Archives for February 2014

Recruiting Talent Using Applicant Tracking Systems

As demographics, technology and social media change, so must approaches to recruiting talent.Companies who establish innovative recruiting practices will have a competitive advantage for attracting quality candidates. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are a key component of this. Their ability to provide an improved candidate experience leads to a greater talent pool from which to draw and, by automating routine recruiting activities, also provides Human Resource (HR) professionals and hiring managers time to focus on other aspects of recruiting. This article explores the benefits of Applicant Tracking Systems and considerations for choosing the right product for your organization.

What are Applicant Tracking Systems?

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) help companies with the first stage of talent management—recruiting the right candidates. ATSs support recruiting by simplifying the candidate application process and storing the information collected in a database. Robust reporting, electronic candidate screening, automated ‘approval to hire’, candidate tracking, and onboarding processes are all typical features.

Benefits of Applicant Tracking Systems

Why invest the time and money to implement an ATS when organizations have recruited for many years without one?

  • Simple application process: When competing for scarce talent, it’s beneficial to have a simple candidate application process. Most systems allow candidates to upload resumes or LinkedIn profiles reducing the time required to apply. Profiles can be re-used making it easier for candidates to apply for other jobs. ATS social media tools allow job hunters to forward postings to their network broadening the reach of the search.
  • Searchable database: Applications reside in a searchable database eliminating the need for electronic or paper folders to store candidate information. Although ATSs cannot fully screen resumes, the level of automation narrows the candidate pool with standard screening questions, reducing the time needed to short list applications.
  • Automated processes: Most systems provide the capability to automate the approval to hire and onboarding processes saving the HR and hiring manager time required to complete these activities.Candidate tracking assists with record keeping and supports effective communication between HR and hiring managers.
  • Meeting expectations: As the use of ATSs increases, candidates expect a seamless application process. Relying on out-dated email or paper based applications will put the organization at a disadvantage and potentially reduce the applicant pool.

Determining your Needs—What can an ATS do for you?

Before implementing an ATS, you first need to determine what objectives you need it to fulfill, what processes and resources it will affect, and assess stakeholder needs. Here are some steps you can take.

  • Examine current recruiting practices. A complete understanding of the current process is needed to assess and select vendors.Document the process, list who is involved, time required and typical number of searches conducted per year. This highlights inefficiencies that may be addressed by an ATS, which is key to building a business case for investing in a system.
  • Define the outcome. What will be different about the recruiting process after implementation? This may include an improved candidate experience or reduced costs. Key stakeholders should help define and prioritize the benefits that are most important to the organization.
  • See a demonstration. Product demonstrations provide an overview of ATS capabilities to help compare the features most important to improving the recruiting process.
  • Identify Stakeholders. Make a list of stakeholders who will be impacted by implementing an ATS. The success of implementation depends on stakeholders’ ability to support the changes an ATS will bring to recruiting. Analyzing the impact to the stakeholders, and finding ways to involve them in the selection and implementation will facilitate this process.
  • Develop decision criteria. Before assessing vendors, list criteria for selecting the best product. This will include cost, implementation requirements, and the features most important to improving the recruiting process.
  • Assess HR support. ATSs have several features to support the recruiting process. Assess the time and expertise HR staff will need to take advantage of the system’s features and support hiring managers. ATSs have powerful reporting capabilities. Consider who will analyse reports and decide what to do with the data. Determine who will have accountability to maintain the system beyond day to day recruiting support.
  • Assess the return on investment. Cost structures for ATSs vary—some are based on the number of hires per year or number of recruiters. Determine if this is a worthwhile investment based on the number of searches conducted annually. There may be other recruiting investments such as changing the staff compliment or new approaches to sourcing candidates that would have a greater impact on recruiting outcomes.

5 Questions to ask Vendors

With the variety of options available, there are several considerations for selecting the right product for the organization.

  1. What resources are required to implement an ATS? Some vendors fully support product implementation. Other systems require assistance from in house Information Technology staff or external consultants with previous experience implementing the product. Depending on the size of the organization and budget for the project, this may narrow the list of ATSs for consideration.
  2. Who is the first point of contact for job candidates or internal users with questions about the system? There are a variety of approaches to post implementation, from full vendor support to internal super-users who manage enquiries. Another aspect of ongoing support includes changes to security access and support for software upgrades. It’s important to understand the support model, internal resources required and associated costs.
  3. Does the ATS need to link to the Human Resource Information System (HRIS) or Talent Management software? If linkages are required, explore vendors’ past experience with implementing links between systems in other organizations.
  4. Where is candidate information stored? Options include vendor provided web based storage or company provided servers. If the database is maintained by the vendor, ask about back-up systems, server location and applicable access to information and privacy laws. If the organization must store the database, assess the system and staffing impact of doing so.
  5. What other organizations use this product? Check references by networking with other organizations using the systems you are considering. They will have insight into how the ATS functions on a daily basis, along with suggestions for implementation and pitfalls to avoid.


There are many Applicant Tracking Systems on the market. Selecting the best product requires knowledge of internal processes, stakeholders and a thorough analysis of features and vendor support. As with any technology it will never completely replace the people in place that support the system but, when implemented correctly, an ATS can provide a better experience for applicants and wider pool of talent for the organization to consider.


About the Author

Lori Stewart

Lori Stewart is the Manager of Organizational Development and Learning at Queen’s Human Resources, where she supports university departments with organization design, organizational assessments, process reviews, and facilitation services. Lori teaches in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies, Master of Industrial Relations Program and consults as a Team Performance Coach with MBA programs at the Queen’s School of Business. Lori holds a Master of Industrial Relations from Queen’s University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Acadia University.

Change Management 101: What Every Change Manager and Change Leader Needs to Know BEFORE Jumping into Implementation

Are you the leader of a change effort and stuck in the weeds? Have you read the latest Change Management book, but no one seems to be following you? Are you frustrated that your team or your organization seem to have forgotten that you shared your vision with them already?

It could be that you have a sense of your vision but you haven’t defined it in detail. It could be that your vision doesn’t captivate your team. It could be that you are focusing your efforts on creating the perfect plan. It could be that you are all about implementing but haven’t focused on preparing for or planning the change.  This article highlights the important difference between managing change and leading change. I then go on to share the first three keys to successful change.

Leading Change versus Managing Change

Leaders don’t force people to follow them; they invite people on a journey. (Charles S. Lauer)

In today’s world of on-going change coupled with a scary rate of failure, it is super important to realize, or remember, that there is a massive difference between leading change and managing change.

It is so easy to mix up these two very important roles. For your organization to be successful in your change efforts, you cannot afford to mix up these roles or their responsibilities.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. (Peter Drucker)

The Change Leader is the Captain of the ship, the one who determines WHERE the organization needs to go, and provides the ongoing drive and resources necessary to reach the goal.

The Change Manager is the First Mate, responsible for the crew, overseeing the details of the change voyage and managing the resources; figuring out HOW to get there.

Clear Vision

Without a vision, change can dissolve into a list of confusing, incompatible, time-consuming projects that either go in the wrong direction or nowhere at all. (John Kotter, 1996)

Having a clear vision is THE most important part of your change. We need clarity around where we are going – a compelling, comprehensive and clearly-defined change goal.  What will it look like when we are there? What will we need to get there? How are we going to get there?

We need to start sketching in as much detail as we can, as early as we can.  It’s not enough to say we want to be ‘an employer of choice’. It’s not enough to say we need to ‘be a team’. What does that really mean?  It may mean high(er) employee satisfaction rates, measured through satisfaction surveys, absenteeism, sick leave requests, innovation measures, low(er) turnover. It can mean whatever you want it to mean, for your organization and for your stakeholders, but, you have to be clear.

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime. (Babe Ruth)

Committed Champion

If you’re a champion, you have to have it in your heart. (Chris Evert)

I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion. (Billie Jean King)

Regardless of the size of your change, you MUST have a champion.  The Champion is the person with the excitement, drive and vision to see you through the difficult times and to celebrate the good times.  The Champion is the person who can speak intelligently and passionately about the change.  The Champion is the person who defines and then supports the resources necessary to achieve the change – yes that means the time, the dollars, and the people.

The primary task of change leaders is NOT making people feel comfortable during change; it is helping them to succeed despite their discomfort. (unknown)

The Champion determines (with input from others of course) whether the change is a business imperative or a good idea. They openly demonstrate and endorse the change. They authorize resources and have the power to both reward and reprimand.

The Champion must be at the top of the ladder for the change.  A manager should NEVER be selected as the champion for an organization-wide change initiative.  They won’t be taken seriously, they won’t have the necessary clout, and they certainly won’t be able to effectively reward or reprimand.  The Champion must have the respect of the people involved in the change.  If not, there will be a lot of lip service paid to their requests, but nothing will really change.

The Champion has to be the model of the change. Whether it is developing a high-performing team or turning a billion-dollar organization around, the Champion sets the tone AND maintains the energy.  If the Champion is paying lip-service to the change, all of the employees will also pay lip-service!

Continuous Communication

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. (George Bernard Shaw)

Of course, we all know communication is important.  Without communication, you will be relying solely on ESP.  This may work in some circles but, for most of us, we need steady communication, through numerous channels, delivered over and over.  As leaders, we need to repeat our messages over and over and over again.  Why? Because sometimes people just aren’t listening, or they forget, or they aren’t following the details.  As leaders we hate repetition, but it is absolutely critical.  It also serves to show everyone that we are still focused and still committed to the change.  People need to understand where they fit in.  They need to understand why the change is necessary, AND the benefits to them and the organization, AND what’s not changing, AND what the challenges are expected to be.  Tell the whole story!

Change is a disruption of expectations – successful change requires an expectation of disruption. (unknown)

The field of Change Management has been around for years, and there are millions of dollars thrown away every year highlighting that we still don’t understand it. If you and your organization follow the tips in this article, you will be well on your way to being one of the select few that are able to implement a successful change!

About the Author

Sharon Parker

Sharon Parker has demonstrated expertise in individual and organizational development and change management, and has held a number of senior advisory positions within the Canadian federal public service and the private sector. Her firm, CoreShift Inc., specializes in supporting executives in leading individual and organizational change. She holds an Honours B.A. (Psychology) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Queen’s University. Sharon is a facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Change Management program.

The Way Forward in Employment Relations

The idea of co-operation seems to be one that exists only in children’s books with no real place in the business world. However, to survive in the times that we live in, the more successful organizations, and indeed nations, are embracing the values of co-operation. In my thesis, “Social Dialogue: The Way Forward in Employment Relations”, I studied a financial co-operative, whose founding principles are based on co-operation. The study sought to determine the relevance of utilizing the tools of co-operation such as social dialogue in a dynamic setting. The other variables under consideration were the existence of a very militant trade union as the employees’ representative, and environmental factors which were clamoring for a solid response from the organization to determine whether or not it would continue to exist. All of this in a developing country in the sunny Caribbean, with an economy that is dependent on the fickle fortunes of oil and gas.

Case Study Background

The organization at the centre of the study is over sixty years old and has a long history of success through turbulent times and has outlived many more powerful predecessors. Over the years, while other financial co-operatives have developed a more corporate business model, this Credit Union has held strong to the Co-operative Principles. The Credit Union is now challenged by the need to comply with proposed legislation for the governance and supervision of Credit Unions which would require some significant changes to the way that the Credit Union operates. Additionally, fierce competition from other organizations in the financial services sector forces the Credit Union to re-examine its market positioning and determine strategies to ensure its survival. Ultimately, the Credit Union must achieve organizational effectiveness through stakeholder buy-in and participation in order to remain successful.

Download PDF: The Way Forward in Employment Relations

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