The Process Behind Building Our Own Applicant Tracking System by@sandra-parker

The Process Behind Building Our Own Applicant Tracking System

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Sandra Parker

Head of BizDev at QArea. Software Development & QA company

An applicant tracking system, usually referred to simply as ATS, is a software application that simplifies handling of candidate data through automation and enables companies to streamline their recruitment processes from sourcing and communication to testing and selecting candidates. 

Originally, such systems were designed to help recruiters organize and navigate large amounts of applicant data collected from an organization’s internal sources, such as website application forms and emails, or directly from job and resume boards. But as the recruitment industry needs grew, ATS software functionality evolved way beyond simple job applicant databases. In addition to automating data collection and management, today’s ATS systems enable companies to customize and automate entire recruitment workflows for greater overall efficiency from application to hire.

Features a good ATS should have

Every company’s recruitment software needs depend on various internal factors, including the size of their organization, the recruitment budgets, policies, objectives, the ERP system they are using, as well as their business growth and expansion rates.

Today there are plenty of proprietary and open-source applicant tracking systems that cover those varying needs with different packages of features from simple applicant search and tracking to data analytics, customized workflows, and onboarding. These ATS solutions can come as both dedicated, standalone software and modules that serve as a functional part of a larger ERP solution. And for you to establish the most efficient recruiting workflows at your company, you need to choose an ATS with features that suit those factors best. 

Since our company has long used Odoo as an all-around business management solution, going with the Odoo recruitment module was our first and most obvious choice back in the day. But the module wasn’t an actual ATS. And shortly after we integrated it into our digital infrastructure, we realized it was obviously designed for use by a much smaller business. The module was too limited in functionality with recruitment process management capabilities not nearly enough to cover our HR needs as a mid-sized, professional outsourcing vendor whose 80% of business involves finding and onboarding the right talent to our clients’ software development projects.

We needed an effective means of automating sourcing, simplifying work with large databases of candidates, and streamlining our hiring process. And since we didn’t find the features we were looking for in the ready-made Odoo solution, we decided to completely rebuild the open-source module to serve our own unique recruitment requirements.

We carried out an in-depth business and technical analysis of the major ATS systems on the market and included those parameters into our Odoo-based solution. During the development process, we involved our HR department to gather insights from our recruiters and hiring managers on what would make their job easier. We have completely redesigned the architecture, functionality, and the UX of the Odoo module, turning it into a fairly independent, high-quality ATS with the following key features:

Résumé parsing

Since LinkedIn is the main platform our company uses for sourcing, we integrated the system with a convenient extension that enables easy data migration from LinkedIn to our system. The ATS automatically extracts candidate data, organizes it into structured information, and constantly updates it, making it easier for our recruiters to maintain the quality of candidate profiles in the system for future job openings.

Search and recommendations

The system features a search engine with smart filters, automated indexation, and recommendations. Smart filters include contextual and Boolean search functionality we use to effectively pick out applications and candidate profiles based on keywords and criteria such as skills, experience, domain knowledge, location, source of application, past projects, former employers, etc. The ATS also provides automated recommendations based on job requirements and descriptions when a recruiter creates a job offer. 

All these search features allow our recruiters and hiring managers to better sort resumes and pinpoint candidate profiles that match the position the best. This greatly simplifies the recruiter's work with the database and speeds up the sourcing process.

Testing and assessment

The ATS includes an automated candidate assessment tool that can be easily customized to build various tests from coding and skill assessment to cognitive screening. Automated pre-employment evaluation helps us significantly speed up the screening process and easily compare results across our entire applicant pool.

Even when the candidate doesn’t match the necessary technical requirements for one project, the assessment tool enables us to see where they stand in our talent pool, so that in the future we could offer them a role on a different project they qualify for.

Automated assessment works great for hiring trainees, juniors, and middle specialists. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that it should never be applied to senior and C-level roles.

These roles involve a lot more responsibility and risk and therefore require manual assessment with deeper attention to behavioral skills, the candidate’s background, and work examples such as portfolio, relevant projects, code snippets, etc.

Recruitment and onboarding process management

The ATS is seamlessly integrated with our HR system, which enables us to build and customize workflows from sourcing to onboarding of any complexity: with different stages, numbers of interviews, and tests.

We can effectively manage our pipelines of candidates and turn them into employees with a couple of clicks, instead of manually re-entering candidate data into the HR system. This takes a lot of weight off the shoulders of our HR and administration during the onboarding process.

Communication and calendar integration

With flexible communication functionality as well as synchronized Odoo and Google calendars, you can customize your communication channels, interviewing schedules, and automated email notifications in the ATS to suit your corporate structure and workflows. The system will automatically inform the hiring managers, candidates, and everyone involved of the upcoming events or any changes in the flow for a particular position.

Role-based access control

Hiring responsibilities and contributions may differ from person to person depending on how your organization approaches the recruitment process. This stresses the importance of having the ability to assign specific roles with varying permissions across different recruitment stages and openings so that different users only get access to the information relevant to their particular roles. 

Since we’re an outsourcing vendor, we follow strict information security and personal data protection standards. This means role-based access control is a crucial feature for us to have because our recruitment workflows may involve various people from both inside and outside of our organization.

Multi-channel talent acquisition 

Every new job we post is automatically spread across our website and different boards, including LinkedIn. This also involves targeted email notifications and offers to eligible candidates provided from our database by the recommendation system. The ATS helps us get broader reach with faster feedback.

Benefits an ATS brings into the recruitment process

  • Shorter time to hire: from creating job offers to sourcing, screening, and onboarding candidates, an ATS significantly reduces the total time spent to fill an open job position.
  • Better quality of hire: better candidate data structuring and analysis improve search and assessment accuracy, increasing the organization’s quality of hires and talent pool.
  • Lower cost per hire: an ATS enables you to save a fortune on expenses like recruiter salaries, job advertising, and referral bonuses.
  • Improved inter-department collaboration: the system improves communication between members of your recruitment team and everyone else involved in the process.
  • Stronger employer branding: analysis of your recruitment KPIs helps you build better hiring strategies to strengthen your employer brand.

What do an ATS and a CRM have in common? 

Applicant tracking systems and customer relationship management systems are very similar in nature as they are both aimed at building better relationships and optimizing processes from collecting and organizing data to communication, evaluation, and building relationships. In the same way we use a CRM to facilitate and optimize the management of the company's relationships with existing and potential customers, an ATS offers CRM-like tools to streamline hiring pipelines and effectively manage relationships with potential candidates. 

“In terms of functionality, today’s ATS solutions are very similar to popular CRM and lead generation tools. Both types of systems are designed to automate and simplify processes such as search, stage tracking, and communication, reducing their costs and improving time efficiency. The biggest difference is that an ATS is slightly more focused on the search functionality. Other than that, what Hubspot, for example, does for marketing and sales, a good ATS does for recruitment but using different flows and parameters.”

- Oleg Sivograkov, COO at QArea

Final thoughts

Implementing an ATS into your digital infrastructure is never enough to truly improve your recruitment processes. You first need to build an efficient recruitment strategy and then see which processes need to be automated and what should be left to decision-making of your hiring managers. 

There is a reason we succeeded in rebuilding a simple Odoo recruitment module into a highly efficient ATS that works miracles for our company. Throughout our nearly 20 years of experience in the outsourcing market, we have developed a comprehensive understanding of the entire process of sourcing, recruiting, and onboarding. We have acquired deep HR expertise that—combined with our broad technical skills—enabled us to simplify our recruitment processes for all the participants from candidates to those who make the final decision.

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