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Applicant Tracking

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) aims to make the recruitment and selection process more productive. The process starts with preparing a job description and/or employee specification. This is handled within an ATS by the use of standard templates to impose an organisational discipline on the creation of such documents. The ATS should make this part of the process relatively painless by ensuring that the creator simply has to use drop-down boxes, simple menus etc or has to take a standard description/specification and amend it. This will then be sent (on a workflow basis) to the HR or personnel department for review and for other organisational activities such as job evaluation and sizing, and for distribution to whatever advertising media are appropriate.

Details of the job are passed to a database and subsequent activity is logged on this database. It may also collect applications, CVs and other documents either where they originate electronically or via scanning/optical character recognition of submitted paper documents.

The ATS can help in matching applicant data to appropriate job vacancies. Where an applicant has applied for a single, advertised post this is relatively easy. Where an applicant submits a general, open application, either someone must scan applications to carry out this matching or the software needs to be a bit smarter and include a mechanism for matching requirements with attributes. This may involve some manual input of basic data from the application to a part of the database. The application form can then be distributed to the selection panel or individual who can update data directly onto the database, fill in a form on the company's website or send a simple email for the HR department to carry out the updating.

Many ATS interface with a range of standard HR/payroll systems or provide facilities for the organisation to create such links themselves. This should eliminate duplicate data entry when an applicant turns into an employee and reduce HR staffing cost. The larger HR system vendors are now building applicant tracking into their own systems as an additional module or value-added service.

An ATS will have a set of reporting functions offering summary information on the recruitment process. As a minimum, this will consist of a set of standard reports to be run daily, weekly, monthly or whatever. The better ones have more flexible reporting and the effective database-based models offer provision for downloading into local office software such as Excel or Access, or for a standard database reporting tool such as Crystal Reports or Business Objects to be used to provide customised and ad hoc reports.

Such reporting should enable the organisation to satisfy itself that the recruitment process is working; helping the selection of appropriate candidates and that it is cost effective compared to previous clerical systems of applicant tracking.

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