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Applicant Tracking Pros and Cons

Most businesses – over 90% of Fortune 500 companies,[1] to be exact – utilize applicant tracking systems. Applicant tracking systems are used to organize candidates for recruiting and hiring. Some features include storing candidate information, track candidate communications, and search and filter candidates by specific keywords.

If you’re looking at implementing an applicant tracking system, here are some of the pros and cons to consider.

Pros of Applicant Tracking

  • Reduce screening time. The average time to fill a job vacancy is 42 days.[2] Most applicant tracking systems allow employers to filter by characteristics, such as skill efficiencies and level of experience in a specific role. This can help reduce time spent filtering through unqualified candidates and restore time spent on higher priority HR responsibilities.
  • Improve candidate experience. ATSs typically streamline the hiring process through organization methods that allow HR representatives to quickly locate and filter candidates. Most ATSs also have notifications, scheduling, and recordkeeping features to ensure consistent communication between employer and candidates, which can improve the overall candidate experience.
  • Limit hiring discrimination. Unfortunately, hiring discrimination is still an ongoing issue with recruiting processes. One study showed that black applicants who altered their names to more culturally accepted or familiar names received callbacks approximately 10% more than those who did not alter their names.[3] Applicant tracking systems can help eliminate such discrimination through filter features. For example, an applicant tracking system may offer a filter to hide a candidate’s name. This filter removes potential bias from the recruiter as well as the system.

Cons of Applicant Tracking

  • Technology may work against you. While technology like artificial intelligence (AI) can provide incredible benefits to employers, such as algorithms to help sift through applications and categorize them by employer preference, there is still potential for AI loopholes. For example, if an application does not match the algorithm correctly, the AI system may eliminate or overlook qualified candidates. An instance of this may be a position that requires a language efficiency like American Sign Language. An applicant who has a “languages” subheading on their resume, but lists “ASL” might be overlooked by an AI algorithm. Another factor to consider is that applicant tracking systems may have difficulty reading particular formatting, meaning that some fonts or other formatting may not be translated or readable by an applicant tracking system. Unfortunately, applicants likely will not know this and thus may be overlooked or eliminated from the candidate pool because the system cannot decipher the font used.
  • Can’t always protect against human error. Additionally, applicant tracking systems, like most technology, cannot always fully protect from human error. For example, a system feature may include manually inputting keywords for desired traits. If a word is misspelled or perhaps click something (i.e., another filter), the applicant pools may not match the criteria that is desired.

While AI can be beneficial to removing or reducing hiring discrimination, it can just as easily create it. This is oftentimes done through human error. For example, Amazon unknowingly taught its AI system gender bias by asking it to vet applicants through resume patterns submitted over a 10-year period – many resumes which were submitted by male applicants. As a result, Amazon’s AI system inferred that male candidates were preferable and scored resumes including the word, “women’s” or female college educated candidates lower than others.

To learn more about applicant tracking systems from seasoned professionals, please contact Harbor America. Our payroll administration services go beyond applicant tracking systems and include direct deposit, on-site check printing, tax recordkeeping, wage garnishments, and dedicate payroll processors to ensure client satisfaction.


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Applicant Tracking Systems


[1] Medium
[2] SHRM
[3] Working Knowledge

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