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Need a new ATS? Read this before you switch.

There is a lot of recruiting software out there. If you went to the HR Technology Conference & Expo in Chicago like I did last week, you saw hundreds of such vendors in the expo hall. Many of them offered ways to recruit online and manage your candidates. But one size does not fit all. There are literally hundreds of different options to choose from.

In a previous role, I helped switch a mid-sized company from Taleo to the iCiMS platform. That process took about 8 weeks and required a great deal of time, effort and ‘tech savvy’ to get the job done. Since HR folks were never trained on implementing software, they usually rely on the vendor to ensure a smooth transition. Thankfully, I was enough of a ‘techie’ to handle it by myself. But if you pick the wrong company it can become a huge headache, even for the most tech-savvy managers.

If your company is thinking about changing its recruiting software, here are some guidelines to help you pick the right applicant tracking system (ATS). I’d also suggest bringing in someone from your IT department on the project to help you identify possible issues and answer technical questions as they arise.

  1. Write down what you need it to do. You’ll want to be able to compare features among the existing vendors. If you have recruiters on staff, be sure to solicit their feedback since they will be the everyday users of it. Getting their buy-in is critical especially among larger organizations. Figure out where your current software is failing you and start your research.
  2. Do your homework. There are a number of places online that offer a good starting point. Beyond just Googling ‘recruiting software’ you can check out this list from Capterra, or Software Advice or this one from Technology Advice. These resources will help you compare features and give you a basic education on what’s out there.
  3. Ask for referrals. Ask other companies what they are using to manage candidates. It’s important to get honest feedback from others in the real world about what they purchased and if they are happy with it. You may find that one vendor you think you like has some detractors among its client base. Before I started my project I asked my recruiter friends what they used. That information helped me validate my decision when it came down to picking a winner.
  4. Try it out. Most recruiting software platforms will let you try it out either with a free short-term account or a test account. Use this to try out the product for several days. Give it to your recruiting team to try as well. Then meet to discuss what they like and don’t like about each platform. Getting everyone together where they can share feedback will be quite useful to your decision making process. You should also get a list of client references from the vendor to talk to.
  5. Make sure they offer phone support. I took full advantage of the iCiMS tech support line once the new software went live. It was critical to help me understand the product and its many features and settings. So be sure to find out what type of phone support is available. Most of the bigger vendors in this space provide it.

In general, I’d recommend choosing an established vendor for your recruiting software. These firms have track records that you can research and validate. From a feature standpoint you are going to want to look for platforms that are both social and mobile-friendly. Be sure to test each platform on your smartphone to ensure both candidates and your recruiters have easy access and can apply online.

In fact, as part of your testing you should act as a candidate would and apply to a test job to see how the process works. Always keep the candidate in mind when picking your platform. They deserve a seamless apply process. The better your recruiting software treats them, they more likely they will be to convert into actual applications.