RTT – 5 things to Consider when Selecting and Implementing an ATS

ATS SelectionMany organisations complain about their ATS, even if they have just implemented a new system. Given that an ATS is such a crucial piece of technology, how can organisations ensure that they select a system that appropriately supports their business, aligns against their budget and resource levels; and is future proof?

While other business areas allocate experts to assist with such important buying decisions, HR is often expected to go through the process alone, or worse is given an ATS because of a wider technology decision.

These are the thoughts and takeaways from a Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Friday 2nd February 2017 hosted by Aytan Hilton (Cross Government Recruitment Advisory Lead – GDS) & Ian Morrison (Director TA – CRF Health) titled ‘What to consider when selecting and implementing an ATS’.

The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Talent Acquisition professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.


During this quick recap of the Think Tank, I will be referencing the often backwards journey many organisations take when selecting and implementing a new ATS. Based on my own personal observations of this process, I have identified 5 things to consider when embarking on this journey. Please note that this post is not aimed at any individual or organisation it is purely my thoughts and mine alone on this subject.

1. You get out what you put in

Through various conversations I have had, the main factor for an ATS failing to deliver against expectations is largely down to the system not being used correctly and ultimately a reflection of the data being inputted. A good ATS should work perfectly well if the data is in the right format, inputted correctly and updated when it should be.

2. Necessity vs. ‘nice to have’

Let me set the scene…

I have invited in several different ATS providers and asked them to show me all their cool features that will help me look good in the eyes of the business. Naturally I’ll probably be drawn to the one that seems most innovative.

The ATS providers will literally be rubbing their hands together as they present to you everything new and shiny they have to offer. Whereas you could go into these meetings with a clear strategic understanding of the required ATS outputs you need, and benchmark the providers’ ability to deliver on those. A favourite saying of mine is, ‘start with the end in mind’.

3. Creating a compelling business case

You undoubtedly spend a long time writing a business case for your system selection, but in the end for what purpose? Will it come down to what finance want to pay rather than the recommendation you have made? You present the business with three options in order of merit;

  1. Joe’s ATS – cost £100,000
  2. Bill’s ATS – cost £80,000
  3. Zoe’s ATS – £50,000

Overall which one do you think the business will choose once finance has had their say? I would hazard a guess and say Option 3.

When we prepare our business case, do we reference the ‘bigger picture’ and explain how it will benefit the entire business not just recruitment? A good ATS should be used by several different types of departments. Do you talk about how an ATS used the correct way can improve a number of things such as;

  • Diversity
  • Gender
  • Quality

The ability to secure wider buy-in in the business case is not easy, it takes lots of evidence and then more importantly the ability to explain what that data actually means to the people that will ultimately be making the decision. This is probably one of the hardest parts of the entire process. Therefore it’s important to link your business case to the overarching business strategy to help drive confidence in your proposition and secure that all important buy-in.

Then lastly, ensure that all relevant departments are included on the journey. Hiring Managers will need to be supportive of your systems choice as they will account for a large part of the usage, which will ultimately all feed into the overall success of the new ATS.

4. Implementation is critical

Let’s assume you have a £100,000 budget for your new ATS. I would put good money on 95% of the budget being spent on shiny new features that you don’t need, that people won’t use and that the remaining 5% will be set aside for implementation. If the team/business has 1) not bought into the new ATS, or 2) that the culture of the business is not right for the ATS, it will fail. Simple as that.

Who’s responsible for ATS data entry? Most of the time it is the front line recruiters, and if they do not feel they gain value from doing things the correct way, guess what? They won’t do it. Therefore it’s crucial to place emphasis on effective implementation and for the users to be bought into the benefits of using it correctly. If it makes their job easier and heightens their efficiency, then again guess what? They will use it. Don’t just sell it to your boss. Sell it to the team first. Strive to have the entire team excited about the new system and the value it will add.

5. Give people the tools to be successful

This is more of a question to my audience. If I was to ask you who you could go to for external ATS training (not using the provider). Would you know which resources or businesses you could turn to? What I find happening a lot of the time is recruitment functions grinning and bearing an ATS that isn’t fit for purpose. Yet I imagine if they had the option to get specific training, to bring the team together and have them see the value associated with using the ATS in the correct way, that this would be hugely beneficial. Food for thought for any people that could potentially offer this ☺


The strategy side of picking an ATS that;

  1. You actually need
  2. Fits your culture  

These two critical issues are what I see holding back so many companies. Further to this point, when you meet with providers remember that one model doesn’t necessarily fit all. If the vendor tell you a success story about a company like yours, please always bear in mind that this success might not translate into your business, as of course no one company has the same culture. Go into that meeting knowing exactly what you want the end game to be. Then let the salesperson advise you on the steps that are going to help you achieve it.

A quote to finish.

“It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.” Winston Churchill

Ryan Hallwood

Written by , Analytical Consultant

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