Monday, 20 January 2014

What Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is

OK. So what is this "ATS" thing that is rapidly becoming a buzzword in the US, and a puzzle in some less teched-up markets?

ATS is an abbreviation for Application Tracking Software (ATS), sometimes known as a talent management system (TMS). OK, so that part's clear. An ATS is essentially a specialist CRM which handles applications. It is the organisation's central recruitment database; it partner with job boards to get the hiring ads out there, and stores the applications that come back. 

The database has some built-in specialist tools. Specifically artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) for intelligent guided 'semantic search'. One of the clever things the software does is look for key words in the documents that applicants upload, that match the job description specs of the jobs being applied for so that staff don't have to read CVs.

So what happens is that applicants upload their CVs, forms and application letters. The documents are automatically screened by the ATS according to the preloaded role criteria, using AI & NLP.  The ATS spits out a list of matches who get to the next stage (whatever that stage is - interview, secondary screen on different criterla or whatever). Insufficient keyword matches, and the applicant doesn't make the cut.

The development of ATS has largely been driven by two factors. The economic downturn - there are so many people out of work, there needed to be a better way to manage so many applications for companies flooded with desperate applicants - and the AI algorithms have reached a level of sophistication that enables this to work. As The Resumator says, "the right ATS can give recruiters their time back, once stolen by the overwhelming demands of finding, handling and evaluating piles of resumes" (29 May 2013).

The proprietary software is currently pretty pricey, but it is saving large organisations loads of money in recruiting fees. However, the software is going to follow Moore's Law and get cheaper - fast. There are some open source alternatives already at Expect to see ATS at SME applications near you. Soon.

From the applicant end, there are some tricks to making an ATS appllcation work for your clients, else they won't make the cut. I will explore this a later blog post.



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