Everyone - candidates and hiring managers alike - knows why Applicant Tracking Systems exist, and knows they are far from perfect. Do you ever consider the notion they may actually be doing more harm than good? Sure, they might be parsing resumes and quickly cutting down your candidate pools to more manageable sizes. In the process though, they may be sending the wrong messages - sometimes literally - to people who may one day, if not today, be the right candidate

I try to attend job fairs occasionally to see what issues people on both sides of the table are talking about, and the last one I went to featured a panel discussion on job hunting.

Anyway, this particular one devolved into a long diatribe about, or more accurately, against, Applicant Tracking Systems. I thought you might like to catch some glimpses of these paraphrased statements and comments from some decidedly frustrated job seekers.

"Why lie about the 'careful consideration' bull crap, trying to pass it off as if an actual person had been involved in the process?"

"I received an email stating they received my application," says one job seeker about an online application they had recently completed. "Within half an hour, I received another email stating that after careful consideration, I was not selected to interview for this position. I was also informed that my profile will remain in their system, and I was encouraged to explore other positions that match my skills and interests. Why? And why lie about the 'careful consideration' bull crap, trying to pass it off as if an actual person had been involved in the process? I just kind of took offense to the whole thing, both the timing and the wording of the form message."

"An Applicant Tracking System is just supply chain software applied to people and their talents," said another. "It's intended to make the hiring process more cost effective but I think it does just  the opposite. It is hard to put into words just how clunky, outdated, unhelpful and user-unfriendly this software usually is."

"It's intended to make the hiring process more cost effective but I think it does just  the opposite. It is hard to put into words just how clunky, outdated, unhelpful and user-unfriendly this software usually is."

"Filling out an online application is like Chinese Water Torture," chimed in a third person. "They make you fill in their little fields, and if, for whatever reason, it doesn't like something, they reject it and make you re-fill the field. Sometimes, they reject it and make you go back to complete that entire page. More than once I have filled out my entire employment history, had the system ask me to correct the order or add something, and then had it wipe out all of my employment history. An employer may feel my time is not worth much, but I think it is. And I have to question whether 45-60 minutes of my time to fill out an online application that likely won't result in any action is a good use of my job hunting time."

"I've used a lot of Applicant Tracking Systems," one woman stated, "and many times I don't even know if my application was actually submitted. There's one system that I have never gotten to work, even though I've tried it with three different browsers. The worst part though is  the quickie generic rejections emails encouraging you to look for new jobs and apply. Why torment people by encouraging them to repeatedly apply for jobs when they'll only be presented with an endless supply of quickie rejection emails?"

The market for talent management software systems is currently over $4 billion - and growing steadily.

Let's face it, the majority of companies - large and small - use Applicant Tracking Systems today, and the number is growing, not shrinking. The market for talent management systems (software to manage recruiting, performance and succession management, learning management, compensation, and related areas) is reportedly over $4 billion currently, and is expected to grow by over 20% in 2014. So the ATS is here to stay.

There are however things you can do within your ATS, such as making sure the technology is working and taking a critical look at the messaging, that can enhance employment branding and candidate relationship management.

As an aside, TempWorks founder Gregg Dourgarian answered the question why there are so many applicant tracking systems on the market with a Staffing Talk post that lists at least a few reasons:

Reason #5:  Because IT guys get bored.

Reason #4: Because IT guys like to play around with the latest development tools. Makes their resumes look good.

Reason #3: Because IT guys don’t find it sexy to support users or train them or put up with all the other political crap that goes into software package selection and implementation.

Reason #2: Because IT guys can fool the boss long enough that they’ve actually written a product that is worth marketing.

Reason #1: Because it’s so damn easy to write one.

But apparently it is rather difficult to write a good one, if the candidate comments at the job fair are accurate.

Tags: Staffing, TempWorks, ATS, Gregg Dourgarian, Applicant Tracking Software, Applicant Tracking Systems, Taleo, Hiring, Industry, Job fair, Supply chain software