Aside from the specifics of what you need to look for when assessing applicant tracking systems, I was wondering if there were any tip and tricks to help the decision along. I asked Joel Passen and he had some great advice.
Dirty secrets an ATS vendor doesn’t want you to know1. You probably don’t need to pay to get your data imported.
Unless you’ve got tons of data, it shouldn’t cost much to get it in the new system: this is what these vendors do for a living. Most have tools to do mass imports. In most cases, if you push hard enough the vendor will do it for you for free. The more modern vendors (read this as the up-and-comers) never charge.
2. You should avoid signing a long-term contract. Go month to month if you can.
This is the #1 mistake I see people make when purchasing applicant-tracking software. Long-term contracts are just plain bad for 2 reasons: one, if it doesn’t work you should be able to cancel, anytime; two, hiring demands are never static and thus your contract is always going to be over or under what you really need. Pay for what you need.
3. If it isn’t web-based, don’t buy it.
You should simply avoid any system that requires you to buy hardware or install software on your desktop. It’s 2010. Most systems available today can be accessed from anywhere in the world with any browser and operating system. Your system should be one of these.
4. You definitely don’t need to pay for support.
If it is hard to use your vendor will need to charge you for support because they are going to need a lot of support people. Therefore, if they say they need to charge for support you can bet that it doesn’t work very well.
5. Pay for training? Maybe, but you definitely don’t need to pay to fly people all over the place.
Some systems require very little training and the vendor will do it for free. The larger, more-complicated systems will charge for training and maybe even per-diem, travel costs, lodging, etc. This is crazy: ATS software is not rocket science and you shouldn’t pay rocket science prices to learn how to use it. Choose easier to use software. Remember what I said in my previous post. The easier it is to use, the more people will be apt to use it.
6. Building your careers website is not hard. Don’t pay for it.
This is a critical feature to every ATS system. It should be free. Paying for a careers website is like getting a birthday present without batteries.
7. Hiring manager-types of users cost almost nothing to support = they should be free.
The goal for almost any recruiting department is to get hiring managers involved in the recruiting process. There’s simply no reason why you should pay to grant them access to your ATS. If your vendor wants to charge for hiring manager and interviewers, negotiate.
8. If a vendor bad-mouths another system, you should call them.
The only reason why any salesperson would ever mention a competing product is because they are afraid you’ll talk to them. There’s probably a good reason.