Last week I wrote about what you need to consider when implementing an ATS. Now, if you’ve successfully chosen and implemented a system, it’s time to start using an ATS as soon as possible, right?

Wrong! You need to make sure that you have best practices in place for how that ATS will be utilized before the team starts using an ATS. Without processes in place, there won’t be any consistency in the coding and notes on each candidate profile, making the thousands of dollars that you spent on the system a waste.

No one likes to waste money, so here are some tips on practices and processes that need to be decided before you start using an ATS:

1. Entering Candidates

When is your team going to be entering a candidate into the ATS? Will it be every candidate they reach out to? Every candidate they get a response from? Or maybe just the candidates they talk to? This is the first thing that needs to be decided and what you decide on will vary depending on the way your team works. In my experience, it is generally safe to enter every candidate that is reached out to. If anything, this will help create a database of candidates that your team can refer to.

2. Contact information

You may want to require certain contact information for every candidate entered. For instance, if you are planning to load candidate profiles from LinkedIn, there is no contact information. It would make sense to require that the team member have, at least, an email address that they can enter into the profile. It helps no one to have candidates in the ATS that cannot be contacted. Additionally, make sure that the contact is updated as needed.

3. Statuses

In most systems you can customize statuses to your teams needs. Your team needs to get together and decide what statuses would make the most sense. The may include “reached out,” “pursuing,” “interviewing,” “rejected,” “offer,” etc. Additionally, you need to make sure that your team keeps the candidate’s status updated throughout the process.

4. Notes

There are many ways to utilize the note feature in an ATS but your team needs to decide what they will make a note about and what they won’t. Otherwise, the note system will get too messy and it will be hard for one team member to decipher another’s notes. Will you require notes on every contact that the team member makes to the candidate or only the important items?

Some significant items to include would be initial contact and the role contacted for, responses and interest in the position, interview days/times, and any notes from the interview that would be helpful for future reference. Additionally, if you are going to use abbreviations, like “em” for email or “lm” for left message, make sure that everyone knows what they stand for.

Those are the basic features that most applicant tracking systems have. Other ones to think about may include email templates, candidate lists, skill coding, folders, etc.

The best way to use and manage an ATS is to ensure that there is a streamlined process for its use. This way, each team member is able to understand the notes and statuses of each candidate and may be able to step in if needed, ensuring a positive candidate experience.

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