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What to Consider When Choosing an Applicant Tracking System

Susan Vitale, CMO of iCIMS, Looks at the HRIS Marketplace, the Surveys, the Hype, and What Matters When Evaluating an ATS

Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer iCIMS,TotalPicture interviewSusan Vitale

We are back talking about Applicant Tracking Systems - ATS. Why? Because love them or hate them, they are a key piece to the talent acquisition, recruiting and HR puzzle. Applicant tracking systems not only impact talent acquisition, recruiters, HR, employer branding, and hiring; but job candidates as well.

If you are applying for a job on a company website with more than 100 employees, chances are very, very good you're using an applicant tracking system to do so.

We are also going to talk about surveys regarding ATS' today. As with most things involving choice architecture, you really need to look at the methodology, the data sets, and read between the lines. There are many surveys done each year ranking applicant tracking systems: the 'best' systems, the fastest growing, the largest in terms of market share, the most popular, etc. You need to ask yourself, "who conducted this survey, and what is their objective?" More on this later.

Two years ago, Josh Bersin wrote about the significant growth and importance of the $400+ billion HR marketplace in the U.S., estimating that between 5-8 percent is spent on tools and technology. So we're looking at something close to a $3 billion industry here in the U.S. As Josh points out, companies who invest heavily in their HR departments and systems, see a significant return in terms of happy employees, better retention, better engagement, less turnover, and a much stronger employer brand. Making it far easier to hire high-potential candidates.

This year I've done three podcasts focused on the ATS industry. In January, Bill Kutik was back on TotalPicture Radio to discuss his article in HRExecutive, Imagine Chasing Taleo for 18 Years? Zeroing in on two major players in the ATS space: Oracle/Taleo and iCIMS.

Soon after Bill's interview aired, Leela Srinivasan, CMO of Lever, one of the newer entries to the very crowded ATS marketplace, joined me from San Francisco, and in March Rob Kelly, the CEO of Ongig, was on the show to discuss a widely distributed survey his company had published, ranking the top 70 ATS', using data he aggregated and analyzed from his customer base.

Welcome to an HR Technology Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio I'm your host Peter Clayton. Joining me today is Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer at iCIMS, (Of course, you'll find links to the interviews I mentioned and other resources on Susan's Show page.)

Susan is ultimately responsible for shaping and sharing the iCIMS story across various audiences, including prospective and existing customers, the media, industry thought leaders, employees and candidates. She is also responsible for iCIMS' brand strategy across public relations, events, advertising, product marketing and content marketing. She was recently honored by being recognized on NJBIZ Best 50 Women in Business list.

Additionally, Susan is the youngest and only female C-level executive at iCIMS. She earned her current title of Chief Marketing Officer at the age of 30, a result of advancing alongside the high-growth company where she began her career in 2005 directly after graduating from Lehigh University.

In October of last year, Vitale led the iCIMS event, Women in Tech: Gaining STEAM, which brought to light the inclusion of arts and innovation to the traditional STEM field. Susan offers professional guidance to those outside of the company through the social network MicroMentor and participates in volunteer work with the Visiting Nursing Association (VNA) of Central Jersey and the Hoboken Shelter. She also sits on the board of advisors at the technology company Switch whose CEO, Yarden Tadmor, has been a guest on the show, and is a member of the board at NY/NJ Baykeeper Association.

As a reflection of her accomplishments over the past year, Vitale was honored with several leadership awards including an induction into the 2016 Marketing Hall of Femme and recognition among the industry's top female executives by the 2016 Stevie Awards for Women in Business.


Susan, welcome to the show. I'd like to start off by having you give us a brief history of iCIMS.

As you well know, there's been a tremendous amount of consolidation in HR Technology. Many large organizations have bought their way into the ATS market -- Oracle, IBM, SAP to name three of the bigger and better known companies -- and yet, as our friend Bill Kutik commented, for 18 years iCIMS has continued to grow and resisted being bought by one of the many industry behemoths that have come knocking on your door. Why?

On that same track, a number of the large players in the HRIS space have been on an acquisition binge, pursuing a strategy of having software and platforms in place that can address virtually every aspect of HR; from background checks to onboarding, TA, alumni platforms, talent communities, referral networks, ATS', and so on, aggressively pitching all of these products to their existing client base. You have a suite of services and market something called UNIFi -- so can you address this trend, and your offerings?

In the article by Josh Bersin I referenced in my intro, he has a chart called the Human Resources Maturity model, which I think perfectly illustrates the ATS market as well. It's has four levels: Level 1 (being compliance driven), Level 2 (fundamental), Level 3 (Strategic), and Level 4 - the highest level (Business-Integrated). How would you rate iCIMS capabilities, using Josh's model?

I preparing for this interview, you sent me an email that stated: At a high level iCIMS built a proprietary tool to identify the recruiting software used by companies with more than 100 employees based in the U.S. The closest match to this data is available through Datanyze, along with a blog post using this data. Posted on the NextWave Hire Blog, it's titled Best Applicant Tracking Systems, and of course you'll find a link on Susan's show page. Regarding market share, iCIMS places third behind two flavors of Taleo. Do you agree with the ranking and percentages reported by Datanyze?

So let's forget about the surveys for a moment and take a different cut at this. I'm sure you're asked this all the time, Susan: What are the most important things to consider when evaluating applicant tracking systems?

And regarding all of the annual surveys that rate, rank, and dissect the ATS marketplace, it's important to understand the quality and scope of the data that's being used and the motivation behind these reports

I'm a volunteer member of the CandE Council, (iCIMS is a Silver Sponsor so thank you for that) and it's no secret that job applicants often complain about the résumé black hole, and the difficulties they have in applying for jobs using ATS'. And yet, as Bill mentions in our podcast, many companies don't use a fraction of the capabilities and features baked into their ATS. Why is that?

You've had some big wins that Bill mentioned - Microsoft deploying several of your modules globally, and Amazon leaving Taleo for iCIMS -- I know you recently opened a data center in the EU -- what are your growth projections for this year?

Are you considering acquiring any companies, and building out your services in other areas?

What haven't we discussed that you would like to share?

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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