approach of the demonstration and the platform itself to be incredibly lackluster. The interface and functionality felt dull and lifeless. It was hard to imagine working with this platform five days a week.

Platform 4 was an outstanding applicant tracking system from a large and recognized vendor. The salesperson was accommodating, professional, and versatile. This made the conversation especially engaging, and allowed me the opportunity to explore the possibilities of this platform to the fullest extent. The reporting center was everything I was looking for, and the interface was both intuitive and had a professional appearance. The price point was higher than some of the simpler systems, but still only about half as much as the most expensive one. Given the capability of the system and the professionalism of the representative, I considered this to be a fair level of investment.

Platform 5 was a balanced system that met all the criteria I was seeking. It offered an intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing interface with a comprehensive reporting center. The salesperson was well-versed in the capabilities of the ATS. He had the opposite demeanor of the representative from Platform 2. The discussion presented an enjoyable dialogue about how the platform could fit into our specific business model. I asked several questions about what was customizable and what developments might be available from the vendor in the future. I received all the information I sought from the representative. The price point was lower than Platform 4 and they had an office only 70 miles away. This provided the opportunity to have a dedicated customer success manager nearby with whom I could have quarterly face-to-face meetings. Platform 4 was a winner, but because Platform 5 could offer everything I sought including a physically-accessible customer success manager at a lower price point, the decision was clear.


We started the implementation process within 30 days after starting the selection process. The business need was urgent, and I knew the new ATS would make my responsibilities of talent acquisition significantly easier, more efficient and cost-effective. The implementation process began when I first started working with an implementation specialist and our new customer success manager. I was pleased to know that the customer success manager possessed a credible human resources certification. This meant that I could speak with her using my HR terminology and body of knowledge. This was an outstanding bonus that expedited both the implementation and development processes.

The new ATS was completely ready for use in under two weeks. We were able to grow the size of our workforce by 73% in only 90 days. This represented a significant success, and exceeded expectations for return on investment. The ATS played a critical role in our new successes in talent acquisition.

Ultimately, the key factor in selecting an ATS is the business need. This represents strategic alignment in action. A number of questions should be posed before beginning the process of ATS selection that revolve around the question of “Why”. Formulating a business case will serve to garner buy-in from relevant stakeholders and define a clear path of purpose, method, and expected results.

Here are some questions to consider in your search for a new ATS:

  • Is this a critical business need?
  • Specifically, how would an upgrade of the talent acquisition model affect the viability of the current business model and support sustainable growth?
  • Will the acquisition of the ATS platform save time and money, and will there be any changes to organizational workflow as a result? If so, how?
  • In a detailed overview, based on internal and industry metrics, how much capital will be required to meet the predetermined expectations?
"Ultimately, the key factor in selecting an ATS is the business need." -Louie Lugo, Senior Recruiter & HR Business Partner at @FirstLightCare

Consider number of recruiter seats, capital required for candidate sources, and related sites that funnel active and passive candidates. Also consider the different needs of various requisitions. This information should be included in the business case or RFP. Again, this will incite interest with stakeholders and create clear solution paths moving forward. Often HR professionals are looking for a ‘seat at the table’. This sort of due diligence, illustration of how a human capital upgrade can positively affect the bottom line can promote HR inclusion. Remember, the ATS should make your talent acquisition function easier and more efficient. If it isn’t, you may be reinventing the wheel on unnecessarily and ineffectively.

Need help in your search for an ATS? Check out ClearCompany's vendor-neutral buyer's guide to finding the right solution for your team:

buyer's guide updated

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